This morning as I washed the tub to bath my son, Zaire sat on the toilet rambling his usual morning rants. He paused and said ‘Mom, we must listen to each other and support each other’
I stopped for a moment, and looked at him ‘ yes, that’s right.’
‘That’s what Papa says and that’s what you say about freedom..? ‘we have to lose our chains’
I remember now, I know what he’s saying to me ‘Oh! The Assta chant: it is our duty to fight for our freedom.’
‘Yes! That’s is – It’s is our duty to fight for our freedom! ‘
I nod, smiling now ‘it is our duty to win ..’
He repeats after me loudly
‘We must love each other and support each other ‘
He repeats bobbing up and down with each word
‘We have nothing to lose but our chains.’
‘You always say that Mom, I knew it was you when I hear that and Always holding signs.. ‘
I had intended this morning to write about the pride and discord I felt in that moment. How my heart both swelled up in his acknowledgment of the Work and broke in two because how far we have yet to go to achieve our freedoms, until I saw the news about Erica Garner . She passed this morning, after suffering from a heart attack a week ago and had been in a coma since.
Her father, Eric Garner was killed by the police in 2014, in a case that would be one of the most publicly know and associated with the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Erica was 24 years old when she began organizing and advocating vehemently on her father’s behalf. She staged die ins where her father was killed, held political figures and politicians accountable, and never gave up on her fight for justice.
I’ve looked to her many times over this past year and now especially reflecting on being in this work at the same age as her when she lost her father in such a violent way. I’ve looked at her in admiration that despite being in the most pain this country can put on us she never gave in to it’s insidious attacks against her – until her body could simply not take anymore.
I know the stress this work can wear on the body. The pain can manifest physically beyond the mental and emotional point of enduring. I felt it recently when the Attorney General visited Buffalo to announce that there was no way No criminal charges found in the case of Wardel ‘Meech’ Davis, the 20 year old black man killed by the BPD in February of this year. The day of the news broke I joined in on the protests with Zaire by my side . I closed the protest with the above Chant with tears streaming from my eyes both from the cold of the cruel wind whipping against my face and the pure emotion of knowing how little black lives amount to in this country. Angered that we still fight for its sacredness that our lives are constantly denied.
My imagination can only go so far as too empathize with what Erica internalized in her three years of this fight for the man that loved her first in her life.
Erica carried that pain every day of being erased, of her father’s life never receiving any justice but instead slander by media outlets-yet she carried on. She was still a person beyond this Work, she brought life into this world and the pain of her father not being able to witness it is what I can imagine was a contributing factor to her first heart attack.
Erica’s heart was broken the day life departed from her father and broke a little more each time he was disrespected, repressed and denied justice after death. It broke a little more with each reported police killing of unarmed black men and women. It broke a little more each time joy crept into her life with the knowing she did not have her father to share it with until her untimely death at the age of 27.
We highlight too often the strength of freedom fighters and not their humanity- their need to be cared for and loved properly. Today her family, loved ones, and folks that been apart of this movement that recognize her contributions mourn Erica Garner. I hope her soul has finally found solace as she joins her father in rest.
I also hope this will help bring awareness of our needs of healing and love within the fight for justice, within the generations of suffering pain that is denied reconciliation.
It Is our duty to love each other and support each, to listen and care gently when there is a pause in all our fighting. It is our duty to find resilience in this from the peace we still have within us.
Sending prayers and healing vibes on this day.
cover photo:Erica Garner has turned personal tragedy into a platform for activism (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)