Florence, AL, May 9, 2020
There is no rhetoric in this question. My grandson is a runner. Every day he dons his running shoes and takes off to a place where he can stretch, place earphones in his ears, and jog. He loves nature, and chooses to run where he can see the trees, but feel the pulse of neighborhoods, houses, in which people are “staying safe.” During this coronavirus quarantine, he cannot meet with his friends, plan for his graduation, or play soccer with his team, but he can affirm his vitality by jogging. Not anymore.
Today, we are armed with the knowledge that a young Black man…yet, another young Black man, named Ahmaud Arbrey, was jogging in a neighborhood in which his profile was not acceptable for two white men, the McMichaels. They saw him as a violation, a possible threat to their well-being, as prey. Unarmed, followed, then shot dead, Ahmad now serves as another poster child/man – child, because he was his family’s child; man, because he went down fighting his perpetrators. I must point to his poster and exclaim, “Christian, you can no longer run in neighborhoods; you may be killed!”
My words were preempted by strict warnings from my grandsons’ parents. Their father, all Black men, heed this warning. It is an extension of their former precautions about being stopped by policemen while Black. This warning is an extension of; you cannot take part in teenage pranks while being Black. This warning is an extension of “do better, be better, know better” to survive while being Black. I am aware that our safety is compromised by subversive elements within the Black community, elements designed to find us dead, and violence is undisturbed to this end. However, I will not deflect from the truth about the lynching of Ahmaud; this assignment is about overt racism and injustice.
A lynching committed two months ago by a former policeman and his son find an unjust system ready to sweep this murder under the rug. If not for the video that surfaced, evidence of the crime, the murderers would never have been arrested. They would have been home for Mother’s Day, the day Ahmaud was born. A Citizen’s Arrest was their defense, but the video was ours. We were the family of Ahmaud, defending him, jogging for him, posting, making our voices heard until these criminals were apprehended and charged.
Today, I am charged with asking the question, “Where can my grandson run?” In the park, where someone may find him offensive, and call the authorities? In his neighborhood, where the Sons of the Confederate Veterans take up camp? In my neighborhood, where an older woman questioned me about why my grandsons, and I were walking? In 2020, should he be restricted to running on the silent AstroTurf that aborts the nature that fuels his passion for jogging?
My grandson must run the course of safety, as taught by his elders, but he must never lose sight of the strength demonstrated by Ahmaud, who turned to fight off his perpetrators. He died fighting, and our fight for Ahmaud is not over. As Black men, my grandson(s) must run with the power of mind, body, and spirit, claiming what they deserve in the country built by their Ancestors.
Happy Mother’s Day Epilogue: Joy Juice
I wrote a piece, which received so many of your precious words, “Where Can My Grandson Run?” I discussed the dream I had prior to writing it.
I was taking a baby out to walk. I was told to put his shoes on, but I said, “No. I will carry him.” We walked out into a beautiful day. I thought twice about the shoes and decided to continue carrying him. We saw a beautiful Magnolia tree in our path, and I stopped for a lesson on nature, “What is this,” I asked. “Tree,” the baby answered. I asked him to touch the leaf of the tree, which he did, and I awakened from the dream.
Remembering our nature walks, I knew the baby in my dream was my grandson, Christian, the runner. I would not let him walk in his tiny gym shoes and carried him for protection. Camille researched Magnolia Trees and found they symbolize independence. I told Christian to touch the tree, which I am discerning symbolized my blessing him, for the independence I knew had to be his. Anyway…
I imparted this dream during our Sunday discussion, and later, my doorbell rang. Part of the discussion, David was at my door and this is what he gave to me. Happy Mother’s Day!!
Victorine/”Grammy” with Christian and Morgan
Featured image: Top, Brother, Bernie Basley, Grandsons, Christian, and Morgan Bennett. Left, Son-in-Love, Taurus Bennett Nephew, Imanuel Basley, Right, Son, Miles