Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Tears & Reflections In A Year of Telling “Their” Story

A young woman at a Black Lives Matter protest downtown Chicago last summer holds a sign.
(Photo: Samantha Latson) 

“All I wanna say is that they don’t really care about us” –Michael Jackson, 1995

By Samantha Latson

Samantha Latson
“Nobody cares, nobody gives a damn…” It was a weeping voice filled with frustration and anguish. I looked at the face of a black man crying in front of his students. A man not worried about pride or embarrassment, but worried about the 51 lives who are so often left forgotten. 

I looked at the screen of my classmates, white faces who don’t resemble mine, yet my skin, my body and my face are on the frontline.

While peering into the screen, I said to myself. “Wow, is this man crying for me?” No, not crying for me in a literal sense, but crying for the black women who are so often left neglected, disrespected, crumbled, and tossed to the side. 

America's unwanted is what I call women who look like me. 

As I look at the faces of the 51 I see my girls, the girls who make me laugh when I’m feeling down, the girls who call me every morning around 8am to play uno. The girl down the street who's been braiding my hair since high school. The girls who build me up and remind me who I am when I need encouragement. 

I see my sisters who I cry and laugh with. I see true friends who are there for me when I need them.

Ultimately, I see the faces of beautiful black women who I call my sisters. I see their faces as I look at the beautiful smile of Diamond Turner 21, whose body was found dumped in a trash can near 73rd Street and South Kenwood.  

The beautiful bright hazel eyes of Theresa Bunn, 21 found in a garbage bin in the 6100 block of South Prairie Avenue, that was set on fire. I see the ebony smooth skin and radiant smile of Reo Renee Holyfield, 34 located in a garbage container near 525 W. 95th St. 

As my eyes slowly gaze through the pictures, I no longer see myself or my friends. I see mature faces, faces that make me wanna say, “Hey, Auntie!”

I see a ray of sunshine in Nancie Walker's face, while posing with her dance group of 10. Walker always had a love for dance, stemming from her childhood. It didn’t matter what career path Walker chose, she always found her way back to dance. Walker’s love for dancing was so passionate that she couldn’t keep it to herself, so she began teaching sharing her first love.

I look at Gwendolyn Williams, 45, and I see a beautiful stylish woman, smiling with red lips, white teeth, and gold earrings to match. I can’t possibly wrap my head around how a beautiful woman could one day be found in an ally, stigmatized for the rest of her life. When I see Williams, I see something beautiful, someone full of life and happiness. 

Why can’t society see what I see? Why can’t they see a soul who was loved? 

Perhaps if Gwendolyn was a few shades lighter—or white—she would have been deemed a “damsel in distress.”

As I continue to look at their pictures on my computer screen, I see women who left this world: one by one, invisible, alone, unprotected, and neglected. Sadly, black women across the world with breath in their bodies too often feel this way. 

I often ask myself, does anyone care? Would someone care if my black, 21-year-old-body was found dismembered, set on fire, or even strangled?  How much pain must one inflict on the Black woman for society to finally care?

The harsh reality is, if I were Diamond, Theresa, Reo, Gwendolyn, Nancie, or among the countless others, my name would also likely go unnoticed. I might be categorized as one of the 51, as merely a woman of the night, perhaps a streetwalker, blamed for her own demise. Nobody beyond my family and friends caring, nobody giving a damn…

It’s enough to make a grown man cry. Me too. How about you?