On Friday (August 5), I journeyed to Baltimore for a vigil that Korryn Gaines classmates, family and friends put together for her outside of the high school she attended.
It took a lot of soul searching and mental flip flopping for me to go because I honestly was not sure if I was in an emotional or spiritual place to handle being in this space.
We have just recently started to talk about PTSD and community trauma in the Black community as it relates to the nonstop cycle of police, state, media and day to day anti-black violence. It is nearly impossible to escape it.
Our timelines are bombarded with reports of it, our eyes are exposed to uncensored accounts in their realest forms and our thoughts are saturated with the lasting effects of it. That said, I have finally reached a point where I can and have to admit my spirit is tired, overwhelmed and often times on the edge of tears.
I am tired of seeing hashtags, tired of being up in the middle of the night to develop communications strategies and tired of inquiries about the same damn thing. But this is our reality and Korryn Gaines has been a particularly hard reality for me to grasp and deal with.
Korryn’s spirit shines through so bright on all of her pictures and post.
None of what is being said matches or correlates with this Korryn. NOTHING about the story we are being told adds up. NONE of it makes sense. Since when do police come knocking and go this hard for failure to appear for moving violations?
What transpired that a man would leave his girlfriend or partner in the house alone to face the intruding police and only take one child? How do you compromise the life of a 5-year-old child?
Why would you delete all of her social media?
As a Black person living in today’s society, we know Black people everywhere are clear about one thing, “The police will kill your Black ass.”
So for those trying to tell me this loving mother decided to just go rogue on the police and for those who say just comply, we have seen clear documented examples with Charles Kinsey and Philando Castille that complying does not guarantee your life will be spared.
There are so many unanswered questions and so much pain because we know the answers and truth when finally exposed will sting deep and hard.
There is so much pain that I want to escape and avoid at the mere thought that the police killed this woman and shot her son.
Yet just the day before in Virginia, police allowed a 7-hour standoff to take place with a White man who shot at officers and barricaded himself in his house. He was not shot.
The word stand off was not used but instead was referred to as a barricade situation. He was not even identified by name and nothing about his past or prior history was mentioned in the news.
So when I think of Korryn, I know her death was not the result of her actions.
I know she was fighting until the last moment to make sure her truth was told and I pray her truth emerges piece by piece to reveal the narrative.
Last night at the vigil it was beautiful to see the community come together on their own accord and gather people outside of the high school Korryn attended and graduated from.
I am happy that this was the way in which people chose to gather vs marching and screaming on this particular night, not because those things are not needed or because I frown on them, but because sometimes we need to create space where we can gather and remember one’s humanity and allow ourselves to sit with that.
We need spaces where we can come together in love to stand and hold each other energetically in our collective grief and mourning. In addition to the yelling, chanting and screaming we need to be able to hold spiritual space and we need to be able to tell stories that give story and humanity to hashtags.
It was absolutely beautiful to see candles laid out in the shape of a crown above Korryn’s name, which was also spelled out in candles. That small act and choice to put a crown on top of her name spoke volumes to her awareness of her being a queen.
We heard stories from her high school classmate who she used to joke with and the nicknames she used to call him as he talked about her vivacious spirit. The fact that her classmates found each other and stepped forward was a testimony to the friend and person she was.
The hardest part to endure was hearing Korryn’s family give their testimonies about what happened and to hear them talk about her. The air felt so thick with grief, our sadness, our hurt and our loss. I felt it all around me and in me, in the pit of my stomach, in my chest and in my throat as I listened to her father passionately talking about his baby girl as he paced back and forth.
Her father talked in depth about the lead problem in Baltimore (It has been reported Korryn had raised levels of lead from paint in previous residences and had an outstanding lawsuit surrounding it) and talked about the many ills of the system that he often talked to his daughter about. He father talked about the anguish of not being able to speak to his daughter at the scene and other details that began to paint a scene to provide a background for what happened that morning as seen by those outside.
Korryn’s cousin spoke about arriving on the scene after having spoke to Korryn on Facebook while he was still at work. When he arrived police greeted him by name and aggressively searched him.
Though hard to take in at times, I was thankful to be able to hear these family stories first hand uncut and unedited with no media filter or reporter between them or the crowd, just their words and accounts. It was like someone sporadically dropping pieces of a half empty puzzle you have been handed.
In addition to friends and family, poets and spoken word artists fed our souls with their words that articulated so much of what we felt. They got the the crowd fired up and took us to church with their pieces that spoke to the trauma we feel when we see police officer and imposed systematic violence.
We were further moved as mothers of other young people murdered by the Baltimore Police Department shared their stories and said the names of their children.
It got really real when one of the mothers asked that all the mothers present come forward and about 10 women who have lost their children to police violence or other forms of gun violence came forward and stood as one.
They reminded Korryn’s mother that they would be there for her and would extend their full sisterhood to her because they are all members of club none of them asked to be a part of but were forced into by circumstance and tragedy.
By this point I sat on the ground in solemn reflection as night had now fallen looking around at the people gathered listening to the organizers urge people to be in this for the long haul and asking us to tell people to our right left that we are their sister or brother.
In my mind I thought this is what community organizing looks like!! So often we think it happens one particular way or in a certain structure manner but it happens every time every day people step forward and decide to gather the community and do something.
A young brother from BYP 100 closed the evening out with a powerful chant lifting up Korryn’s name and just as the family was about to release balloons, a middle aged Black man in a full suit felt the need to get on the mic. He felt the need to pontificate on how in these police cases, people did not deserve the death penalty, saying people should have been captured.
The language and belief was so problematic that I involuntarily began responding. In my mind I could not understand why he
Felt lt it was his duty to add on when young people had already such a beautiful job closing out the evening
How he could bring himself to use the word captured as if the people he was referring to were runaway slaves or animals.
Furthermore, based on all the videos of Korryn speaking out against the system, how he could feel this was the least bit appropriate or in line with her beliefs since this evening was to raise up her spirit. Well, he was a reminder for us of distractions, or the very mindset, thought and disruptions we are sometimes dealing with in our own family, in our community and online with people.
The man, who said he was an activist who goes wherever tragedies are, saying he had been to Flint over 20 times, then completely overstepped his boundaries and was quickly reminded that this movement ain’t your daddy’s civil rights movement.
He proceeded to say, “Let me say something to Black women. The safest place for a Black woman is in the arms of a Black man.”
The immediate boo’s started and only got louder as he tried to continue his statement as if any part of it was okay.
For anyone who may be confused as he was as to why it was an issue, I will help you out.
It is patriarchal, sexist and homophobic. It portrays women as weak feeble beings who should just be in the arms of a man.
It is disrespectful to all women and especially disrespectful considering Korryn was very vocal and not some quiet women in some man’s arms.
This is not a rejection of Black men’s love, embrace, protection or care, it is instead an assertion that:
- It will not keep us safe from state violence
A reminder that sometimes it his very arms that are beating us or inflicting the violence.
Remember he was saying this when Korryn’s own man fled the house and left her to face the police without him. Furthermore it does not take into consideration that some of us may not feel safe in a man’s arms due to rape, molestation or incest that the majority of women have experienced.
- It also discounts that fact women can provide a safe space for each other. Additionally it reinforces a heterosexual norm
Thank goodness for the persistence of the crowd to boo until members of the community took the mic from him. Additional gratitude to one of the brothas who had spoke earlier who got back on the mic and asked everyone to please strike the last comments and reminded everyone, “The safest place for a Black woman is in her Black body.”
I end with this brotha’s statement as a note for all those who criticize Korryn and lash out with their judgmental nasty words saying she compromising her and her son’s safety making her responsible for her own death.
I ask people to please hold their comments until the story is revealed.
I ask people to continue to say Korryn’s name so the police, the media and the state will know we will not let this story fade to black and to remind them we will not be satisfied with their partial illogical accounts.
I ask that you also continue to say the names of all the women murdered by police so we will continuously be reminded this is not a Black men’s issue but a Black people’s issue. I ask that you continue to affirm that All Black Lives Matter not just with your words but with your daily actions. I ask these things in the name of Korryn Gaines, Sandra Bland, Malissa Williams, Tanisha Anderson, Miriam Carey and Darnisha Harris.