I had not intended to share this letter initially written for my queens and kings I had been holding in the deepest regions of my heart with the world. It was, more honestly, written as a shorter response to a cry for help from my Queen Katisha to her Black family at an agency I consult for and hold dear. I had been thinking about our cries for help from each other. It led me to expand my earlier response to my queen Katisha’s “mayday” alert. I think we were all experiencing a mayday alert. This cry for help broke something inside me and, at the same time, awakened dormant energy and spirit I had never experienced. And it was and is full of rage. Not anger. But RAGE! Unable to stop my heart from bleeding in text form, this rage ultimately led to my expanding the letter and sending it to Santa Clara County and Massachusetts leadership. This letter was born because I was holding onto the individual and collective pain, sorrow, sadness, hurt, anger, and rage of my people, of my family, in my heart. And it would be very remiss of me not to share such a letter with my Black queens and kings out there in the hope that you too can find strength in these words. These words reflect my heart. With that, I share the same letter with you.
Though I originally intended this to be a work update email. This message cannot be such. That message will have to wait until next week when I am more gathered and in a different state of mind.
Now, usually, I start my emails with “happy” whatever day it is. Yet today I find myself unable to start this email, or any email this way. My heart breaks as I watch the continued acts of racial injustices happening across our country. I chuckle honestly at writing “our” country. I will not engage in a historical overview of racial trauma, and the notion of “our “country, for some of you are all too familiar with this deep and disturbing history. I know only this: many of you are trying to gather yourself for work during a viral pandemic, an economic pandemic, and a never-ending racial pandemic. We can regard the racial pandemic as a viral pandemic. For the past 48 hours, I have felt nothing but pain. Indeed, since I have been able to think for myself on this Earth, I have felt nothing but a deep sense of pain, isolation, and exclusion in this country that purports fairness and opportunity for all. I am pained as I watch mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and aunts and uncles deal with racial trauma in a never-ending cycle. I have been unable to sleep since the modern-day lynching of George Floyd. I have been unable to sleep since the senseless killing of Breonna Taylor. So I could not in good consciousness write a work status update message that gives the false belief that I am okay and well. I am not okay. And I am not well. And if you are not okay, please know that it is okay not to be okay. And if you are not well, please know that it is okay not to be well. It is okay not to pretend you are okay. The time for pretending we are okay is over. I am hurting. I’ve been hurting. WE are hurting. WE’ve been hurting. Yet, know this, without reservation and hesitation, that you are loved and supported and appreciated, and WE will support each other and get through these difficult times. On April 3, 1968, Dr. King told a Memphis crowd that “we’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop … I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.” One day later, Dr. King was assassinated. I share his message to say that George Floyd will not get there with us. Nor Breonna Taylor. Nor Eric Garner. Nor Sandra Bland. Nor Kalief Browder. Nor the many others whose lives were taken unjustly. And to be fully vulnerable, I fear that I may not get there with you. But we will get to the mountaintop. We will not be stopped. We will not live in fear. And these difficult times will not extinguish the flame in our hearts that compels us to do this work. Not the job. But the work. The work is never-ending. The work is a constant struggle. And the work reminds me of Claude McKay’s immortal words:
If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursèd lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!
What is happening in “our” country is above the surface. It has been above the surface for generations, but many have pretended not to know. What is happening in “our” country is above the surface. It has been above the surface for generations, but many have pretended not to see. What is happening in “our” country is above the surface. It has been above the surface for generations, but many have preached patience. What is happening in “our” country is above the surface. It has been above the surface for generations, but many have preached time. And all the while MY people are dying. All the while MY people are being murdered! And they insult our intelligence and tell us things will change. Stay the course. It will change. But what we’ve been doing has led to nothing but more of the same in many significant ways. It will lead to more of my mothers and fathers, and my sisters and brothers, and my queens and kings being lynched on video for the world to see. Time and again. It will lead to more superficial media and organizational conversations regarding race and racism. It will lead to more of this world of racism without any racists.
I see in the lives lost the faces of youth we have promised to fight with and for. The faces of our friends. The faces of our family. I see in them the faces of some of you. So I end with this, it is not a “happy Friday” for me. I am not okay. I am not well. I am enraged! And this rage, I will continue to use as fuel to challenge the status quo, to challenge complacency, to transform systems to “see” me and others like me. To “see” you and others like you. This rage I will use to amplify my voice. To amplify the voices of the youth, families, and communities we have promised to serve. I am committed to this work.
I appreciate your hard work, your energy, your commitment, and more importantly, your existence. I appreciate all you are and all you do, during these difficult times and always.
Warmly and always,
Now this letter has two endings because I continued to think about my white allies and leaders. The concluding paragraph read:
“And so I ask, are you committed to this work? Not the job. I am asking if you are committed to the WORK! Are you committed to the Black cry for freedom? If you are, use your voice. Use your power and position to let your team know you will not remain silent. Silence is taking a position. So I ask, what position are you taking? How have you reminded your team, not privately, but publicly for all to know, you are committed to the work? I ask because I am tired. My heart aches. It is shattering. I ask because it is important to remind and challenge you all to use that power and position and privilege.”
This paragraph was especially necessary for me to write to my white brothers and sisters and allies because I want to be very clear that sometimes marching and protesting with us is not enough. I want to be very clear that your tears are not enough. I no longer have the time and energy for your privileged tears. What I want is very simple: I want you to risk what I am willing to risk, what I have been risking for this never-ending work. MY LIFE! Because my life and the lives of my Black queens and kings is what is at risk here. So, where do you stand?