An Open Letter to Erica Garner

Dear Miss Garner,

To most I write this letter in response to the unfortunate news that has made its way to the front of the headlines. But I write this open letter from one black female form to another, from one daddy’s girl to another, across the fictive differences that mask a shared experience.

I write to you as I write myself and each member of the black female collective. This letter serves as a means to articulate the whispers of my mind, to pay homage you and the millions of others born to a black female form that dared to “aspire” in the suffocating world of white supremacy.

I just want to start by stating what I would be remiss to overlook. The news is inundated with news of ericagarner2-1your recent health developments as its latest depiction of the black misfortune consistently featured on white media for consumption by the oppositional gaze. Just some three years ago, the world rendered you the same fate they render all those born with the black female form—invisibility. But now that your visibility imbues a symbolic profit for the sorcerers of white supremacy—you are a prominent headline of white digital media. I can almost hear their smiles with every headline, happy to report another sad song painted by a black being.

Your story, your existence, however, are many things,but sad is not one of them. You turned what could have destroyed your life into purpose. You turned a silence that could have inundated your physiological and social self into the confident articulation of a collective cause. You turned an individual tragedy into a collective awakening, and for that I salute you.

Your public image, mirrors what the conventional gaze saw in popularized black female images from Mamie Till to Sabrina Fulton. To some, these images were public mourners, to others these figures were the villains who birthed what the white man had to “clean up.” To the white world you function similarly. But for the community whom you represent, you illustrate the rose that emerges as beautiful, strong and fecund from the cold, hard concrete.

Your dedication to exposing the system that holds the black collective in a cholkhold, illustrates what Christina Sharpe references as aspiration— a term she analyzes in its variants in In the Wake: On Blackness and Being. To disclose the deliberate and negligent behavior that followed your father Mr. Eric Garner’s final moments Sharpe notes the following: “And though paramedics have arrived on the scene, they gave him no assistance. No aspiration” (Sharpe 110). This note is imperative in exposing the absence of white presence with regard to black bodies. Namely, though present at the scene, the black body is absent as victim— a point thoroughly explored by numerous black scholars over the years.

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Similarly, the white media is “present” in covering your status updates. I know you know exactly what I am talking about– that picture with you with your mouth open speaking into a bullhorn. The selected picture is not so much a picture of you, as it is a portrait of an action portrayed as synonymous to  the black female form—speaking loudly.

The selected image appearing to represent your “person” is a deliberate attempt to villanize the black female form—and deem her absent and otherwise unworthy of understanding. In contemplating this absence, my mind thinks of all the non-black offspring of murdered or deceased parents and their consistent alignment with innocence. So while the common sentiment “we are all born sinners” remains cliche, time and time again this white world makes it evident that these “sinners” are black. The selected image casts you as one of these black sinners, overly illustrating that while present in picture, you are absent in spirit. Yes you metaphorically and literally raise your voice to articulate conflict, but the featured of image of you silences your voice and freezes you into a predetermined mold antithetical to who you truly are.

This feature exposes an absence of empathy, or any acknowledgement for the climate of white supremacy as a catalyst for black physical and mental illness. What remains absent is any understanding of you as a human being. This absence is the same neglect that has engulfed the black collective for centuries, something that will continue to encase our fate as long we remain silent in our mistreatment.

The white gaze was also ever-present in the murder of your dad Eric Garner, where he said eleven times that he could not breathe, but ever-absent in actually acknowledging the evil intentions that imbued this act. The evil intention that prompted the soldiers of white supremacy to approach Garner, or any other black body, ignores the white male terrorism that continues to end multiple lives simultaneously. The myth of the white victim remains more pervasive than the truth of the white terrorist who stole a people, a culture, and countless dreams to transform a myth into reality . Both you and your dad, as portrayed by this deceptive media illustrates the absence that continues to pollute the black stories that makes the news– an act that appears an advancement but continues to obliterate the black effort to aspire.

I saw a young black girl yesterday donning a short naturally textured hair style to which she wore in a platinum blonde hue. To most she was merely working—to the conscious gaze she is suffocating in a world that taught her natural texture is more digestible if an unnatural color–suffocating to be seen in a world that overlooks her beauty.  Black bodies in partnerships with non blacks are also suffocating, trying to breathe in a world that steers them into the cowardice act of eschewing the duality of the black experience, experienced in a black love relationship. Those who romanticize and overvalue money are also suffocating, systemically bludgeoned to desire what can not grant them freedom, what will not help them breathe. As a people the act of aspiration is a constant struggle— a struggle guaranteed in sharing the company of those who thrive in our destitution.

So I say this to say queen, I salute you for daring to aspire when the sorcery of white supremacy tried to smother you with the pillow of parental deterioration. As you know, centuries ago black bodies saw similar acts of cruelty where young black children witnessed their parent’s murders or near death experiences as acts to smother their ambition or desire to aspire. But you didn’t let the sorcerers cripple you. The limb they tried to sever in seizing your father’s body, you persisted beyond. You succeeded beyond adversity, proving that we as a people can overcome obstacles maintained with more care than black schools, homes, libraries, etc.

As I am sure you know, the trope of the “fatherless” black child is a pervasive image in our white supremacist society. The continued war the white supremacist sorcery maintains with the black familial structure continues to render the black child conventionally fatherless. Specifically, there are so many black offspring that witness the premature deaths of their brazen parents, or are forced to endure the berating cowardice that renders many fiery black spirits limbless in fighting their battles. Yet, none of us are fatherless. Our ancestors and elders continue to inspire and aspire long after their transitions. You illustrate what a father’s love can do for their children, you personify how a man denied the right to breathe in life can breathe through his daughter.

Your relationship with your dad personifies the relationships we should all have with our elders and ancestors, relationships that do not seek to personify conventional functionality as determined by our oppressors, but relationships that transcend the boundaries of mortality and time.

These relationships are collectively crucial. We need them like we need you. But as we’ve never lost those whose bodies are limited to the past, we will never lose you either.

I write this letter to you on the fourth day of Kwanzaa-Ujamma—cooperative economics, but on the eve of Nia- purpose. Your efforts to fight illustrate the essence of economics—that true currency, true value, and true riches, are to have what money can’t buy. Money can’t buy the richness of your spirit, and your invaluable contribution Ms. Garner. You’ve “garnered” an  irreversible symbolic profit to the black community and you personify and incite purpose in all you’ve done, and will continue to do.

You bring all the Kwanzaa symbols to life, giving your people what money can’t buy–hope.

The whispers of the collective conscious are the wind beneath your wings, so whether you fly back towards earth or beyond- we are with you as you are with us.

Thank you for being a queen.

Black Power ❤

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