31.10.13

#31st for Marissa



Marissa,


Ashamed to say this is the first letter I've written to cross the wall in many years. Unsettled too, because I realize I can’t even write all that needs writing, all I’ve seen. I’m still bound up in some of the same silences that put you in harm’s way. I haven't read the other letters, so that my fear of redundancy or irrelevance might not prevent me from telling you what’s true to me.

So about 18 years ago... is that a generation? I know the sociological definition is not precisely about when the state officially recruits citizens into its business of death, as jurors soldiers or voters, but I’ll call it that.

A generation ago, I went to Washington D.C. with a million or so of my closest mans and them -- not to be flip, but to suggest the feeling we had. A brother minister had called us together to atone. It was supposed to be a tipping point. We would put our, & our people’s victimhood in perspective and assume our share of responsibility for the future. But still, here you are Marissa.

And we have a President who looks like us, whose imaginary son looks like Trayvon, who takes every occasion to lecture us, rebuke us in front of whitefolks, about personal responsibility. He is tasked, I believe most importantly, with protecting the psyches, bodies and spirits of two black girls growing into young women under the eyes of the world, and partnership with their mother. But for all of his shining about responsibility, he will not speak for Mama Assata, for Sybrina Fulton, for Rekia Boyd, for Islan Nettles, for Miriam Carey, or for you. And I wonder if that’s only his fault, or whether all the brothers have to raise our hands.

Somebody tweeted the other day that black women are the only ones who have ever had our backs. I thought 3 thoughts then:
even, and often when we don’t have our own;
 even, and often, when we don’t have theirs;
even, and often, at their own expense.


Quietly, that other October day wouldn’t have happened without y’all. Matter of fact, I can’t think of one modern movement for freedom in this country that wasn’t built on your backs. We survived here, literally, through the wombs, will, and work of our women. And to be clear, I quote my comrade, poet Khalil Almustafa, when he wrote “our women: not like we own you, but like we love you.”

I was home several times in 2010, during one of Chicago's bloody summers. I was asked to speak to a group of young people from a community centered around a co-op established by formerly homeless women, many veterans of hard times at the hands of loved men.

As I reviewed the list of homicides in our community I had to confront another horror hidden within. The victims were overwhelmingly boys and young men -- gunshots. But very few women fell to the gun in moments of delirious self-hatred. These sisters’ deaths were more intimate: stabbings, stranglings, blunt force traumas.

Against this reality, warning shots are honorable. Not in the Barack vs Syria sense but still...Power never submits without a demand, Frederick Douglass said that. How can you respond to a habitual linestepper when nobody heeds your cries, & you & your child's safety is at stake? That, I think is missing here, or what has been --an understanding of stakes. You are a kind of stakeholder the system is not designed to understand.

This should be about violence waged on women everywhere everyday. But echoing another brother of mine, I think it should also be about adulthood. What is and isn't allowable in defense of children? And it should be about humanity, your right to defend your own. But it appears to have become ultimately, monstrously, about the threat to the state monopoly on force you represented in standing up -- a black woman alone, trained and certified in ways of the gun. You weren't born in the skin that makes you blameless -- righteous and protected here, or born deputized as an agent of the state.

Small acts speak. I and several of my folk admired, and celebrated your courage, even as we recognized it probably didn't feel much like courage at all. None of us thought he'd have kept his life if you were aiming for him.

But I pledged, with many others, that October past to protect you, as our mothers, sisters, partners, friends & daughters have always protected us.

We shouldn't have left you. Alone with his rage, weakness, cowardice.

And we should not have fallen once more for the illusion of justice in this country.

I for one, didn't seriously contemplate that you might be where you are as I write this letter.

I pray now is not too late to be in your corner.

Iansã protect you.


Your Brother,



Inspired by Esther Armah & Brothers Writing to Live,  especially Kiese 
For more letters, check TheSwagSpot
At the time of this writing, Marissa's conviction has been thrown out, and a new trial is set for March 31st 2014
She has a bail hearing Friday November 8th @ 2PM, which will determine whether she can return home

To stay informed about the Free Marissa Now solidarity campaign
go here 


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