When I heard the news that another young black male had been gunned down, I was floored .
When it was reported that there was some lag time to discuss what should be done, I became physically ill. As an Uncle, Grandparent and teacher of young black males, I always pray that they(young black males) will make it to adulthood without being taken down by the myriad of landmines that one has to navigate in an effort to enter adulthood with somewhat of an intact mind.
Apparently, the white thug vigilante was beyond disturbed and seeing a young black male set off all types of adrenaline-fueled fear and that immediately led to stupidity that is downright murder and pillage.
At some point as a culture, we have to decide that not only is this unacceptable but anybody who dares to think and act otherwise will be dealt with swiftly and accordingly.
While the media does a great job of letting us know the dangers that lurk behind dark male skin, there is little attention paid to the individuals determined to not be a statistic. George Zimmerman made sure Trayvon Martin became a statistic.
Neighbors complained about Zimmerman's violence and odd behavior and yet nothing was done.
How do we protect young black men and keep them from being objects of suspicion and targets of racist oppressive thinking and in the case of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman deadly assaulted?
Should we lock them away before they are locked away via some other force ?
Should we cling to the belief that people are good at heart and mistakes get made ? Do we assume that if folks were gunning down young white males or females that this would be ended without so much as a discussion ? Are we to assume that racism is here to stay and that no matter what we do or how high we rise it will never be enough to counter systematic and racist assaults?
None of these questions are sufficient and not one of them will bring back this young man or ease the pain I am certain his family and those that loved him are currently feeling.
My dream is that this will set off such an outrage that racism/classism/ageism and all of their disgusting effects will finally be addressed and handled in ways that are radical , revolutionary and usher in new and consistent change. While advertisers and those that support Rush Limbaugh are now limping away from a very nasty,ridiculous and vile association, we have yet to see a national outcry leading to financial devastation to anyone remotely tied to this debacle.
Worrying about our young people and praying that if they do the right thing (stay in the house/stay out of certain neighborhoods/stay with their own kind) that they will remain safe is stupid and highly myopic.
This is an opportunity to mobilize our collective pain and guilt and create some serious change.
By demanding and getting justice, we , as a culture, will be forced to enact new laws that hopefully will lead to some serious , much overdue behavioral changes. Behavioral changes and some changes in what is sanctioned, legally or not , will and must be changed as a part of this new regime.
On fb , I read a friend's suggestion that if you have children you should be outraged. I want to offer an addendum.
We should all be outraged. Period.
When I talked with Eartha after her fabulous show, I was tongue tied.
My love affair with the fantabuolus Eartha and the only cat woman that mattered began early. At seven, much to my father's embarassment, I enjoyed purring like the odd woman on Batman. There was something supremely divine and enchanting about this creature.
Long before I knew what power was and how to yield it, I watched her reduce men to piles of goo with a sigh, an exagerrated expression or a chuckle that stated: "I adore me, don't you ?"
My desire to dream and do things can be tied to this exceptional human who continued to defy odds and recreate herself and a place in society even though she was told early and often that there was none.
As a kid growing up and well into my 20's, I knew very little of her contributions to not only the world of performing arts but her struggle for civil rights and personal and artistic freedom. Many years of hearing that purr and all of that sensual energy let me dismiss her as just a sexy enchantress.
She was that and so much more.
While we like the persona she created, there was much to share in terms of speaking out, risking it all for art and the people and then being punished for it all. As a gay, black artist, I ,too, am often taken to task for not doing what black artists are expected to do which no one has explained to me.
Ms.Eartha taught me to dream and to push beyond what everyone, myself included, thinks is possible and go for more.
After devouring not one but two books about her fascinating life, it was apparent to me that she had a life worth imitating and that she was often lauded and seldom understood. Breaking through color barriers and performing on Broadway and in NYC cabarets,she forced the world to rethink what was possible for a female artist of color to achieve.
Whether performing in New Faces on Broadway, an extended engagement in a NYC Nightclub or fending off Orson Welles in the back of a taxi, Ms. Eartha was bad to the bone then and handled her business before any of us had business of our own to handle.
When I witnessed her magic in person at 78 years old ( feisty, naughty, still doing back bends, rocking a dress with side splits to her waist and driving men crazy) I thought to myself this is what great art is made to do and this is what great artists can and must do.
Still doing two shows nightly and singing in six languages for weeks on end truly floored me.
Watching her work was a study in viewing perfection and a person highly comfortable with their self. This is something we should all aspire to.
Having survived Reagan, both Bushes, drug addicted and abusive paramours, the scourge that is HIV/AIDS, unrelenting bullying and the need to beg folks to let me get married, it is time to start celebrating and telling my real age.