We will not be reduced: A response to the murder of Ahmaud Arbery & the innumerable others

Decide not to be reduced. . . Mother Maya penned these words that serve as a battle cry of resistance. They act as a mantra for a people who refuse to be reduced by the reality of being black in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Since we arrived on these shores the demand on our bodies has been taxing. For decades we have paid the black tax to occupy the green space we call home. Too many others to name have paid the tax. . . Some in blood, some in tears, all in toil. The land of the free and the home of the brave. We came here in chains and have been trying to break free of them ever since.

Freedom ain’t free – the blood cries out from the street. Freedom ain’t free – the blood cries out from the park. Freedom ain’t free – the blood cries out from in front of the store. Freedom ain’t free – the blood cries out from the front seat of a car. Freedom ain’t free – the blood cries out from inside a church. Freedom ain’t free. . . The blood cries out! The blood cries out . . . .

So, on this weekend when we should be honoring mothers how do we celebrate when once again we are reminded that we can’t even go jogging without getting shot? That our deaths are easily swept under the carpet of privilege; and, that the place I call home never really embraced me. My mentor told me that I should go where I’m celebrated and not where I’m tolerated. But am I even tolerated? It feels like I am hated; like I am hunted. I am hunted and made to feel like I should blindly accept it and be grateful.

How do we as a people keep our collective minds from snapping after too many years of paying this exorbitant tax? From looking out at the sea of white faces – who demand that I educate them about my pain – and spewing all of my rage on them. Well, Mother Maya told us what to do. We refuse to be reduced.

We celebrate our mothers. We dance as our bodies & our music give voice to our grief. We occupy spaces that our ancestors never even dreamed of. We walk in favor in spite of the tax. We stand – in a sea of white faces – rising . . . thriving . . . Celebrating. Cause isn’t celebration the most subversive thing I can do? When the enemy of my soul tries to steal my hope and rob me of my humanity and crush me under the weight of oppression – what a magnificent “F-you” it is to lift my eyes towards heaven and rejoice. To read Maya Angelou talk about rising and listen to Hezekiah Walker tell me it’s going to get better. How wonderfully FREEING to watch Michelle Obama talk about Becoming with my mother and celebrate all I’ve become because of Casenia’s sacrifices.

Because really how can I let the blood be shed in vain? My beautiful, resilient people celebrate because we refuse to be reduced by hatred, bigotry, & oppression. We refuse to live “less than” in a land built upon our backs. We refuse to not demand justice for Ahmaud and the others. We refuse to be reduced to a hashtag. We refuse to speak anything less than truth to power. We refuse to be silenced, neutered, victimized, or demonized. We refuse to be reduced to the sum total of white fears!

We jog on. We march on. We kneel on. We pray on. We sing on. We dance on. We teach on. We laugh on. We cry on. We hug on. We live on and on and on.

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