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 his 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 what is happening in our community so that we may heal together and build better sustainable communities for our future.

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 Attorney General 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.

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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 his 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 what is happening in our community so that we may heal together and build better sustainable communities for our future.

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 Attorney General 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.

BOLD Journey to Durham: lessons on Black Love & Healing for Liberation

This November I celebrate my one year anniversary of organizing with Just Resisting! (Just Resisting is a black and brown community organization that focuses on social justice issues- primarily on injustices involving the local Buffalo Police Department/ Strike Force.) As I celebrate this accomplishment, I sit with the experience of attending BOLD,Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity Amandla – Praxis. The combination of the timing of both events is not only emotional, but monumental.

For five days I had the privilege of being able to share space with beautiful black organizers and folks from all over this country. We endured twelve hours of intense somatic, embodied leadership training, political education and on the ground practice with the local organization, 10K for Durham. As I write this I’m still unpacking a wealth of emotions ranging from raw newness to frustration.

I was under the impression going into the training that I would be learning practices for my organizing and that some somatic would be practiced.( I still didn’t know or understand the premise of somatic and what it entailed beyond centering). I did not know the small exposure to somatic practice would affect me on the level that it did. As one of the co-director to JR said so perfectly “ it’s like constantly being ripped open layer by layer exposing yourself in your bare humanity” all while maintaining everyone’s dignity in the space- it was amazing. Each practice forced me to acknowledge pieces of my trauma that I tried to deny- things I had buried within myself, beliefs that I thought were long ago debunked.  I discovered the power in living in the truth of my story, living centered in purpose.

This painfully culminated during a practice on the fourth day, where we were instructed to write commitments that we would carry with us back home beyond this training.

My OG commitment went like:  “I am a commitment to being a source of love and strength in connection to myself, my children, and my community for our liberation.”  When I shared this with my team that I had been working with for the past week, they all responded that they had seen me doing that – the way I cared for Zaire and Kelila, in the way I talked about folks back home. I said without a thought “yea, but not myself.”

It was then when one of the lead facilitators that was on our team challenged me to cross everyone else out leaving myself, then try reading it aloud. I did, read it, and burst into tears. I was forced to face the truth that I did not know how to care for myself or felt I was worthy of that.

This triggered memories of my mother- her telling me that I am so strong and have endured much in this life, her trying to reaffirm my worth. I understood that to mean that strength was resource- something I could draw from, tap into in moments of weakness- not gift. Until then I believed that my purpose was to give of myself as a sacrifice for still having life in this body.

I was able to see the life that mattered in my children, in Jose, in Meech, in Aj, in my community- but not mine. I cried because I felt like that suicidal sixteen year old girl I once was all over  again, plagued with PTSD from being sexual abuse that left me feeling worthless. The memory of waking up the day after my first suicide attempt in a hospital room came to mind vividly. I remember thinking that I was not physically supposed to be there but, also knowing this must’ve meant that I still had a purpose to fulfill on this earth. Since that moment, I was willing to live as a martyr for that purpose once I found it.

I first thought that Zaire was the fulfillment of that purpose once I met him and nurtured him as such, the same with Kelila, the same with my organizing work.

As I poured the love and strength in me into them and my projects I felt the pressure of life closing in around me, I felt depleted. In that moment when I acknowledged that my life mattered, and despite my traumas I will always have worth, a shift occurred within me. I spoke my commitment again; tears flowed as I said the words firmly. I️ am a commitment to being a source of love and strength in connection to my own liberation.I strive to live in that commitment since then by honoring myself slowly in small ways. Reaffirming that I do have worth and being gentle with myself has become a daily practice.

I allow myself to feel deeper in my interactions with folks: the boundaries that are born from it and the relationships I challenge to feel deeper in. I feel the frustration in my social media feeds seeing how much of society has feed us bullshit that has shrunk us down and isolated us as black folks.

When we collectively acknowledge our trauma and pain that healing process can begin. The acceptance of how our stories shift and shape us is the source of our power.

I understand the fear to go deeper. It’s not always safe to engage deeply in all interactions- it requires a level of trust in a time in our history where so much distrust has breed between all relationships. It’s also scary to face what lies in wait below the surface- what memories have been denied to revisit, what stories do we tell ourselves daily that are not true- things that sit in our depth that must be sorted through, and unpacked to heal in our full  dignity.

This movement for Black Liberation exceeds breaking systems that were created to oppress us but, it’s for our collective healing as black folks. It is for the moments of freedom we are rarely granted to be extended.

This liberation is for the empowerment that we will always have our dignity- Despite what the society we live in feeds us through media influence and experiences. Connecting from that place of healing will create a people that I can only imagine our ancestors dreamed we would become.