I Hate That I Have To Tell You

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I Hate That I Have To Tell You is a Children’s Book about the constant conversation Black parents must have with their children about how to handle encounters with police, but knowing in the end, it may not matter.

Is this children’s book controversial? Absolutely! But pretending this isn’t a reality has done more harm than good, and if change truly begins with the children, this book, and the parents ready to read it and talk about it honestly with their children, will be another step toward a more just future.

“One thing we don’t think about when planning for children is how to teach them how not to be killed,” Darnell Lamont Walker, the book’s author says. “At 11 years old, my son came to me, matter-of-factly telling me about the dream he had that morning in which a cop attacked and tried to kill him. Undoubtedly it was the news of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling that I refused to hide from him that put these thoughts in his head. ‘Why do they keep killing us,’ he asked. ‘I don’t have an answer for that right now,’ I told him.”

“These talks are too often between him and I. Our first conversation around and through the issue was after Detroit Police murdered 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones. My son was 5 at the time. ‘I hate that I have to tell you these things,’ I said, ‘but I have to hope they will keep you alive for as long as you can be, okay?’ He didn’t understand then, and probably forgot as soon as he ran back into the yard, but I made sure to constantly remind him.”

With colorful, watercolor illustrations, and flowing, easily comprehended wording, Darnell Lamont Walker hopes to capture the attention of children, and with a quick worksheet and tips in the back, hopes to help parents hold these conversations, and even have new ones, with their child.

Bio:
Darnell Lamont Walker is a father, writer, and filmmaker, currently working on a documentary series about Black Americans escaping American Tyranny. He resides in Los Angeles.

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A Martyr In Her Bed Tonight

It was a swipe right, a short convo, a debate over the best Old Fashions and Black Russians, and a meeting downtown with every intention to be out of our minds then her polka dot panties and my Superman boxer briefs long before the bars closed. This town is small and made for bowlers and girls who wear side ponytails and Reebok Classics. Neither of us fit and found comfort in our sheepy behavior, however black it got.

Drunk, though I could argue we were tipsy, we stumbled down the cobblestone sidewalks, looking for pieces of Earth to hold tight to in case gravity wasn’t enough. “Just keep me where the light is,” I yelled out, and she went into a rant about John Mayer’s white supremacist dick. Drunk. Not one star in sight, just beams from our cell phone flashlights lighting our feet and attracting gnats and mosquitoes.

We replenished in each other everything drained from us over the past few days. I wasn’t sure how else to say “thank you,” except with a kiss while waiting on the Uber. She kissed me back pretending my hand on her back was the reason she came closer.

We left our shoes at the door, our phones on the coffee table, my shirt on the back of a dining room chair, and her shorts were kicked to the top of the fridge. All else made it to the bedroom floor.

We examined the markings strangers left on our bodies; the art and the writings. Between us were novels and galleries. I was The Met and her, the Gagosian. She’s a wanderer and a lover. I shiver next to her.

“Breathe. Remember to breathe.” Reminders when we were able to speak. “Breathe. Say something.” I read the poems on her back out loud.

Then there were no words. Just heavy breathing, a wind coming through the window, over our legs, and beneath the door, and laughing in the parking lot five stories below. They were probably lovers, I thought.

The silence wasn’t awkward, scary, or unsure. It was just there, like I was, feeling a peace, a serenity, a vibe. And she asked, “have you cried for Philando Castile or Alton Sterling yet?” Then I did.

A Martyr of sorts.

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Overheard in a Conversation with Myself

The one guy said something about killing police officers. He said something about the way they make him feel when he’s just walking down the street and one walks by or pulls up beside him. “This one time on I-95,” he sighed, “a cop pulled up beside me and my heart was beating like I had a trunk full of dope.” Then he went on to talk about a teacher he had once called that a “conditioning.”

He said his mom was once touched inappropriately by a cop and one called his father a nigger and made the trigger pulling motion with his fingers; the one kids make when playing cowboys and indigenous folks with no real weapons.

He said something about badly wanting to kill a cop to see if it would stop them from killing us. He thinks about it so much, he wonders why he hasn’t sought help. What would he tell the therapist, he wondered. “Ain’t shit a therapist can tell you that’ll make you feel safe around police officers,” he said. He’s probably right.

He said it’s best he leaves, to which the other man replied, “just teach the people to police their own neighborhoods. Teach them to govern, to lead, to build and collaborate. Then teach them to kill anyone who threatens that. Paul refuses to leave and let go of hope. He told me,” and the man finished.

It was something about killing police officers that ended the conversation.

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Notes On A Charlottesville City Council Meeting

A funny thing happened while sitting in a City Council meeting listening to Charlottesville, Virginia residents tell City Council why a neighborhood should not be rezoned to make space for a small piece of systemic racism that’s currently sitting on the land; I found too many things that just wouldn’t quite fit.

If we skip right on by the two racists who believe only unattached, displaced Muslim men are capable of rape, robbery, and assault, but not go as far as the Mayor sharing his belief that once upon a time in the Jim Crow South, Black folks and white folks lived side-by-side happily and neighborly, sharing sugar and beans, we’ll find ourselves at discourse about how Charlottesville’s history of rezoning has proven to be nothing positive for the voiceless (also see: working class) citizens. Rezoning is what happened to Vinegar Hill, after all.

“I Am White Excellence,” his shirt read. Charlottesville’s new slogan?

Richard Spurzem, the owner of the property, prior to his threatening City Council with never spending another dollar in the city if they denied his rezoning efforts, tried hard to convince the people that what he was doing was for the greater good. History shows that Black folks aren’t included in the “greater good,” and since we’re still in July, I should also mention Black folks aren’t included in “all people,” either.

Dear Richard Spurzem:

What is this vague green space you mentioned? What were you hoping to achieve by exposing its existence? Your biggest problem isn’t that you own the property. After all, it was kind of passed down, kind of purchased after the wrongdoing. Your biggest problem is you think you were doing something good for a community you were too afraid to speak to, and perhaps even noticeably enter. Oh, the money you would have saved. Presumably, however, that money means little to you.

In your future developments, if you find yourself attempting to sell an idea to the working class citizens you’re about to heavily disservice, don’t mention the amenities or the massive amount of money you’ll make when it’s over. We are smart people, and we know your benefits have nothing to do with us.

Dear City Council:

Way to go on shutting down the foolishness. However, did you, like me, find it ironic that it was unanimously decided by you that what Spurzem was attempting to do was improper because it wasn’t for the good of the people, but what Spurzem would have achieved with this rezoning, you’ve already done?

Tonight we temporarily saved Booker Street and all of Rose Hill Drive Neighborhood, but walk a few minutes up the road and take a look at Washington Park. Take a look at 7th St., Dice St., Belmont, 10th & Page. Some things just won’t quite fit. Why did you vote against rezoning? I know why you should have, and I’m glad you did, but why did you really do it?

“Who on City Council can be trusted,” I asked one woman in the room. Several chimed in with a chorus of “none of them, but some are better than others.” Then came a “hmph, I’m surprised that one even showed up. Damn shame how we voted him in, and he’s voting for everything that ain’t us.”

I applauded Steve Ivory for mentioning gentrification. Let’s break down in three steps exactly how it works:

1. Demographic Shift: Fewer families and more couples and singles move in, the median income rises, and ethnic minorities decline.

2. Real Estate: Low-income renters are evicted while rent prices soar, and while old homes and apartments are being upgraded to condos.

3. Cultural & Social Change: With the newcomers comes shops, cafes, and other commercial places suitable for the new crowd.

And it usually all begins with something as small as a house and a vote in City Council. This is what we were fighting. We were fighting being hidden from cameras and reporters each time you fought your way to the front of the line to yell out “Charlottesville is one of the greatest places to live.” I grew up on stories about my family living in the Vinegar Hill neighborhood, but they were only stories. The Vinegar Hill I was familiar with showed no signs of folks who look like me. No, the folks who look like me were pushed out of Vinegar Hill and into Hardy Drive. What were they told? What was the dream sold to them? Whatever was said was pure genius. Or perhaps, because we all fully understand how systemic racism works, they were strong-armed and forcibly moved. I know the answer to this. And it all began with something as small as a house and a vote in City Council.

It’s the irony. I just find it hard to believe that the folks who drove the children of the town’s working class away from the pools are the same people who sat before me arguing for the good of the people.

Do better.

And please understand that I’m not completely convinced that July 5th’s decision wasn’t a well orchestrated performance directed by Richard Spurzem himself.

Dear Charlottesville Residents (Mostly Black, but some working class white folks too):

Racism and classism have a permanent home in zoning. Booker Street was a battle. Stock up on all things that keep you moving because this war will be tiring. Keep fighting though. Police your own neighborhoods and use City Council only when absolutely necessary. If you are unsatisfied, do not be afraid to loudly hold them accountable. Make them uncomfortable.

Signed,

Darnell Lamont Walker

Ideally, I’d love to live in that magical, unicorn-filled place Mayor Signer described. That place where there was nothing but peace amongst the people of different race, creed, and ideals. The place were sugar borrowing was plentiful and Jim Crow was taught but now felt. But this is America, and this is Charlottesville, and this just isn’t possible.

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To Lawyers Who Wanted To Do Good Once Upon A Time.

A dear friend of mine wanted badly to become a pastor one day, but something funny happened when she went off to that fancy schoolin’. The higher she climbed in education, the less she believed in The Lawd. It’s what education does sometimes, you know. It disconnects us.

There are 34 people in my life, all close enough to touch, who went to Law School to “help the people,” “help the community,” and “make a difference.” All but 6 of them are lawyers now, practicing somewhere, in some office, in some courtroom, or just expressing their opinions on Facebook, following it up with “I know the law, and you don’t, so don’t try to argue with me.” I can name only 4 of 28 who are actually stomping through the streets and helping the people and community and making a change.

What happened? Did the fancy education make you, like it did Django, forget your people. Did it make you not believe so much in the community? Did you not get enough likes on your Law School announcement? Not enough comments left on your 1L and 2L completion photos? Did you graduation party not bring in the money and jobs you longed for? What happened? We need you.

In a conversation this afternoon with Dr. C. Hill, a Psychologist, we touched on the seemingly over production of JD’s who went in to create change but now aren’t willing to sit at the policy table. We’re left with shells of humans who are ready to take any job offered to pay down debt, defending their oath to follow a constitution they openly admit has nothing to do with them.

I’m painfully aware I can’t tell people when and where to stand up, or who they should stand for, but I can hold them accountable. I can, however, ask for a return on my investments. If I gave you words of encouragement when you thought of quitting, fed you when your textbooks cost a little more than you budgeted for, or loved you unconditionally throughout the process, I am allowed to believe you may listen when I ask you to stand. You are allowed to say “no.” I can yell at the top of my lungs and wish loudly that whatever it is this fight is called had the same marketing plan as the Essence Festival. Didn’t everyone and their mama show up?

What happened, legal eagles and mavericks (shout out to Maxine Shaw)? Where are your reactions? Where is your anger? What happened to the uncensored versions of you? Were those versions murdered in a lecture hall or during a pledge to a flag? What happened?

I remember Heru of Miami, a Tier One law school graduate who went into the classroom to make a difference in his community and came off the stage, hooded, making a difference in communities across the world.

I’m learning to be fine with celebrities not uttering a word in support of those who support them, but I’ll probably never be okay when real potential superheroes do it.

Marginalized People & Rallies & Me Noticing Sh*t

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1. Not enough Black folks were there, but they should have been. Folks have done an amazing job, since long before I came into this world, of making “their problems” their problems. What’s happening to the Black folks in the south is not happening to the Black folks in the north, therefore it’s their problem. What happening to the Black folks everywhere isn’t happening to white folks anywhere, therefore it’s their problem. This is what “they’ve created.”

Mamie Bradley said, “Two months ago I had a nice apartment in Chicago. I had a good job. I had a son. When something happened to the Negroes in the South I said, `That’s their business, not mine.’ Now I know how wrong. I was. The murder of my son has shown me that what happens to any of us, anywhere in the world, had better be the business of us all.”

Injustice in the world against any marginalized people should be fought by all other marginalized people. At least those marginalized people who find living out there on the edge uncomfortable and their spaces uninhabitable.

“That was a rally for gay people,” he said. No, it’s was a rally for all people who are tired of being unjustly murdered, and who were told they had rights but find themselves fighting for those rights,” I said.

One speaker at the rally said, “Prayer is welcome. But if you perpetuate violence and inequality against the LGBT community, we don’t want your prayers. If you’re not prepared to shout ‘Black Lives Matter,’ we don’t want your prayers.” She gets it.

I was just hoping for more Black folks.

2. A gay white man (yes, his sexual orientation and race are important for the story), looked over to me and said, “My god. This tragedy really makes you think. Thank God I don’t have kids. I’d be broken by now.” I nodded, but all I could think about was if this was the first tragedy that made him thankful for not having children; that made him feel sorry for those with kids. Surely he had a television, or newspaper subscription, or wifi, or a smart phone, or a friend with one of the aforementioned things. Had he not heard about Tamir Rice or Jordan Davis (the list goes deep)?

Those things happened and made me wonder:

Most people are only able to recognize the humanity in the people who look, talk, and think like them. Those whose values closely resemble their own. But why?

Why did it take Martese Johnson’s victimization for upper middle class, college-educated, Black folks to show up to the front lines? How can white folks worldwide understand the desire of the Jews to find their own lands while simultaneously fighting against a system that supported the execution and enslavement of their people, but can’t understand when American black folks want to do the same for those same reasons?

Unity is beginning to take on a new look.

Sanctuaried.

There are rules against killing someone in a sanctuary
A sanctuary is a place where secrets can be shouted or whispered but never questioned or threatened
Safe spaces must exist
I will never forget the two men my father called faggots when I was 9
They probably had a sanctuary where they could hold hands and kiss each other like my father kissed my stepmother
Like all fathers before him kissed their women
None who deserved to be killed in a sanctuary
A place where nothing should be holstered