In the age of the hashtag eulogy, Black Millennials have a hard time finding the space to heal. And I don’t blame them. We’ve been able to survive off of piecemeal coping and soul food therapy for centuries. A Georgia morning full of chattel labor came despite a slave girl’s encounter with a white rapist whether she liked it or not. She, as others did all across the “birthing nation”, stitched her pride together and continued to work, thus shrouding her in a narrative of mythical strength that pervades today. This tradition trampolined through our history.
Never heal, never reflect, only push on. The texture of black suffering and black triumph is changing dramatically still. Billie Holliday’s fruit doesn’t dangle from southern trees anymore, but rather, cuffed in the back of police cars, with well-grafted fables of suicide. Perhaps, if it moves you, one can put a new “bullet lynching” on repeat with a few search terms. As our civilization “progresses” much like those before us, documentation improves, communication sprints, information explodes, caste blossoms, and subjugation repetitiously becomes the soup of the day . Technology mutates these advances and places their powers in our palms. But Black youth must careful with the triple-headed demon of direct trauma, intergenerational trauma, and vicarious trauma. All three are dizzying barriers to mental stability. And if you’ve lived long enough in America, especially now, you could experience a sinister mix of all three in one day.
There’s nothing more powerful and inspiring than the rising consciousness of my cohort. We’ve merged the energy of porch folklore, bodega tales, and black-fisted war stories to begin our own revolution. Every day, solidarity strengthens. Every hour, the youth are seeing their struggle as a latitudinal one. For the most part, we’ve come to this vignette in history because of trauma. Trauma being the contemporary overflow of videoed assaults, executions, white supremacist rhetoric, and the unraveling of America’s dark twisted past. It leaves scars. Few can honestly say they can escape it. Every hyperlink to an abusive act by the state corners even the most naive of black people into digesting this reality. But the trauma exists whether we choose to accept it or not. It maneuvers its way into our everyday life. I say this now to encourage everyone invested in fighting the battle for Black and Brown bodies to be regarded as human, because like in any war, the survivors will not only wear stories on their skin but tattooed in the valleys of their minds. Psychologist and author Joy DeGruy Leary writes in her book Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring and Healing, “The nature of this work is such that each group first must see to their own healing, because no group can do another’s work”
Consider ourselves in a 500 year deficit for therapy. With that in mind it is important to be conscious about what we consume, or, more germane, what happens after intake. A mistake of the embattled is to never take pause. Before Black Millennials go steamrolling into the new year - which will undoubtedly mean a new cadre of injustices and more sophisticated repression - let them take a step back from the theater. Let some of the success fester and the pain dissipate. This may mean sitting in silence for hours on end, a re-dedication to spirituality, or the warm human company of loved ones, all useful mediums for self-reconciliation. And we must not foolishly assume that we truly know what healing looks like. Our road to recovery stretches far past what our generation will see.
5 years ago, a child in Sanford Florida was stalked and executed. His murder, and the nationally-televised acquittal of his murderer, opened Black American youth’s Pandora’s Box. It bound them to the fateful question, “Where are we now?” Since then, the masses of Black America have marched, protested, founded institutions, lobbied, shouted, sat in, walked out, and re-invigorated the callings of the Civil Rights era. The labor deserves dedication, spirit, sweat, grit and resilience. However, the laborers of the movement will no doubt need to take time for healing, soul, body if necessary, and absolutely our minds.