For Colored Men Who Have Left Their Kids Unprotected When The Police Were at War
Dear Los and TCole,
The past two days have been a whirlwind of emotion for me witnessing the news that two more unarmed black men were executed by the police. Every time I see something like this you two come to my mind, if only for a second. Its been years since I have seen or spoken to you Los and months you TCole and I honestly can’t say whether you are dead or alive. My prayer is that you both are healthy, safe and alive. I can only imagine what life is like being a black man in America right now, a smidgen more terrifying that being a black woman I’d guess, so I pray for your mental sanity as well.
I fight back the urge to call and check on you because I’ve done it so many times and you never really get why. Well since you haven’t checked on how your child and I are doing in light of all that’s been going on and in life, in general, I figure I would just fill you in. Your child is doing well. Both of my kids are well. They are happy, healthy and pretty decent human beings. I love them so much which is why when I am constantly bombarded with the attack on black bodies surrounding us I get terrified.
Los, Zion is 17 now, a few months shy of being labeled a man. Damn if the time hasn’t flown by. He’s smart, funny and athletic and a pretty sensitive and intense man-child. I bet you are wondering how he’s been dealing with the constant replay of men that look like him being feared and killed by both the police and his peers… well, me too. We talk a lot, he has never been shy about saying what’s on his mind and questioning everything under the moon. However, these murders are different. Zi is an information junkie, so anytime something newsworthy happens he dives right in. He watches the videos, he reads the comments and articles and asks questions. He is young and naive at times and still wants to believe the best about people and that includes the cops. While he never admits to it hurting I see that far off gaze he has whenever he asks “did you hear about such and such” or I say to him damn, not again. He get’s this really pensive look and gets quiet and after asking a few questions for clarity he walks off alone with his thoughts.
Los, I tell you I have been doing the best I can to protect his mind, body, and spirit. I can’t front I always though it would be a lot easier for him had you been around. I made sure you always had his cell number and I would even send you texts with conversation starters and birthday reminders. Once or twice you said hey, but nothing really became of it, so you know, life moved on.
When Trayvon Martin was killed and even Mike Brown I was going to send you a text to check on you and say hey shoot Zi a “how are things?” kind of text. I just wanted for you to let him know you see the madness going on and that you cared to know how your baby boy was dealing, but I didn’t. I started to feel it might come off disingenuous, Zi be knowing lol. I think it was about 3 or 4 years ago I shot you a text and reminded you to tell him happy birthday, as soon as he got off the phone he called me on it, talking about he knows I reminded you, but I just shrugged him off. Even better there was that time about 4 years ago you called him and yall were talking and you said something like “alright, later, love you.” Man you had us cracking up for days, you freaked the hell out of that boy, he had never heard you say those words so he didn’t know how to respond, my boy was like “ok love you” and threw the phone down like it was on fire. He then came running, laughing to me to tell me what you said, he was like I didn’t know what to do, “what should I have said?” Dude you gave us material for days, I told him to practice his response in case it happened again, we came up with all types of funny responses. But hey you looked out, he never had to use any because he never heard you say those words again.
Zi is good though I have taught him the best of what I know and since I’m not a man I shied away from trying to teach him to be a man I just tried to set a good example of how a man should treat a woman by making sure I kept the fucboi’s at bay. I never let him see anyone disrespect me, and he never saw anyone in my bed much less spend the night. I also made sure he knew how to throw a spiral when he started football, perfect his crossover playing ball and he always offers women seats, offers to carry bags and holds the door. We started talking about sex really early because he always had questions and I wanted him to get the correct info. I even make sure he knows where the condoms are in the house. He’s a young man so while I don’t believe anything is going down I don’t want to be naive so I make sure he can protect himself or pass them on to his boys if they need it.
Like I said I always thought you would come around, show interest and hang with your boy and I can’t front like it hasn’t had a toll on me. When I see these young men being slain by the police I wish I had an added covering over him. You know like I wish the person who helped create him and who shares his DNA, who inspired his flat feet, chinky eyes, nail biting and laugh were around to bounce ideas off of and assuage my fears. I just really want to protect our boy.
I have been blessed though, I don’t believe you’ve ever met Glen but he has been an amazing Godfather to Zi. He has been around for all but one birthday even when it meant flying from Chicago or California, he made it. He has taken him camping and hiking, played ball with him, hit him off with pocket money and even supported me in talking to him when he was having those wayward preteen moments. He’s married now and his life is busy but he is still very present in Zi’s life. He is excitedly looking forward to celebrating the big 18 in January and watching him walk down the aisle for his HS graduation, he made the middle school one too.
Oh yeah I forgot to tell you Zi has his license, he beat me to the punch with getting a license. Crazy right! I know, I know you thought I had one because I use to drive while in undergrad but boy I was riding dirty lol. Zi wanted to learn to drive so bad, so my sister kicked it off, remember B? She lives in the midwest now but she taught him and let him practice a few days when she was out here earlier in the year. Your boy was so determined to learn and I felt horrible that I couldn’t teach him and you weren’t around, but thankfully a few of my dudes filled in the gap. These bruhs are like family, my boy Su has watched him grow up from a toddler, his daughter is just 2 weeks younger than Zi and they are like brother and sister. So he took him out and let him drive the Benz to practice, gave him some pointers and one day even let him drive an i8. He’s bugging cuz I sure as hell had no money if that badboy got damaged. My boy Dk also helped him with his driving, taking him out helping him to park and taking him to the road test and loaning him a car. So now occasionally Zi can be seen driving around in his Charger. You can’t tell him nothing. It would of been great to have you around for that because sometimes I “mom” him to death. So get this, Su had an X5 in his possession that he didn’t have to drop off for a few days and he let your boy drive it to school. My boy pulled up to the house in an X5, he looked so damn cool. But man I needed you as a sounding board cuz I started to get scared of him driving. I got scared of what would happen if he got pulled over for some reason. Hell I was worried that the wrong cop might be jealous that he was driving a BMW in a nice neighborhood and mess with him. My mind is all over the place when our boy leaves my sight. I pray over him and his sister before we leave the house. I’ve been going extra hard praying for him especially most recently. He was also raised in the church which has helped to make him the principled, empathetic, caring person he is. He has had some great brothers looking out for him there as well since you couldn’t.
You wouldn’t believe that he is 6ft tall and slim. Dark like you and handsome like you were when we first met but still has a bit of a baby face. I’m sure the police won’t see the baby face and the gentleness in his sway if they were to stop him. Honestly I don’t know if he would use those long legs he has to run because of all of the stories he’s heard or use that brain he has been growing in all the years of private school and try to talk his way into staying alive. We have the conversations but one never knows when the situation arises. He could of used your feedback and you sharing your run-ins with the law and even learning from you sharing stories about the time you have spent locked up. He might have benefitted from your street knowledge because you still being alive would mean you have been navigating this here life a good 42 years now, and in black man years that’s pretty impressive. But that’s neither here nor there because he has grown despite not having your guidance. Just know your role would have mattered, your input and presence would have had value in him navigating this life. It would be easy to end that sentence with the black women mantra of “but he’s good, we good” but I won’t. I won’t let you off that easy and I won’t hide the fact that it has been hard.
I won’t bore you with any more of the details but it is challenging raising a young man in a world that doesn’t see his beauty and worth. We had a couple of years where providing basic necessities much less desires was a hustle. However, he has always been well fed, nicely clothed, prayed over, loved and sheltered with a room of his own.
My dad passed last year and boy was that hard on him. The first consistent male presence in his life. I can still hear the cry and see the tears flowing when I told him “G” was gone. Man I could of used you to lean on or to have held him up when he nearly fell from the weight of my words. I’m not going to pretend like I know what goes through your head. I don’t know if you ever think about him, wonder what he is doing, yearn to know him, pray for him. It makes me feel good to think that you do. Before you know it we will have word that another person of color was killed at the hands of the police and I hope that when it happens you think of him and reach out. I would prefer if it were before that happens, hell today would be a great day. He needs to hear you say I am glad that you are alive, you matter son and I love you and in turn he can use that response he practiced so many years ago.
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TCole, TCole, T Cole, dude what is up with you? Man you live in close proximity to me, not sure where but I know it’s close. Remember that time last year when I bumped into you at the market and you tried to ignore me, (chuckles). Yeah I knew then that you were in the neighborhood. Welp its been a minute since you’ve come by, you did call early this Summer, about two months ago. It was that day that you called and said you wanted to see your baby girl and asked what time I was picking her up from daycare. Remember I told you I’d get her at 4 since you wanted to take her to the park and that maybe you should just come with me so that she wouldn’t have to walk home and you’d have more time with her. You called back saying you would just meet me at the house and then even called to check to see if we were at the house. Once you called to see if we had made it back I got her ready and told her that you were coming to take her to the park. Dude you wouldn’t believe how much she loves to talk about her daddy. Everyone who walked down the block while we waited she told “My daddy coming take me to park” in her cute little 2 year old voice, she didn’t even know half the people. She stayed out there for an hour and half waiting but she was distracted by us playing tag and racing and playing catch. When she got aggy so I took her in to eat. You showed up at about 9 when she was heading to bed so I declined to let you in so as not to interrupt her bedtime routine. Since you did something similar a few weeks prior and I let you come in anyway I guess you figured you could stand her up and then show up when you felt like it again. I am trying to grow your little girl into a confident woman so I didn’t want her to think it was ok to keep letting someone in that didn’t keep their word.
TCole she is growing like weeds and like I said before in love with or the idea of her daddy. She talks about you like yall have spent more than one hour at a time together playing, as though you are the dude who plays play -doh and dances with her more than once every couple of months. I can’t front, even at school when the kids draw or talk about their families she includes you. You know that cute name she calls you “uncle daddy,” you know the one she I guess came up with out of confusion as to who you really were. She sees her uncles pretty frequently so I guess she is so used to saying, uncle, that she starts with it and then tries to correct herself. That’s got to be it, we have to remember she is only two.
She is too young to really feel the weight of all that’s been going on in the world and I am happy that she doesn’t have to. There are beauty and joy to toddler innocence that has long left us. I think the only time she might have sensed something was awry was that time at church when they asked for those who were hurting over the deaths of Alton Sterling and Castillo to come to the altar. I went and stood at the altar holding her and fighting back tears until I couldn’t stop them from flowing. She repeatedly said “don’t cry mommy, it’s ok” as she wiped my eyes, which of course only made me cry more and triggered tears from folks around us. In that moment she felt something and probably could have used you to get her mommy to “stop being sad”.
Like I wrote to Zi’s father it would be real easy to say “we are good” and let you think it’s ok to leave me raising a daughter who I fear I might one day leave prematurely or who’s favorite person in the entire world, her big bro, could be killed just for being black at the wrong time. These are challenging times. There have been days that I have been paralyzed as a result of the constant killings and unable to function at 100%. I press on but the dishes get left in the sink and cereal or waffles might be dinner until I have had time to get in my sacred space and begin to heal. It would have been great for her to have you around to play with or to even make her some stew chicken and rice and peas. That girl loves her some rice.
She goes to daycare/school pretty much full time now and she loves it. She is safe and happy so I am down for it plus I have to work to bring in enough money to pay the rent, Zi’s tuition, daycare, food, utilities, and a few niceties. I still chuckle to myself when I told you how much I pay for rent and you were like “how?, you don’t get section 8?” hell I was sorry I disappointed you and wishful all at the same time. It ain’t easy paying my hard earned cash for everything but God’s been good. You see how cute and fun your daughter’s room is, she deserves a happy space to call her own, we all do.
You usually ask about Zi when you don’t see him or you give him a pound when you do, so yeah he is cool too. It’s crazy how even though he was giving you the side-eye from day one, he still seems to be rooting for you. He does cringe then chuckle when he hears his sister talking about you but he always tells her something good about you. He also asks if you have been around while he was at school or if Reign has seen you lately. I think he wants her to have what he never did. I didn’t tell him how you stood her up yet again, because remember the time he had to give you a good talking to when you left his sister at the doctors office with pneumonia and had his mom carry her in the rain to the train to get home. Ooh he was livid, when he asked for the phone to talk to you I couldn’t have been more proud, he set you straight, let you know his displeasure without uttering one profane word and when you came around a month or so later said what’s up to you like nothing ever happened. That kids a class act, I pray I do just as good a job with our daughter as I have with him.
With all the crazy going on especially with the police Zi might have been able to learn somethings from you if you came around to see his sister more often. You have had flashy cars that I am sure caused police to stop you. Hey remember the time that cop flagged us down with a crap story about needing a ride and his car being stolen and I was like hell no and ready to go in on him. You were calm and took the lead, got me to fall back and even helped the cop who was bleeding on the interior of your car and dropped him off. I told you then I was low key impressed. That’s something you might have been able to share with Zi. I know you are not his dad but you always said you hated the fact that his dad didn’t do right by him so I just figured you wouldn’t have minded sharing a 101 on how you have been dealing with the cops. However, that hasn’t played out yet since you have been having challenges of your own with doing right by your child.
Like I said earlier this race induced trauma has been playing a toll on me, has to be affecting her brother, so in essence, you should be making sure you check in on her. We are all she has and if we are messed up then what? She is not affected by much of anything especially if she has play-doh. Play-doh is still her favorite thing. I told you time and again you would win at fathering if you spent like $4 bucks and brought her a few cans when you pop up. She is still very young and impressionable and can be bought so easy, so you could still win her heart if you showed up for her. Tomorrow is not promised and that is magnified even more when we take into account what’s been going on in these streets. So please don’t take too long to find a way to be one of her comforters, because before you know it she will be old enough to understand the tears that she tried to wipe off my face that day at church.
This was originally posted to Medium as a means to cope with the fears life had been presenting.