Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. And there you have it. Over a year I have been waiting and wondering will justice prevail on this one? The system has failed us so many times before. I drove through downtown Minneapolis two Saturdays before the Chauvin verdict and again the day after. My heart sank as I saw for myself and not in the media, military vehicles, guards with high-powered weapons, barbwire fences, barricades, and more barricades. I then drove to George Floyd Square and saw people looking perplexed - looking for something to help them breathe. I drove down to the "Say Their Names" memorial which is less than a block from my (now deceased) Dad's home. I walked over to each of the markers - many names I recognized, many I had somehow missed in the news. All dead. All black. All killed senselessly. I then drove by Dad's old house and saw how the new residents had turned it into a shrine for Black Lives Matter and for George Floyd. I parked my car at my Dad's home and just sat there staring at the green-painted house with red seats and red trimming on the door that looked more like a museum than what I'd grown up with it being - a white house where my Dad and his Minnesota family lived their everyday lives. Sitting there in my car for a moment, I felt absolutely numb. I blamed the numbness on not having eaten in hours and not having any emergency almonds left in the car to tie me over. I blamed the urge of wanting to cry but the tears wouldn't come, to just feeling nostalgia from being at my Dad's home. I blamed the sudden rush of fear on having seen all of those guns and wondered is this really Minneapolis - the beautiful place I used to visit each summer and thought how one day I would like to move here? Is this really the place where people are saying they do not want to come here because it is not a safe place for Black people to live? It was a lot to deal with - this historic verdict of Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. while at the same time the killing of a young Ma'Khai Bryant in Columbus, Ohio was happening during the reading of the verdict. Plus the killing of young Daunte Wright right down the highway from me. It occurred to me that I had every right to not understand why I was feeling numb now for weeks. My body was traumatized.
So the question was, "reflect on my Fellowship journey, what do I wish I'd known when I started, what stands out/surprised me most? In many ways, I just answered it. When I wrote my plan it was deeply grounded in social justice and civil rights. I wanted to meet national leaders who are dealing with the work, how they respond to these high-profile events that ravish our communities and leave the image of Black people further scared. Sadly, since I started this Fellowship, "we" have become much of that which I wanted to seek. I have shifted into better understanding the history moreso than the current leaders. We're all in this thing together now. I missed stepping into my Fellowship travels because of COVID, yet had I not received the Bush Fellowship I know that I would not have had doors open to me as welcoming as they did. People are interesting specimens. Prestige and credentials often determine how far into "the room"one may be allowed to enter. I haven't been knocking on any doors much, but have definitely been approached by local and national organizations regarding my work with Sweet Potato Comfort Pie. Often times it takes "who" you know for some things to happen. Knowing that I'm a Bush Fellow has often allowed entrance. However, I will not sell myself short - I have been ready and more than able to respond to "the call." Because of COVID my Fellowship has been extended to October, but not for a minute has my work, my dreams, my calling been put on hold. Matter of fact it has been amplified. But, didn't I say that already - it's because of the reputation that's associated with the Fellowship.
Despite all of that, I still contend that it's time for Bush to create a program for "Elders." Wisdom is necessary for moving forward with greater fluidity and connectedness. That comes by enforcing a good intergenerational balance. As I mentioned earlier, I felt numb for reasons that I was not sure of, True. Until, I received a call from Dr. Sylvia Bartley saying, that she wanted to connect with 3 of us who she'd recently featured on her radio show discussing "healing." I offered to host. What we discovered was - we needed that time together as Black women to be able to speak freely about what we'd been feeling all of these months and especially the past few weeks and even days. Having Deborah Watts (the cousin of Emmett Till) in the room (not knowing that she was about to become elevated tremendously after the Chauvin verdict as the Floyd Family cited her as having been an inspiration to them. It was for me, for my own healing, so therefore, dinner was a Bush Fellowship expense. On that note, I was able to laugh even more freely...expenses for our lovely meal that I prepared were fully covered by my Fellowship. So that Saturday afternoon, we ate drank, laughed, and for six hours in the company of these Black women who knew my pain because they have it as well, I felt totally unapologetic about anything and absolutely no guilt.
Looking forward to the next few months as COVID lifts and I can begin some of my Fellowship travels. Onward!