Book Recommendation: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Song Recommendation: Freedom by Ester Dean
As we walked through and looked at each piece, committing the memory to heart, their eyes searching mine for understanding.
“He looks just like my cousin.”
The young student said it quietly to himself, almost like a whisper. We had just walked out of the Emmett Till memorial. His body language and demeanor struck me almost as much as the words.
That day in the African American history musuem in Washington DC they asked me so many questions.
“What does it mean to jump the broom?”
“Slaves were separated from their children?”
“Why were people not really free after the Emancipation Proclamation?”
Wanting to give them hope but watching as my truthful answers landed with hurt. Hurt of the raw history. The bitter pill many of us have simply swallowed.
That pill is a little hard to swallow when you listen to what happened to a 14 year old kid, away from his parents–lynched over the lie of a white woman and hate of her husband. It’s a little hard to swallow when another 14 year old kid sees himself and family in him.
The story of Emmett Till makes as much sense to me as the stories of Ahmaud Arbery or George Floyd. I cannot wrap my mind around them and while I want days to process, it is been made evident that we don’t have days. We have fleeting moments and a time right now to speak on this.
I am recommending Jacqueline Woodson’s story told in verse, “Brown Girl Dreaming” because I have never experienced a single day in this country as black or brown, but Jacqueline has. Her words strike a chord and connect the thread from the end of slavery, to civil rights, to today. The nod that MLK’s march might of well has been last week instead of 60 years ago.
If these past few weeks have taught us anything it is that fear and anxiety for African Americans is not a thing of the past. It is here. We have to talk about it, learn from these events, and fight for justice. There is not an ounce of space for neutrality or idle acceptance.
Where my words fall short, Ester’s lyrics are clear. As are the words of Jacqueline-
For the 14 year olds who do not want to bury another classmate, another sister, cousin, aunt, neighbor, friend. Let it start and end with us.