Last year I was honored to be a speaker at the St. Louis’ Trayvon Martin rally with Vandalyzm, Corey Black, and Ronnie Notch. The event was something that got people inspired and fire up but one of the biggest things we all spoke to the crowd about was self accountability for crimes going on in our neighborhoods everyday. One of the speaker Ronnie Notch wrote a poignant guest post this week surrounding the murder in Chicago of Hadiya Pendleton.
I wasn’t going to speak on this but I thought, what better day to speak on this than the first day of Black History Month? Hadiya Pendleton, 15 years young with a beautiful promising life ahead of her gunned down in the city of Chicago like far too many others. She wasn’t in a gang. She wasn’t playing her music too loud. She didn’t have a dispute with anyone as to whether or not she lived in the neighborhood. She was killed for being at the wrong place at the wrong time by people that looked like her.
Just 5 years ago she was featured in a PSA about gang-violence and gun related deaths. Her and classmates acted as though they were the victims of gang violence and at the end they all spoke about people who were killed for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. A week prior to her death she performed at the inauguration of President Barack Obama. This certainly was someone all Americans but definitely African-Americans could be proud of.
And what did we do, we became quieter than we’ve ever been.
There weren’t any national calls for justice. Pastors didn’t urge congregations to take to the streets in protest. Promoters and entertainers didn’t stop what they were doing to attend photo opportunities disguised as rallies and I haven’t seen anyone with pictures and signs claiming to be Hadiya Pendleton. We’re not talking about Iced Tea or Skittles. It’s cold outside but no one is digging through their closet or throwing their favorite hoodie in the washer so they can wash it and wear it like everyone else. No, everyone is just,quiet.
I remember almost a year from today getting emails and phone calls from multiple people and groups asking me to attend their rally for Trayvon Martin; as if having multiple events would really encourage people to seek justice for the youth killed at the hands of someone who didn’t look like him. I remember speaking at a rally with so many fired up and angry African-Americans ready to serve justice to anyone who felt differently from them. I remember looking into the crowd and them hanging on my every word, waiting for me to say anything in regards to civil or uncivil disobedience. I also remember many cheering but not truly understanding my message and the messages of my peers about accountability. I remember people leaving with a sense of satisfaction and them feeling a bit of relief because they got up on a Friday, in the semi-cold, and marched the distance of about a mile while chanting for news cameras and passers-by.
Did African-Americans get upset because a youth was killed, or was it because he was killed by someone who doesn’t look like we do? I mean, it couldn’t possibly be the latter of the two, could it? We would do the same for anyone senselessly killed regardless of color, right? We marched for the students of Sandy when they were gunned down didn’t we? Christmas didn’t stop us. We marched for the student gunned down in Atlanta by a classmate didn’t we? Didn’t we also march against violence when a gunman entered the Art Academy here in St. Louis? I think I remember that happening too.
No. The fact is, we, (and I use the word “we” hesitantly) only have time to speak up when we feel slighted because of racism. We shout racism when we go out to eat and we’re seated in the back of a crowded restaurant. We shout racism when we get a speeding ticket even though we were driving 55 MPH in a 25 MPH residential area. We shout racism loudly when our boss requires us to do the work we said we would love to do during an interview for employment and we loved to shout racism when George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin in cold blood almost a year ago. If a White person kills a Black person and nothing is done about it everything under the sun is filled with racism.
But what happens when a Black person is slain at the hands of another Black person? What is screamed at the top of our lungs? I hear so many screams of silence that it’s becoming too loud to bear. Let’s call it for what it is, we can kill each other as much as we want and we’ll barely make a whisper when it’s done, but no one else has the permission to kill us. You know why no one has the permission to kill us? Because you walking contradictions have become so good at killing us you don’t want anyone else to take that from you. You don’t care that a little girl was killed before the prime of her life beyond sharing statuses on Facebook or creating hashtags on twitter. Her life means nothing to you because no one is telling you it should mean something to you. I remember parents, young and old, even the President of The United States saying, their children do and would look like Trayvon Martin and that’s why they are marching to a temporary Zion. Well, wouldn’t your children also look like Hadiya Pendleton as well? Has Zion reached capacity? Can we not march there because she died from African-American purchased bullets?
I’m no fool. I know racism exists but it does not exist to be an excuse or a convenience tool. As a 28-year-old African-American man I have experienced more racism than I would care to share. I also brought racism on to myself by attending the rallies of the KKK and the neo-nazi parties to speak out against injustices that occur outside of White people killing Black people. However, I will never use racism as an excuse as to why I can’t become something, why I didn’t succeed, or as to why I can’t be a good parent. Using racism to ignite anger is the fuel ignorance needs to exist. I’m glad you’re angry Trayvon Martin was killed, you should be. I’m just not excited about your reasoning for being mad.
Hadiya Pendleton. 15 years young and already she had done more than many will do in an 80 year lifetime. Taken from us by people who look like us. If that doesn’t make you angry then hopefully this letter to you will.
Ronnie Notch is a musician, producer, and motivator. He can be reached on twitter @ronnienotch.
Make sure you check out this week’s episode of the “Straight Outta Lo Cash” Radio Show. This week’s show “Hip Hop is Not For You If Your Money Is Not Right” feat. Hip Hop artist Keem. You can also subscribe to the show on I-Tunes or listen on your Android, I-Phone, or I-Pad with Stitcher Radio.