Sometimes, things seem to get so out of hand. I’m told to take one day at a time, but when they all seem to pile up at once and come at me, it gets a little overwhelming. I would imagine, however, that being less than 72 hours from having someone I love shot to death because of someone’s “mistake” might be off the scale of overwhelm.

There is now crowd of people who’ve been unwillingly inducted into an exclusive society in which they’d rather not claim membership. They didn’t ask for it, and it really has nothing to offer them except the grim reality of their losses. They are unlikely allies in a club where dues are paid by someone they have loved, nurtured, bonded with…someone who has been killed undeservedly by law enforcement.

There’s another crowd, a little ways away, of people who’ve been unwillingly inducted into another exclusive society, and they’d rather not claim their membership, either. These are the families, the children, the people who love an officer who’s been accused of ending the life of an unarmed person of color. The impact of tha officer’s actions doesn’t end with them, or the victim, it radiates to everything either party has touched. Ultimately, we’re all tangentially related to these high-profile incidents.

Everyone is calling for maximum penalty for the individuals who directly cause the death of these victims who’ve been in the news – Sandra Bland. George Floyd. Tamir Rice. Eric Garner. Daunte Wright. And so many others. These names are just recent history, but this has been happening since before there was printed media, since before there were telephones, since before there were two-way radios, since long before there were video phones. The names have changed, but the horror and the misery and the pain is the same.
It feels like justice when the person who pulled the trigger, or laid on the neck of somebody, or manhandled their victims gets convicted, or at least criminally charged, in these incidents.

But then it happens again, and we are left shouting in the streets and calling for justice and saying things must change. Then it happens again, and people go back to the streets, more or less non-violently, and there are more tears and more shouts and more spontaneous memorials. Sometimes there are trials. But it keeps happening, and every time it does, it takes a chunk out of all of us.

It’s not uncommon for people to reminisce about the “good ole days”, when things were good and you could walk to the corner store for a snack and come home safely, no matter how old you were or what color you were. Ah, those were the times.

I remember those times, too. I also remember they were peppered with missing children who didn’t make the news, murders that nobody talked about, whispered stories about what happened to some people who wandered into the wrong part of town, or the wrong part of the outskirts of town. Stories about certain people you should stay away from, and how it hadn’t been all that long since signs came down that told you where you weren’t welcome to go. And it hasn’t been all that long since any of that changed.

I hover between wanting to not expect too much because it hasn’t been all that long, but then I think…so when is the acceptable time to grieve the impact of 400 years of oppression, of the genocide of colonialism, of the broken promises of an experiment that claimed to allow life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness?

Grief has no time table. When someone that I love dies, I find myself in dynamic stages of grief for many years. There are many memories, many realizations, many connections made that weren’t apparent before. You miss them, and you are inconsolable at times. You are angry at times, and hopeful at times. Inexplicably, you are even joyous at times. The full range of your emotional palette is experienced, and it is seemingly self-aware – you don’t plan to be sad, you don’t plan to be angry. It just happens.

That is the nature of emotion – it doesn’t make sense, it’s not a rational nor linear proposition. It just … is. Justice is like that. It’s emotional, it’s passionate, it makes you angry and it makes you joyful. It evokes all of these things, dynamically; it ebbs and flows.

The President, at the funeral of the Capitol Police Officer who was most recently killed, told the man’s widow: (paraphrasing) “People are going to come to you and tell you they understand. You know they can’t. And when you think of him, you cry, and you’re sad, and you miss him. But then one day, unexpectedly, you will think of him and smile. You just don’t know when that’s going to come, but it will.”

So, maybe that’s what I keep working for, that day when I’ll smile, thinking about all of this injustice and this struggle and these people who have been lost. People like Fannie Lou Hamer, beaten to within an inch of her life for helping people vote. People like John Lewis, who had his skull cracked open for trying to cross a bridge. People like them, and so many others, who didn’t fade into the woodwork after paying such a painful price for their efforts. They recuperated, and they came back to the work, refusing to give power to their opponents.

I suppose this is what makes some people activists – coming back to the effort. Returning to the struggle. Refusing to let the opponents have ultimate victory. Continuing to speak, continuing to shout, continuing to march, continuing to call out the truth.

This is why I’m still here, I think. This is why I have not decided to just leave and try again in some other lifetime, if there is one. I can’t march very far or send a lot of money or purposely get put in jail. But I can write, and I can talk, and I can let people know there’s at least one short, dumpy, middle-aged Black woman that knows right from wrong, and she’s going to tell other people when there is stuff wrong. And if you know me, you know I ain’t gonna ever shut up.

I would love to be doing more, but I know my limits. I wish I was a superhero, with unlimited physical resources, but I’m a realist, so…. Regardless of all that, it’s my hope that i will live long enough to see a different world, to see this world we dreamed about, to live truly free. If it doesn’t go that way, though, I hope that something I do will help that long for the people who come after me. Like my mama would say, shaking her head disapprovingly, “Look at this. Just Look. At. This.”. So, I’m looking. And not taking my eye off the prize, holding on.

Sometimes, it just be like this. Don’t make no kind of sense.

Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

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