Saturday morning, I woke up to my usual alarm, my mixed race three- and five-year old toddlers knocking on my bedroom door asking, “Is it the green light yet?” I responded with my normal annoyed remark, “no, go back to your room.” My kids left, and slowly I began waking up to what I thought would be a normal day.
I opened my phone, and my heart began to break. The news of the world became front and center, I read from NPR.org, Tyre Nichols case: Americans protest after footage is released. I quietly said to myself, “not again.” I knew the video was released the day before, but I chose not to watch the video, as I do not like the idea of being desensitized to the murder of black and brown bodies through the viewing of public lynching's. Instead, I try to avoid the news.
But today, I couldn’t ignore it. I couldn’t just act as if I was not hurting like everyone else. I couldn’t ignore the fact that seeing articles of someone who looked like me getting murdered actually brought fear and anxiety that I could be next. I couldn’t ignore the fact that my skin color makes me a threat; and some people will use their power to harm me and not help me.
Many of my white friends and neighbors who felt far removed from this reality, were able to ignore the news on this Saturday morning, but not me. I was engulfed in it and consumed by it. I wanted to cry, scream, break things, and turn the finger of blame on some system or some person that failed me. I wanted to let my voice be heard like many in the black community as we are angry, hurt, and enraged.
We see the news of the next black body murdered with no reform, with no action. We see our homes being gentrified by city officials, with no protection. We see our black businesses replaced by big chain corporations, with no help. We see our history erased from textbooks and libraries, with no honoration. We are told our history is insignificant to learn and study. We lose on property bids because our white neighbors come with inheritances and deep pockets that many of us cannot compete with. We try and force our bodies and our voices in white spaces, and we are told to be silent or better yet, to conform. When we get angry, we are stereotyped as the angry blacks that are dangerous and uncontrolled.
We try peaceful protest, but as we protest, we feel our pain, we feel our losses, we feel our grief, and we become weighed down and often defeated. So, we choose to either feel it all or suppress it all. But whether we feel or suppress, we are overwhelmed by the brokenness in our society and our systems. Whether, we say it aloud or silently, we want to burn it all down, and some of us do, some of us react in our anger, and we hurt others because we are hurting.
Because like many have said before me, “hurt people, hurt people”, and can we blame them?
The black community has decades of trauma that we are still holding. We have decades of losses we are still grieving. We have decades of emotions; we are still feeling.
And until we heal from our trauma, our losses, and our emotions, we will continue to cause pain to the ones that have caused us pain. Because we do not just carry the pain in our mind, we carry it in our bodies. We carry every loss, every trauma, and every emotion in our bodies. We carry the murder of every black and brown body due to the hands of police brutality in our bodies. We carry the effects of racism, fear, and anxieties in our bodies. To heal from these losses, to release our trauma and to let go of our anger, we must first reconnect to our bodies, express our pain, and release our trauma. If we do not, we will continue to hurt the ones around us.
So, on this Saturday morning I had to discover how to keep living and engaging with my day, after the loss of another black body at the hands of police officers. I needed to accept, express, and release the loss. As a dancer, I wanted to use movement to express my pain and heal from the tragedy. I needed the arts to remind me of the beauty in the world when days like that Saturday feel dreary.
The idea of using the arts to express and heal from black pain and trauma is not a new concept. We have the poems of Maya Angelou, the songs of The Freedom Singers, and the art of Jacob Lawrence. They used their artistic mediums to express their grief, their losses, their emotions, and their hope. They used art to help inspire and encourage the black community when they felt weary. They found healing and hope through the arts, and we can too.
Together as a community, we can use the arts to express our communal grief, trauma, and losses. We can find healing from paintings, hope through dancing, beauty through writing, and inspiration through speaking. We can create spaces that allow access for anyone to process and express their pain and trauma through artistic forms.
Because in such a time as this, may we begin creating spaces for people to heal from their pain and trauma that racism and police brutality has created.
Because in such a time as this, may we create access for all people to engage with movement to express and release the pain, the emotions, and the losses that they have held for decades.
Because in such a time as this, may we do not hold onto our anger and implode on our cities and our neighbors, but we engage with the world feeling whole and complete.
Because like for my children, eventually the light will turn green, and we will be tasked with engaging in the world in the midst of our black trauma and black pain. We will be tasked with finding hope and healing while we wait for our broken systems to change.
We will be tasked with finding the beauty in the midst of our pain, because if not, we will continue to hurt the ones around us, as hurt people, hurt people.
I task you to find a movement class, a writing group, or even a vocal ensemble to let out your cries, hurts, and laments.
May the arts be your source of beauty and hope and your expression of lament and healing.