A Letter to PJ, Marc, and Cam

To My Beloved Nephews,

Please know that I worry about you each and every day, as this country gets more contentious and divisive. This is a country in which your grandparents thought it would provide you with a bounty of opportunities. It is supposedly the land of the free and the home of the brave. Yet, I know they did not imagine more than 30 years later that your bravery would include walking down the street to get some candy and a soda, playing in the park by your house, or even worse, just chilling in Grandma’s backyard while talking on your cell phone. You three are good kids. I may not tell you enough, but I am so proud of you. You each have your own talents and skills, but more importantly, you each have your own purpose and passion.

While I have not talked about it with you, I’ve had my own unfortunate encounters with the police. As you know, I was a good student, especially in high school. Yet, there was this one police officer that felt the need to profile me. And do you know how it started? I was at my high school’s basketball game, and I walked along the perimeter of the basketball court during halftime. Come on now…really? What the heck is that? Who knew this would only be a sign of what was to come? After that happened, I would always see him following me, seemingly waiting for me to make a mistake. I was an honors student, a Girl Scout and a Leader in Training, active in my church, played sports and in the band, and I even got myself an internship with our local government after writing a letter to the mayor. Yet to him, it seemed like I was some hood chick that needed to be watched. (To anyone else reading this, let it be known, where I lived in high school was far from the hood. I think I graduated in a class of 114, and I think I was somewhere between 5-7). At that time in my life, my primary focus was just to get out of that small town so I could move to a big city for college. It took him seeing me subbing one day in the court office/police department for him to finally leave me alone. 3 years!!! Can you imagine how your auntie felt during those years? The anxiety I felt each time I saw him. That was more than 20 years ago, and I still feel that anxiousness and twinge of fear just thinking about it because I knew it would be my word against his. If anything happened, I knew my future was over.

And now we’re here in 2018, and that twinge is now a full-fledged Ali knock-out punch. And it is because of that twinge that I have to write this letter to you. But, I also think of my godson, Marcus, who is the same age as you and my best friend’s young son, Noah, who I consider a nephew. He hasn’t even started kindergarten yet so what will this world be like in 2030 for him? There are many other young men in my life, but I consider the five of you my heart and soul. If something were to happen to any of you, I know I could not feel the same pain as your parents, but the emptiness that I would feel would never be replaced. Moreso, or unfortunately, I would feel more anger than anything else. Most of my sisters and my best friend are all Cancers. Not to put too much into the zodiac, but we are crazy when you mess with our family and friends. I won’t even get started on the two Scorpios. But, y’all know your aunts and your mamas.  Let me take that out so it can never be used for evidence.

And now we get to the reason that I write this. I know you guys think I’m rambling. It may seem late, but this has been on my mind for more than two weeks. I write this to you because of Stephon Clark. The father. The grandson. I hope that you have been keeping up with the news so that you understand the times that you are living in. In case you haven’t, though, this 22-year-old man was fatally shot 8 times in his back because Sacramento police thought, let me rephrase that, said that he was attacking them.

Ultimately, Stephon Clark was shot a total of 20 times because he was apparently armed and attacking them. But, let’s look at the facts. How are you shot in the back if you are attacking someone? Second, what kind of cybertechnological futuristic androidized cell phone looks like a gun? All Stephon Clark had was a cell phone. I have an iPhone, and it sho’nuff (yes, I, sure enough, said sho’nuff) doesn’t look like a cell phone. My daddy has a Motorola DROID Turbo 2. It’s bigger than my iPhone, but that sho’nuff doesn’t look like a gun either. And then there is my sweet auntie who’s overdue for her upgrade. You haven’t met her, but you would laugh at her flip phone. Do you remember that old phone grandma used to have about five years ago? Remember the one we used to all laugh at. Whether open or closed, you know it in no way looks like a gun to me or you. This is more of an illogical defense than rich people using affluenza to commit crimes. And then, finally, the officers knew they messed up, so they muted all their bodycams.

If Stephon Clark cannot be safe in his grandmother’s backyard, how can I expect you to be safe and secure? We have sat and talked about how to act in public; how to speak to others; and most importantly, how to act around and speak to the police and security guards. But now, how do I ask you to give up your cell phones for a beeper and a roll of quarters? What can I do so that you can live life freely and fearlessly—whether you are at home, at school, or just walking down the street?

Love & Hugs,

Your Auntie


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