Today's post is from four time Boston V-Day Cast member, Simone.
Simone Miles Esteves is the descendant of African, Latina and Wompanoag women.
Why does she Rise? How could she not? Revolution? Oh, most def!
Violence, an intense, turbulent, or furious and often destructive action or force, isn’t always physical. As we work to end the violence against women, we have to remember emotional violence as well.
As angry as I was while I followed the Zimmerman trial, and as much as my heart and soul ached for Trayvon, his fam, my fam and our fam across the diaspora, a demographic that is born guilty of being innocent, you know who I whose experience I am still stunned by? Rachel Jeantel. Do you remember her? If nothing else, you remember the hell she caught for her less than eloquent testimony as she recounted listening to her friend being followed, harassed and murdered. She heard it. She HEARD it. I’d imagine the sounds and the images that her brain illustrated to accompany those sounds are seared into her consciousness. And if that wasn’t enough to traumatize this young lady, she then needed to relive this horrific experience on national television, while throngs of anonymous people ruthlessly criticized her lack of English mastery, giving few, if any props to the fact that English is her second language… meaning she’s bilingual… an accomplishment many of us can not claim. Waves of people chose her speech pattern as a point of mockery and degradation. Countless people created an equation in which her rich cocoa skin, size and weight resulted in her being stripped of respect, stripped of dignity, and dehumanized.
So this Vday, I’m rising for social injustice of any gender or any background, but in particular I’m rising for Rachel; a black girl who listened to her friend get ripped from her life, whose intelligence was invalidated because her ability to code-switch wasn’t satisfactory to the masses and whose body was used for the entertainment of strangers without her consent. If that ain’t social and emotional violence, then I just don’t’ know what is. I’ve never met Rachel Jeantel and I probably never will, but she’s fam to me. I’m rising for you, sis.
Recently, Barbara Howard wrote a piece for Cognosenti called, “A Blizzard of Perspective”. In it she recalls driving by a woman and a sleeping child who were waiting at a bus stop at about 1am. This was in the days following the recent historic snowfall and cold temperatures in Boston. Howard backed up to offer the woman and child a ride home, which they accepted. As she turned onto their street, Howard recalls, “It was a very steep and snowy hill, and I commented that she must have very strong arms to carry her sleeping daughter up that hill. She told me that sometimes she just can’t carry her, especially with all the snow. She said she has to wake up her little girl and make her walk up the hill. “She doesn’t like that,” the woman said.
“How old is she?” I asked.
When I read this, I wondered how the mother feels just before she wakes her daughter up to walk up the snowy hill. Does she question her effectiveness as a mom? Does she feel like she’s let her daughter down? I contemplated those questions and realized that I was projecting. I’d be questioning myself if I found myself in her shoes with my own child. Maybe she doesn’t question those things at all. Maybe she’s strong and determined and has dreams for her family that she knows she will make come true. Maybe she knows that this season of their lives won’t last forever, and that they’ll be better because of it. I hope this is the case for her. Despite that possibility, if the social and economic inequality that leaves a mother and her child at a bus stop on a snowy night at 1am to risk a ride home with a stranger ain’t violence, I don’t know what is.
NOT SO HAPPILY EVER AFTER:
For generations little girls have been fed fairy tales of Prince Charming and some place in time called Happily Every After. Fortunately, because times are changing, varying perspectives and experiences are more widely accepted and that fairy tale narrative is changing accordingly. There is still all types of work to do, but it’s changing none-the-less. To that point, I don’t know Esaw Garner, and I certainly don’t know what her relationship with her husband Eric Garner consisted of. But I do know that she recalled the familiarity between the local police and her husband. They called him “Cigarette Man,” and you know what they called her? “Cigarette Man’s Wife”. Now, for the purposes of this posting, I’ll simply mention, rather than unpack, how dismissive of a person’s identity or even existence it is for law enforcement to know someone well enough to give him a “nickname” and make his significant other a mere extension of the identity that’s been assigned to him. Is there any regard for these individual people? And their lives? And their experiences in this world? On the other hand (waaaaay other hand), the assignments of these nicknames could lead an outsider, such as myself, to infer that the relationship between Mr. & Mrs. Garner was well known in their community. That even people, who may not have known or cared about the details that made these people livers of uniquely valuable lives recognized that they were a unit. There are other inferences to be made here, but let’s roll with this one. If Esaw Gardner is a woman who’d been fed the fairy tale, then the co-nicknaming and her response of “hell no” she does not accept the apology of the officer who murdered her husband might allude to her having found her Prince Charming. She spoke openly about struggling to feed her kids, especially now that her husband is gone. At least with him here, however realistically flawed their relationship may have been, they had each other. They could keep living in and/or working toward the Ever After that so many of us have been fed and seek. The officer who killed Eric Garner killed parts of Esaw Gardner and parts of everyone who loved him. I’ll admit, I don’t agree with all of Mrs. Garner’s assessment of the situation regarding her late husband and I don’t know what their day-to-day lives consisted of. But I do know that the other half of “Cigarette Man’s Wife” was stolen from her… from this world. He’ll never be back. Not only was Esaw Garner’s Prince Charming snatched from her life, but their Ever After was as well. Mrs. Garner is a widow, a survivor, a person who has to live everyday with the loss of her husband and the bitter sweet memories of their love… If she ain’t a victim of mental and emotional violence, then I don’t know who is.
In November, Samaria Rice’s 12 year old son was killed by police who responded to a report of what might have been a toy gun. Turned out it was, in fact, a toy. I don’t like the concept of toy guns, but that does not justify the fact that Samaria will never hug or kiss her son again. She won’t see him graduate from high school, guide him through some curveball life throws his way, make a parenting mistake and apologize to him for it, send him off to college. Nothing. Samaria Rice won’t do any of that because her son was killed for playing with a toy gun, which kids have been doing for generations. In February, months after her son as murdered, Ms. Rice was quoted as sayng "I just can't believe it. I'm still in shock, for real. I'm still in shock that this could be happening to me." Countless Boston based mothers could share a similar sentiment. Sonja Bishop, Sarah Flint, Angela Francis, Isaura Mendes, Carmen Soto and Genevieve Tonge, are among many mothers who have tragically lost their children and live with that loss every day. I can not imagine the agony that the loss of a child brings, the violence that a mother’s soul endures and I’m so sorry that they know this emotional and spiritual violence first hand.
The children of these mothers had communities. Sisters they rode bikes with. Cousins they built forts with, bickered with, but were best friends with moments later as they ate snacks. Classmates who’s hair they may have pulled. Friends they played gobblygoop with and who never dreamed that they wouldn’t be hangin’ together forever.
If violence ain’t the loss, and confusion, and void and pain and fear and anxiety that 12 year old Tamir Rice’s little homegirls and little homeboys must be feeling, then I just don’t know….