by Lois-Soto Minah
Edited by: Sarah DeSouza
TW: Murder, Abuse, Sexual Assault, Misogynoir
Everytime a Black Freedom Fighter is murdered or captured the pigs try to create the impression that they have quashed the movement, destroyed our forces, and put down the Black revolution…That is absurd. -Assata Shakur
God is worthy to be praised
But what did God ever do for my sister but bring her into a world that didn’t say her name until it was too late
God is worthy to be praised
The only time someone invokes the name of a Black womxn — not bitch, mama or ho — is when they’re dead. Though I’m comfortable with all pronouns, it’s why my name is my favorite pronoun. So that people will say my name while I’m alive.
In her tweets detailing her assault, Oluwatoyin mentioned seeking refuge from an abusive family situation. If I close my eyes I can see the fights she doubtlessly had with her family about what constitutes abuse, that Western word that Black households struggle so hard with. Just a few years ago I was having the same arguments with my own family. I can imagine how Toyin felt, delirious with outrage and that creeping, gnawing fear at the back of your mind that maybe you’re the aggressor. You’re the one making the house unsafe, you’re the reason everyone’s walking on eggshells, you’re just the belligerent problem child. I can imagine she thought all these things and worse before realizing over again, as we sometimes have to, that the onus wasn’t on us.
“If i close my eyes I can see the fights she doubtlessly had with her family about what constitutes abuse, that Western word that Black households struggle so hard with.”
Historically, families in diaspora have a complicated and tense relationship with the word “abuse.” Given that the dominant culture jumps at any excuse to label our cultures as barbaric and brutal, it makes sense. The unfortunate thing is that somehow along the way as our Elders were trying to preserve culture and protect us, they managed to become a fresh danger of their own. In Nigeria, where everyone’s a stranger you call Uncle or Auntie, I was constantly being shuffled between hands. The only record I had of people was how they touched me. There was a rotating door of adults who were responsible for me, faces I can barely recall now but I know were there. That’s how we raise our children in diaspora: the whole village is an extension of your mother’s breast, your father’s hands, your grandmother’s stove. By the time I knew what “bad touch” was, I had been trained so far into silence that trying to fumble my way through Telling was unimaginable.
During those arguments with my family no one ever stood up for me. My aunt would do objectively horrible things and yet she was always far from reproach. One of the times she kicked me out, a neighbor offered me a blanket to sleep through the cold Autumn night and apologized that they couldn’t let me in—my aunt had told them not to. That is the silence that precedes and enables the murders of my siblings. The silence of cousins, uncles, aunts, neighbors.
“That is the silence that precedes and enables the murders of my siblings. The silence of cousins, uncles, aunts, neighbors.”
Womxn like Toyin and I dare not to be silent about our pain. At such young ages, we had nothing but the fire in our chests and the kindness of strangers to go on. I’ve been lucky to find good strangers, strangers who have become family. But Black womxn are rarely lucky. The man who pretended to be a good samaritan in Toyin’s case took advantage of her vulnerability. I imagine she yielded her trust to him in part because he was a Black man.
When I turned 22, I told myself it was time to stop fighting for my life. I had been surviving for so long I wanted to just have a life. That was the first time in years I realized I could stop running. One of the great many lies white supremacy and capitalism tell us is that the ability to just live one’s life is a luxury — you have to earn your humanity. I imagine when she got on Twitter on June 6th Toyin was also trying to prove that people kept trying to hurt her. But when Black womxn cry out suddenly everybody’s deaf, everybody’s busy, everybody can’t find a fuck to give.
“One of the great many lies white supremacy and capitalism tell us is that the ability to just live one’s life is a luxury — you have to earn your humanity.”
I texted someone it feels like they can’t kill us fast enough. That the world makes it so easy to discard of Black womxn. Our families throw the first stone. Black men can’t wait to fuck us over to make their ill adapted white supremacist manhood sit better on their fragile shoulders. And the world is all too ready to hate Black womxn because it can’t look us in the eye after everything it has taken from our bodies.
I imagine what it took for Toyin to leave because I remember my own exhaustion, to be bold and loud about what had happened to me so no one could ever say it didn’t. I imagine the fear she must have felt trusting strangers because I remember my own.
The ache of being so helpless you need other people to make you safe.
And when the safety of another person isn’t guaranteed, but their presence is essential for your survival, you sometimes find yourself dead.
These days I am so burnt out, opening instagram gives me a rash. On the phone I have to remind a friend not to read the news outloud. When I think of organizing, my stomach rolls into knots and saliva rushes my mouth. I buy snakeskin boots and wear them indoors. I put on red lipstick to read graphic novels and get so stoned I eat a pint of Van Leeuwen ice cream, a pack of Hawaiian rolls and a bowl of Lucky Charms.
Mostly, I wonder how much longer until I am a ghost.
the writer would like to thank everyone who has ever been a friend to her for keeping her alive. you have my eternal gratitude for loving me through the fullness of my disasters. for those who couldn’t hold the ocean that i was, don’t go chasing waterfalls i guess