The Xxxtentacion Effect [Editorial]

When I heard of the death of X, I broke my social media hiatus to see how the news was effecting everyone. I have learned from Bill Cosby, Chris Brown and R Kelly that when bad things happen to notorious abusers, black folks still weep. X like Chris, Bill and Kelly represents our relationship with black men. And Xxxtentacion dying in a drive by in broad daylight is a reminder that no matter the wealth, fame, or clout one gets does not make anyone immune from gun violence that plagues our black community. His fans and family that survived him that are currently mourning his death, I am committed into feeling more deeply with them.

I want to be clear that I by no means condone the vicious violence of this young man or am I a X sympathizer.

Xxxtentacion expressed his emotions in his music that he was unable to do in a healthy way in his interactions in his personal life. His music was his safe place where his creation released his pain and traumatic experiences that he took pride in sharing so others would not feel alone. When I look at the lyrics of Xxxtentacion’s music I understand that it is relatable to folks, young boys especially – that battle through the same emotions of feeling sadness and anger without knowing how to sort through it in a healthy way. I look to these as reminders of how much farther we have yet to go. If its not our personal relationship with unprocessed pain and emotions, it is our proximity to folks in our lives that experience it.

`Xxxtentacion music was relatable to so many folks for its emotional content.’

I work with young black boys that have similar life experiences as Xxxtentacion – mothers that feel more like older sisters, fathers that are barely existent, and grandparents, family members or foster parents that have had to take of care taker roles. I see how they let their relationship with their parents and the community that is still active in their lives shapes them into the men they are growing into. I see how their sadness that they are not allowed to feel into leads to frustration of not exploring these feelings of rejected which in turn morphs into anger that cannot be tamed.

I’m more concerned about the impact of X’s  life and the current wave of new rappers  have on our youth that look up to them as leading role models of success. Black children seeing young black men that look like their older cousins and on their social media platforms portray lives that are similar to their current day to day lives with the illusion of more money  inspire them to live their lives in the same manner.

As an adult I forget the impact that celebrities, musicians especially have on children. I grew up loving Beyoncé, Erykah Badu, and singers like that who inspired me to aim to define my own version of greatness.Today children look for the same.

It is our duty as adults to hold our youth’s idols accountable for their role they have on this new generation. Call them in more on their behaviors and call them out when their actions become problematic. X is dead, and all I have positively to say on his legacy creates a safe place for young male listeners to begin to explore their emotions. My hope is that we can let that door that has opened for boys to admit to feeling sadness and pain to us exploring more where this is coming from and introduce how to heal through their past traumas.

I am more focused on the future of our black community and how we are shaping the children that will become the leaders of that reality. I do not have the energy to imagine the possible future of Xxxtentacion  living a reformed life as a healed person in our community, I rather accept and learn from his tragic reality : X let the trauma of his childhood shape him into an unapologetically violent person which lead to his early death. He was aware of his transgressions and knew that much of it came from his troubled past which was why he felt the need to focus on the youth.

 “If worse thing comes to worst, and I f***ing die or some s*** and I’m not able to see out my dreams, I at least want to know that the kids perceived my message and were able to make something of themselves and able to take my message and use it and turn it into something positive and to at least have a good life.

 

“If I’m going to die or ever be a sacrifice, I want to make sure that my life made at least five million kids happy or they found some sort of answers or resolve in my life regardless of the negative around my name.” – Xxxtentacion, The Sun

Let us focus on raising our youth in healthy healing communities. Let’s focus on the women and femme survivors of the existing abusers in our own cities and communities- providing resources for access to safe havens, education on alternative interventions that do not require the police/law enforcement such as restorative justice and additional healing support. Let our black men work towards healing themselves and traumas while calling each other in when exhibiting toxic masculinity. This is the way we can at least begin to create our own sustainable community.

*resources :https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/6566828/xxxtentacion-dead-rapper-predicted-own-death-video-miami-shooting/ 

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Remembering Jose

On this day one year ago Jose Hernandez-Rossy was murdered by police officer Tedesco. Jose in death was crucified by media outlets whose platform feed the city lies about who he was and the actions leading to his untimely death. Jose was driving home enjoying the final break in our temper mental Buffalo seasons when he was stopped by the police. The traffic stopped turned violent when one officer reached into Jose’s car causing him to hit a street pole. Jose attempted to leave the scene by getting out of his car to run when he was shot and killed by officer Tedesco. That day and the ones that followed the media reported that he shot a police officer (which was false), that he had a criminal record, that he was smoking weed. The local media’s stance to discredit Jose, the victim of a heinous crime, that by 2017 had played out once in this city before in the case of Meech and dozens of time across this country was an eerie reminder of how American society treats the death of men of color as criminals first before human.

I saw him as human. I saw him in the face of his daughter who still didn’t understand why her father was not returning home as he always did. I saw him as a family man in videos that his cousins’ shared on their social media as they mourned their loss of him. I hear his humanity and his loving kindness in the stories from his brother- in- law of how he helped support him and his sister’s family. I see the strength of him live on in his sister and mother as they fight through a crooked judicial system with lawyers that have other agendas yet they still hold true to their convictions for justice. I have had my heart and soul break open with his family at the place of this death, as we held direct actions and in frustrating meetings.

One particular moment that stays burned in my mind and body’s memory was the day of his memorial at the site of where he was killed. I felt my body shake with sadness, anger, and grief and overwhelmed with hurt when I looked down to see my son crying beside me. Zaire cried because he too felt the overwhelming emotion of when the immediate family came to the pole on the corner of the street where Jose’s car initially crashed and the ground felt radiant of Jose’ blood that was still visible on parts of the street. There was a sad chaos in the street when his mother cried terribly before her body gave way and the male family members had to hold on to her. When the fire department and ambulance pulled up and Zaire began to cry more I decided that it was time for us to go. He asked me why he died and who killed him in the car ride home, I told him because of the color of his skin and by officers that said they were scared of him. My voice trembled as I said this as I felt guilt for exposing this harsh reality to my children. I let it hurt just enough before remembering that taking him and Kelila to Jose’s memorial did not make me a bad parent opening my children up to trauma. I am a parent that is exposing my children to their reality before they grapple with the horrors of it on their own but now with the tool to heal from it.

Now today a year later we will come together once again to remember the life of Jose. We still hold the rage from the not guilty verdict from the AG case in our bones as we reclaim this memorial site. Our emotions are raw on this day and we honor the unspoken power of them that has fueled us this far in our collective journey. My heart is still full despite the pain and I am sending out love in these words, in prayer, and in healing vibes to the survivors of state sanctioned violence.