Sony ran the cheesiest ads known to man in 1991 to advertise its brand-new “hand cam”. It played out like an All-grown up special episode of full-house. A brunette in her early thirties finds the clunky camcorder hidden under a sheet and goes into a frenzy. At the end of the hallway is a white gentleman marketing all 32 of his teeth in approval of the gift he just surprised his girlfriend with. She gallops towards him and leaps in to his arms. Stevie Wonder’s ballad “Fun Day” completes the entire scene, and in 30 seconds you are indubitably sold on their future as a couple, Stevie’s music career, and the sales of the Hand-cam itself. Sony’s camera would capture American violence against the black body all too well that same year. And today, millions of smartphones capture state violence against black bodies with cameras the size of their hands, and it proves that we are at a crossroads.
George Holliday must have been wooed by the Sony commercial that year as well, because on March 3, 1991, he used the recording device he bought to film the Rodney King melee. He had heard helicopters, sirens and what sounded like a man being beaten within an inch of his life and rushed to record. Luckily, the police didn’t notice him or maybe they were filled with too much happiness to pay attention to their surroundings. They proceeded taking turns with their nightsticks until he could barely lift his head off the ground. I think King’s mugshots were a good example of what Emmitt Till’s would have look like, if he survived his ordeal. LA burned for five agonizing days after April 30, 1992 when the officers were acquitted of all charges related to the torture of Rodney Glen King III.
Baltimore adopted the ethos of the LA riots two months ago. A city segregated by fierce redlining policies, divestment, and Gestapo policing exploded for 3 days behind similar persecution. We coined it the Baltimore Uprising. But, I’m not sure the term fits comfortably between my teeth. Could it have been defined as an awakening? Tupac vibrated the ether concluding the latest album of rapper Kendrick Lamar saying, “I think niggas is tired of grabbin’ S%^t out the stores and next time it’s a riot there’s gonna be, like, uh, bloodshed for real. I don’t think America know that. I think America think we was just playing and it’s gonna be some more playing but it ain’t gonna be no playing. It’s gonna be murder, you know what I’m saying, it’s gonna be like Nat Turner, 1831, up in this m!#$^^a. You know what I’m saying it’s gonna happen.” I played the interview multiple times, with my hand placed on my face and pointer finger above my brow. Deep breaths couldn’t calm my rage nor could rational.
In a country where death walks with black people like a cane walks with the elderly, these next few moments, months and years are all watersheds. They all brace the molten lava of a people who have torn all nails from the bed of their fingertips, trying to escape America’s casket. And the methods we have used thus far have only exhausted our limbs and peppered sweat on our sun lashed faces. Marches, Townhalls, Panels, and Social media sharing are all commendable actions to raise awareness. But, we have yet to ask a fundamental question in regards to the women and men who gave their souls for our progression. Is this where we they wanted us to be? And by “be”, I mean the continued “vulnerability” of our people to ill-intended legislation, propaganda, and outright murder. We are 50 plus years past integration and the Civil Rights struggle which was supposed to guarantee equal opportunity. In these last 50 years we have seen every sophisticated means of subjugation carried out despite it. In summation, the children of slaves are not free in America, have never been free in America, and the spin cycle of marches and protest only proliferate our neo-slavery as clocks turn.
We are still as vulnerable as we were when unloaded from the ships touching the shores in the Caribbean and Americas named after patron saints. This frightens me. It haunts the crevices of my dreams. But I have never allowed fear to govern my behavior in crucial circumstances. I believe my generation identifies with this fear, and for the most part knows inherently what must done. We must fight. We must fight with every atom of our being or risk being shamed by our ancestors and detested by our children who will inherit this condition. 150 years have passed since we were “allowed” freedom. Today we seek no allowance, nor any permission to walk upon any parts of this Universe. Most won’t believe or agree with our generations convictions, but it is not our task to interpret our heartbreak to the worn and docile of our people. Their fear is embedded deep into their pores. If you are to love, love those who have cared for your well being unconditionally, no matter the creed or color. Many have worn these skin envelopes called the black body, and committed treason for small measures. The indifferent are just as much as a threat as the purveyors of hate. They persist in an oblivious matrimony. To those who identify with our current struggle, I implore you to educate self, build self and do for self.
“When I am dead wrap the mantle of the Red, Black and Green around me, for in the new life I shall rise with God’s grace and blessing to lead the millions up the heights of triumph with the colors that you well know. Look for me in the whirlwind or the storm, look for me all around you, for, with God’s grace, I shall come and bring with me countless millions of black slaves who have died in America and the West Indies and the millions in Africa to aid you in the fight for Liberty, Freedom and Life.
The civilization of today is gone drunk and crazy with its power and by such it seeks through injustice, fraud and lies to crush the unfortunate. But if I am apparently crushed by the system of influence and misdirected power, my cause shall rise again to plague the conscience of the corrupt. For this I am satisfied, and for you, I repeat, I am glad to suffer and even die. Again, I say, cheer up, for better days are ahead. I shall write the history that will inspire the millions that are coming and leave the posterity of our enemies to reckon with the hosts for the deeds of their fathers.” - The Honorable Marcus Garvey