Mourning Self Care and Antwon Rose
If I could practice
Without penalty or consequence
I would surround myself
With black and brown people
And just sit
And give reciprocal hugs
For the dead and disregarded
To mourn in togetherness
The loss and maltreatment
Of our own beloved children and peoples
I wrote this poem yesterday after seeing the video pop up on the TV and computer screen about Antwon Rose, a seventeen year old teenager shot by a police officer for running away.
I was doing my usual writing before going to an all day training that I would be held in a room filled with white people, where there was only one other person of color attending besides me. Being the visual person that I am, I really needed to see and be with more melanin-rich people that day.
My classmates and fellow yogis are very loving, compassionate and kind. Most of them are even conscious about their whiteness, perhaps even moreso as a result of the Sola Yoga School’s 200 Hour Teacher Training that we’re all enrolled in.
Sola threads in lessons of whiteness, trauma-informed care, accessibility and social justice as part of their standard yoga teacher training. Realizing and helping other white yoga practitioners to understand their elite status within the social construct of whiteness. The very same construct that I have spent most of my life trying to attain.
Growing up, I was often the only black girl in my school classroom. Even in “diverse schools and communities” I was often one of ‘two or a few’ people of color. Especially when I was bused out to Binnsmead Middle School in the 1970’s.
That was before I knew how dangerous it was to be in my body.
Far more dangerous than my experiences of sexual, physical and emotional abuse. More dangerous than fatal illnesses. More dangerous than the probability of stepping off of a curb and being hit by a speeding vehicle. More dangerous than harsh thunderstorms, tornadoes and hurricanes. Storms that people run towards to see and experience.
Today, I feel like I am a storm.
Yet, most of those same people that love and run towards storms, run away from me and other black and brown people. They don’t actually run away, but they do or did things like, moving to sit at a different desk when I was a child, crossing to the other side of the street, avoiding eye contact in public places, hoping that I (or other black and brown people) wouldn’t sit next to them on public transit or on airplanes. And that’s not even including my being black and fat, a crossroad of intersections. Anyway, that’s the kind of running I’m talking about.
My fellow yogis and colleagues weren’t running from me at all. At least, I don’t think that they were. But even if they wanted to run a little bit, I wouldn’t fault them at all because, well, as I said before, I am a storm, and to me, storms are scary.
I believe that my yogi colleagues can see parts of me, catching glimpses of my truth from shared experiences and poses. These new moments of being seen by white people are like reflective bright lights from the sun to a diamond. And for these rare jewels I am extremely grateful.
Today I was triggered by the most recent killing of a young black teenage by the police and the media’s continual coverage of his brutal shooting. His name was Antwon Rose.
“Pop! Pop! Pop!” Crashed through the sound waves of the videographer’s voice, the reporting journalist, the people in the background running for cover. And with each popping gunshot I felt a shaking in my body and a piercing in my spirit because each bullet was also aimed at my sons and my daughters. My grandsons and granddaughters. My nephews and nieces. At all of our beautiful black roses needing protection from the law.
My brothers, uncles and husband have already learned how to be invisible. Seen but not seen. While our youth still know that they have a divine right to be. A right to be alive. To go to college. Start their own businesses. Have a family. Travel the world. Or even play and run down the street.
Our youth may or may not know that running away from the police is wrong. However, running (also referred to as flight), is a what many folks do when they are afraid. When white boys run they get chased. When black boys run they get shot in the back. Though running from police may be considered a crime or as an obstruction, running is certainly not a crime worth punishment by death.
Only the privileged seek thrills in the delights of their fears. Banking on the fact that should they choose to run away, they could do so with pride. Knowing that no shots would be fired into their backs. Not even warning shots would be released into the air. They have the privilege of experiencing the storm or not. They could walk or even run away from the storm. But the brave underprivileged, face their fears everyday as a means of survival, though the odds are stacked up extremely high against them.
After last week’s talks about whiteness at Sola, which was within a couple of days of the Antwon Rose shooting, I didn’t know if I could take spending an entire day in that room. Even though my colleagues are empathetic and have compassionate hearts, I perceived that I needed to be with people who could better relate to how I was feeling.
I considered how much I would be missing if I took a day off from school and the penalties I’d have to pay for having to make up my time, but those thoughts were a lot less significant than the higher cost I would pay if I forsook my self care. Plus I knew that my teachers would want me to take care of myself, for doing so is a sign of a good yoga practice.
I still pressed my way and gave going to class my best effort.
I got to school early but stayed in the car, trying to gather my thoughts and quiet my anxieties. Before going inside, I prayed with my husband, then went inside and began to set up my mat and area.
I’m a recovering workaholic which is nothing to brag about, I only mention that to say that I’m not the type of person who makes up excuses to skip work or school. But every now and then I do have a tendency to overcommit. I am a work in progress.
I also don’t have to know Antwon’s family personally for this to be a deeply personal and for it to have a traumatic affect on me and the black community.
Oh, how my heart aches for his family, friends and loved ones!
For the pain they are going through right now. Pain caused by the assassination of their precious son. Our son.
What’s just as traumatic for the family and loved ones, is the fact that their loved one’s death was recorded and played over and over on the news and social media. This is the pain that white supremacy causes our nation and our world.
Once inside our training facility, and before my mat hit the floor, I felt tightness in my chest and my stomach was in knots. I knew then that I would not be able to stay at school. I alerted Sola staff a select peers that I had to leave to take a personal self care day. I needed to mourn and to decompress.
I told my teachers and select peers that I was leaving. That the visual stimulation of being in a room filled with white people was too much for me today. That I needed to connect with black and brown bodies and be in community. That I would spend time doing something creative like writing and knitting which is exactly what I did.
Knowing full well about the rule of not crying in front of white people, I gave a few hugs, to my POC colleague, to my teacher and to one of my peers, and yes, I did cry. Besides, that ‘not crying in front of white folks rule’ is not a rule that I subscribe to. Holding my tears has only given me a host of chronic illnesses so I release all of the tears as I also pray for peace and healing.
Not wanting to wait for my husband to pick me up, I left class, tears still running down my face and started walking towards my home. Plus I knew that movement through walking would be helpful and uplifting and is also an important form of self-care.
My husband met up with me after I walked about ten blocks. By then my tears were dried up. He took me home and while I sat in the car, still needed some quiet time, he went inside the house and started making us breakfast. (This is very special because I am the one who usually cooks and he does just about everything else.)
I stayed in the car for a while, needing the container of that semi-private space to process. I began to write while enjoying nature in the car.
Once breakfast was done I ate the very delicious food prepared by my husband. We then went to church with our daughter and spent the day connecting, creating and mourning in community.
I will continue to mourn and do what I can to help fight against injustice. And I will keep speaking the name of Antwon Rose.
All Rights Reserved. Copyright June 25, 2018. Poetically Inspiring Change, LLC.