A Requiem for Rest and Life

This morning I woke up to multiple messages of folk checking in on me, saying they were thinking of George Floyd and wondering how I was doing, how I’ve been. I let the phone fall from my fingers, my thoughts mired in the space that for those who are not often in communication with me, thoughts of me sprang up in their minds in the wake of death. That I lived in many ways alongside the thin line between life and death.

I want to think about life today. I want to think about rest.

I didn’t realize today marked one year since the the murder of George Floyd. I had been fixated previously on a trial that took weeks too long that continued to replay his last moments while a parade of people talked on either side about his cause of death, as if any other reason besides . George Floyd has died over and over again in every day of that trial, every passage of time since today, and every moment that folk turn away from the mandate that we must destroy every last one of these anti-Black systems. He is always on my mind. There is no anniversary to document, to trace, when his life is written across my own, long before he called out for his mother in last breath.

After the verdict was delivered in the Derek Chauvin trial, I called my old roommate to get some coffee and sun because my body was still shaking with a familiar feeling of grief and relief, and a deep sense of loss. As we were drinking our coffee outside of the cafe, we were rattled again by a two-car crash at the intersection next to us. The next moments were a blur of running to get help, finding first aid and ice, and checking oil leaks. We eventually made our way away from the scene and toward the lake, stopping for cookies along the way. I shakily laughed as we sat along the lake, reflecting on how had sought some refuge outside getting coffee and we’d simply found the next jolt to our existence. I touched my chest thinking about the heightened flight stage Black folk’s bodies remain in, no matter the circumstance. The intergenerational marker on our DNA that has in many ways saved us, but has not prepared us for building a next life.

How do we re-write this genetic code together?

We live in a world where Black folk are pleading to be anonymous instead of memorialized, since it so often comes with the horizontal and vertical lines of social media ceremonial death. Despite the deeply troubling statements of the likes of Nancy Pelosi, we are not the world’s martyrs. We aren’t looking to die for some ‘grand’ cause, the likes of which are often dreams to simply recreate this world. We don’t want to stop the world in its tracks. We don’t want to be most remembered for the end of our life. People are quick to say how incredible it is for Black folk to not burn down this world, how resilient we are; how we keep going. I read in a post yesterday:

I dream of never being called resilient again in my life.
I’m exhausted by strength. I want support. I want softness. I want ease. I want to be amongst kin. Not patted on the back for how well I take a hit. Or for how many.

And I think about the episode of the too-soon cancelled Underground, when one enslaved man’s mother told him that they could take anything, and he turns to her and says that’s what he’s afraid of.

These are not badges of honor to hold, dear ones. We have to let these words that fall from the lips of those who reap from our pain and bondage and call themselves ally, fade away until they are nothing. Until all we have is our will to live and to support one another.

Black people want to live. We want our children to play and to grow old. And to find and experiencing joy.

Here, in this life, I have to believe that it is possible. We carve out spaces in small and big ways to mark our lives against vibrant backdrops of joy and life, despite the world’s constant tugging toward death. If you listen closely, you can hear the ancestors calling us home to rest.

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