The Ten Year Slumber

A spastic silence plucks the vertebrae of my spine every night I watch my children fall asleep. They lay amongst their cartoon character pillows, superhero blankets and pacifiers like porcelain cherubs sans physical halos. The sweetness I taste in the air is always short lived though; anxiety and anger strangle my moment of solace with the consistent realization that every parent that looks like me has to face; our children are not safe. It’s a reality that my mother dealt with as I matured and ventured into the world without her ever present protection, it’s a reality I’ve always understood yet has taken me almost 30 years, gratuitous blood shed of young men that resemble me and the joys of fatherhood to truly empathize. I can testify that feeling it eclipses the concepts of adolescent or logical understanding; it is a thunderous rumbling of terror that haunts with the ability to stir so much more. Imagine being sound asleep dreaming of all your fantasies only to be violently overtaken by rapid white waters with the kinetic energy of hate as their propulsion. Your slumber is a distant memory, now there’s only the feeling of survival as you struggle not to drown under this waterfall of angst. When you finally rise and inhale the once fleeting air your eyes open, you are indeed awake. I’m still gasping for air as I begin to type this, but I’m thankful I’m awake.

I wrote a short essay 10 years ago explicitly dedicated to the challenges of being African American in America. After revisiting it recently, the troubling truth was blatantly staring at me through my own words. Very little had changed in the world, I gained my breath and realized I had been tragically engaged in a deep slumber encompassing the last 10 years. The breaking news headlines painted with death and injustice flow with the brush strokes of dulling frequency; one merging into the another as a collective Starry Night, difficult to discern between fearful dreams and heartbreaking reality. With my eyes wide open, I once again observe that the short sell of black life in America remains woven into the DNA of the nation; expectantly streaming across the bottom of every national network newscast except instead of stock tickers society reminds us of just how little we are valued, an eternal and continuously decreasing short sell. That is the instant I wish I was truly asleep because once my children wake up how shall I explain that my angels have enemies and why. When do I sit with them and educate them on the differences between real life and implied reality. I look forward to busting their bubbles in regards to Santa Claus, but someday I’ll have to explain that while the things they will eventually read about seem outlandish, they are not a movie and the threats against their melanin are very real and ever present; I imagine it will be a tough sell one which approaches quicker daily.

The screen grab is very much cinematic, there’s no denying that; Tom Hanks maybe pitching it to Sony as I type. Lone soldiers are manufactured from the very fabric of the first edition of Captain America, deployed straight from the scales of justice behind enemy lines. They are tasked to survive, adjudicate the innocent and neutralize the savage hostiles; who by the way are conveniently several shades darker for efficient identification by the hero and the audience. It sounds like a phenomenal screenplay, I’m sure Matt Damon is available to headline and executive produce. Who wouldn’t want to star in s fantastical interpolation of everything the America with the loudest voice and/or most capitol continues to ‘believe’ and depict to the populous. The proverbial pulling of the wool is executed so disrespectfully that it doesn’t take very much digging to acquire the true synopsis. Where there were heroes that look like Matt Damon armed only with their wits and patriotism there is actually a disjointed yet overpowered and ill-equipped police force operating with impunity and lacking procedural oversight to serve and protect an entire culture continuing to subdue and abuse them, to the point of death.

Indeed protecting and serving, doing so with such ferocity and efficiency that it continues to kills us. It reads horrifically, sadly it’s no euphemism; we are dying, men and women licensed by our government and paid with our stolen income tax dollars are deploying their own brand of justice around the ‘greatest’ nation in the world and NO ONE is coming to protect us. I proceed through my daily actions with this thunder cloud above my head, every few moments glancing up and saying out loud, what now?

The problems are mostly well documented yet in a crowd of institutionalized yet to be victimized adults the query of ‘what now’ is met with silence and gazes of bewilderment and sometimes there are even the dejected murmurs of what for? Unfortunately the factors behind the varied degrees of fleeting motivation run deep and repeatedly as a vaguely omnipresent reminder that the institution does indeed work; it’s nothing short of amazing, observing it objectively there’s virtually no way to ignore its effectiveness. I liken it to watching a time lapsed movie on the decomposition of the human body, everything breaks down in it’s predetermined order as intended until, over the course of time there is nothing left, only the most basic reminder of what once was. The pride of it’s forefathers and the guilt passed down to some of it’s ancestors over hundreds of years embodies another symbol of it’s prolific execution.

The term hundreds of years is, intriguing by any measure. More so when it’s broken down into specific activities or conceptualized through accomplishments. Observing how far the technology has grown in hundreds of years, how geology can change over hundreds of years, how industry and influence can shape countries over the course of hundreds of years. To think of all the progression within those topics once magnified to a more granular level can be overwhelming, yet the same magnitude isn’t applied to how four hundred years of being dragged backwards while the world moves forward can do to anything, including people. There’s no need to regurgitate the full details of slavery, it’s traumatic destruction of African American people, the debt America’s infrastructure owes to it’s implementation or the ethical hypocrisy engrained within society concerning it’s very existence; seems as though everyone understands those items, Of course they do. (I apologize if the sarcasm in my text is not as apparent as intended but trust me it’s there.). As I type this I’m still amazed that to tens of millions of people those very concepts can be treated with ignorance when referencing the scale of permanent negativity that unsurprisingly still exists; but with that amazement is understanding. While I may feel as though my lack of action was prompted by slumber, that’s just me and the danger in slumber is obvious. It’s taken me 10 years to truly follow up my original diatribe even though my ideologies never changed. In this moment I feel fear, a void of hopelessness opens in my soul and my logic produces the question. Has the infrastructure that originally degraded, molested and obliterated African Americans sprinkled just enough superficial progress on the top of the aquarium that is our equality to again keep us caged and accommodating? Are there enough thinly manufactured flakes of progress floating about to perpetuate the cyclical swim amongst our own purgatory, is this satiation of survival enough to accept only seeing past the glass but never earning a place in the ocean? I can’t answer with any real assurance, which frightens me to the deepest parts of my being. It scares me for everything that I feel I’ve worked to obtain; more Importantly it scares me for everyone like me. All the other gifted yet jaded men and women that struggle through this life in slumber succumbing to satisfaction based on the crumbs of an institution which largely cares nothing for us; both symptom and after effect of a diseases biblically proliferating through our population, plaguing our very souls. This brings us back to what now, at this point in the history our people and even the rest of the country is beginning to feel the specter of what now growing between the concrete of these very bloody streets. Everyone gets angry; emotions tend to run poker red hot as a precursor then of course the satiation sets in once gain while some of us return to slumber before others ever awaken.


The satisfaction must be destroyed; the aquarium must be toppled and amongst the shards of glass we must push ourselves AND each other to find the ocean where we belong beings of our constitution belong.

This is no task for just one man, woman or even a President. Singular men and woman on vigilant missions are left to falter and float to the top of the aquarium, gills up eyes open but drained of life awaiting removal and disposal. Sending one person to save an entire culture is selfish and naive, our president is African American, yet held to the same parameters of every other president before him; one can’t help to assume that his ascension is just another morsel in the water, that’s another theory for another day. It’s outright blasphemous to implore and abandon any ONE person to the almighty task of changing the world, but EVERYONE can change the world. We are each powerful; we are each deserving of equality and all blessed with some ability to aid in obtaining it.
Any one person can write, draw or translate art into change. Any one can vote, learn and manipulate portions of the system to aid us instead of sitting by idling and allowing it simply to rape and castrate us. Any one can stop paying to go see Matt Damon movies until there is some real equality amongst the produced symbolism of what heroism is (I swear I don’t have anything against Matt Damon). Any one can stop fueling the engines that perpetuate our indenture and begin feeding the stomachs of those starving for knowledge. Any one can stand up for even the smallest injustice in even the smallest way. If any one does what they can that means that EVERYONE can and will draw a line in the sand.

If we stay awake and at the very least nudge the person next to us we can begin to quell the falsified sense of satisfaction that burns down our resolve. I’m not sure about the specifics concerning what I will tell my children once they wake up about the cloud that follows them as it follows us all. There’s one thing I can tell them and will, an unalienable truth that I will tell every person who will listen and implore them to do the same. This controlled progress, aquarium life of captivity is no way to live, it is the negligibly barest means of survival; there’s an ocean out there meant for EVERYONE, especially us.

Author of 'When a Unicorn Crosses the Unicorn'

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