“These are troubled days,” she told me. She had been listening to the news all morning, while reading the same scriptures she read every day, from her tattered and over-used bible.
I nodded, because I knew she was right. However, I was still astonished because a woman, who has lived through, experienced, and seen so much of this world, now, feels that times are at their worse. That those brown eyes, now clouded with grey , that have witnessed moments in history I cannot begin to fathom would say that today… TODAY we are in troubled times. My mind reels from the depth of that statement because for her, after all she has gone through, to feel that way about our current circumstances means that this country truly is in dire straits.
My grandmother was a major part of my upbringing. She served as the second parent in my household for lack of a father.
Raised in a house with three generations all existing together simultaneously, I had the unique advantage of learning, directly, from my past – from my ancestors. I learned to listen to the stories of my family’s history. A tale of mixed heritages, hardships, and fearless moves across this country. My grandmother is, in my mind, the very definition of strength beyond strength. She is the cloth from which I am cut. She is the living proof of my own abilities.
Aside from her accomplishments – and I do see them as accomplishments – she is also a first hand witness to the some of the greatest historical periods of our country. Born during the early days of WWII, she was raised as the eldest daughter in the south to a family of 10 children. She served as the mother figure in her mother’s absence. She recalls the difficulties that followed the days after war when family and friends returned injured and traumatized. Yet, even after serving, they were still spurned by society.
She spent her adolescence during the 1950s. A time of strict social limitations. Jim Crow laws were still pronounced and practiced in her home town in the south. She lived at a time when her mere existence was a plight to America. She lived in a home that sought out, every day, to remind her that she was not wanted. That she was a lesser human. That she was unworthy, and expected to act accordingly; to walk with her head low, hanging with shame, for simply being Black in America.
She came to the more liberal west in the 1960s. At the height of the Civil Rights Movement, she found herself the young mother to a prematurely born infant daughter, and having to lay the twin son to rest, alone. She managed to establish a home in a new city, with very little family to count on, and still bring up my mother, who was a rather frail child. This all occurring at a time when African-Americans were vocal about the injustices placed upon them. She found herself in the center of it all, in a neighborhood of Los Angeles, where many openly stated their stance with the movement. Despite being a mother, she found herself siding with Malcom X’s more confrontational approach to Dr. King’s peaceful tactics.
She recalls the days both leaders were lost; my mother was 4 years and 7 years old, respectively.
She is the reigning matriarch of my family. My mother is the undisputed next in line to take the lead. I have been told that I, too, may some day take up this helm.
I am the first born daughter, of a first born daughter, of a first born daughter.
So, when my grandmother speaks. I listen.
“These are troubled days,” she says as I braid her hair.
Within the span of a couple of days, I watched video of two Black men being shot at point blank range. I watched a 30 minute video of a woman keeping her calm, for fear of losing her life, as her boyfriend slowly bled out beside her. I saw a man being pinned down and then shot. Life snuffed out without any remorse. And I am angry. I am sickened. And I am worried, because now we are in troubled times.
These are just the latest additions to a long list of Black lives taken at the hands of those who we are expected to trust to protect us. No one mentioned that there was a disclaimer on who exactly gets protection, and who does not. No one mentioned that there were stipulations on who has consistent rights and who does not. No one mentioned that there were unwritten rules on who are safe to walk the streets and who are not.
It shakes me to my core, and burns my heart so, and yet, I try to remind myself not to let that anger char the remains of my heart to black coal; for that will leave me bitter and cold. I try so desperately to hold on, and to not let this world make me hard where, once, I was soft. I try, with all my soul, not lose my empathy to apathy. I try, but this world makes it so very hard.
I look at my grandmother, and think of all the lives that were lost in the past fighting for what they hoped would be a brighter and more hopeful future. I look at my grandmother, and I realize, that what she is witnessing is déjà vu for her. We have done nothing, but repeat the past. I look at my grandmother, and I realize that I am simply a reincarnation of her, and I am now witness to similar atrocities. I wonder if her grandmother told her, one morning, that, “they are in troubled days.”
I am unwilling to sit idly and watch. I am unwilling to quietly hope. I am unwilling to be complacent. I am unwilling to succumb or resort to violence in response. But I am even more unwilling to be silent. So, I will do what I need to do, what I can do… I will write. I will write. And I will write again. I will say the names of those slain: Philando Castile & Alton Sterling. I will speak the words that need to be said, and I will do so openly, fearlessly, and without hatred: Black Lives Matter.
And before you begin, yes, all lives matter. But that statement will never be true in its entirety until Black lives matter, minorities lives matter, LGBTQ lives matter, and other marginalized groups’ lives matter.
There are issues deeply entrenched within the fabric of our society that need to be discussed in depth. These issues need not be censored. These issues need not be down played. If they are never discussed than the problems will only continue to fester and continue to be the putrid wounds they are presently.
“We are in troubled days,” she tells me.
The trouble never ended, it just changed face.
My inspiration for this post is for humanity to aspire to something greater.
May you always be sweetly inspired.
Photography and editing by A. Reneé for Darling Afflatus, 2016. Please do not use without permission.