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Editor’s Note: One year ago today, the world witnessed a fatal interaction, the type that too often happens and is too often dismissed. In honour of Mr. George Floyd and countless others, this short, moving essay finds a home at Litro because of its inherent power and because we share in the urgency of the issues it grapples with.
Written by a young American student, the essay allows us a glimpse of a youth’s understanding of Black identity – the colour of which is not a crime – and the need for racial solidarity.
George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Ma’Khia Bryant, Daunte Wright, Daniel Prude, Rayshard Brooks, Adam Toledo, Marvin David Scott III…Today we echo past names so that tomorrow there won’t be new ones.
Expression: making thoughts or feelings known. Lying on my back on my bedroom floor, searching my ceiling for a way to articulate 400 years of oppression. Biting the cap of a Sharpie, because centuries of suffering just don’t fit onto a poster board. Taking a break by scrolling through Facebook and finding a cousin ranting about how privilege is a lie, how he really doesn’t care.
Slapping the computer shut, because what do you say to someone who’s so far gone? A clenched fist, a three-word phrase, an MLK quote? Could any of it persuade someone like him? Flipping through a thesaurus and Malcolm X to get this right, trying to find the perfect soundbite. If I can’t express myself to him, what’s the point? Checking my watch and running out of time. The protest is in two hours, and I have to finish this sign. I have to change at least one mind. I settle for the expressions on their faces in better times: Elijah’s warmth, Breonna’s joy, George’s peace and Ahmaud’s glee. Two words: too many.
At the march, I find my voice and we voice our rage. No justice, no peace, no racist police! We’re strong, we’re powerful, we’re conveying our message. We walk two miles, our signs held high, and we stare down the cars as they pass us by. I pray none of them are like my cousin. We walk to City Hall, and our voices are so heard that we can’t say a word. Police break the silence, start shouting orders. Back, back, back. To the eighteenth century? We have power in numbers, but they have earplugs and handguns. Tear gas and targets. Suddenly, they step back, the canister high in the air. You should have seen their expressions.