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Monthly Archives: February 2016

Marshawn was a Freedom Fighter

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Marshawn was a freedom fighter and he taught me how to fight. We gon’ fight all day and night until we get it right.

When I clicked on the link and saw the name. I jumped out of my seat, screamed and grabbed my heart. The pain I felt was so intense I felt it physically throughout my chest. I cried. I could not understand how barely two hours ago I was building with another activist. Talking about our friend in common, Marshawn. How proud we were of him, how much he has grown. We laughed and danced to Formation out of Denison together. 24 hours later I would be at a candlelight vigil with her for Marshawn.

Marshawn was a freedom fighter and he taught me how to fight. We gon’ fight all day and night until we get it right.

I met Marshawn in August of 2014. We were a part of the Ohio crew that traveled to Ferguson after Michael Brown’s death. He was tall and skinny with a real cool swag. He reminded me of Snoop or Wiz. All skinny tall Black men remind me of them. That trip ended with me giving a very long side eye to Marshawn. Thankfully, I was able to see other sides of Marshawn. One of my favorite memories of Marshawn occurred last fall. I organized a teach-in about Ferguson/ Racial Justice at my university. Marshawn came as a representative of Ohio Student Association and lead a breakout session after the panel part of the event. As I prepared to leave I found him and two of my other organizer friends with a couple of students just sitting, talking and organizing. I told them it was after 9 and I was going home. Shawn was the type of person who liked to make people to people connection. He stayed in contact with at least one of the students he built with that night. He showed up for people. He showed up for Black women last summer at the #sayhername action in Columbus I helped plan. I remember how articulate yet vulnerable the words he spoke about his responsibility as a Black men to show up for all Black women.

Marshawn was a freedom fighter and he taught me how to fight. We gon’ fight all day and night until we get it right.

I have so many great memories with him. I am realizing just how many actions, marches and protests I participated in since coming to Ohio and he was at every single one. People keep asking me do I know why he did it. I resent the ways the conversation, particularly with people who don’t know him- center on questions about what was wrong with him. Was he suffering from any mental problems? I don’t deny that there are conversations that need to be had about mental health issues as it pertains to the Black community and Black masculinity.  I do not pretend to know what Marshawn was thinking or feeling.  However those are not things I concern myself with in this moment. He made a decision, a decision about his life and how and where he wanted to end.

Marshawn was a freedom fighter and he taught me how to fight. We gon’ fight all day and night until we get it right.

If we are looking for a why- there is no better answer than systemic oppression. The ways that we are devalued by the state on a constant basis.  The knowledge that these inequalities are so ingrained in our society, that despite our organizing we often fail to change the material reality of those close to us.  What happens when we march, organize and touch people yet we and those we love still experience the harsh reality of life as people with marginalized identities.  I think a perfectly sane person can make a decision to end their life in this insane world.  I think suicide can be and has been a form of resistance against oppression.  How many enslaved Africans jumped into the water, desiring to face death on their terms rather than live and see the grim realities that would become them.  As much as living can be a form of resistance so death is also resistance.  I’m thinking of Margaret Garner and many other women who ended their children lives rather than allowing them to be enslaved.  I have long been an advocate for the right to die for people with terminal/chronic illness. I think there is power in saying I decide when I leave this earth and I won’t wait until cancer or whatever else destroys my body. I am reminded of Buddhist monks practice of self-immolation, the act of sacrificing one’s body as a form of radical political protest, intentional suicide for a collective cause. I think death can force people to deal with uncomfortable truths and act as a rallying cry. Suicide is often seen as the easy way out or for weak people, but the truth is suicide has a long history as a form of resistance.

Marshawn was a freedom fighter and he taught me how to fight. We gon’ fight all day and night until we get it right.

There is power in saying the state will not be able to claim my body.  There is power in laying your body on the steps of the state and forcing them to deal with you.  Forcing them to recognize your life even if it’s through your death. I have protested and marched at the Ohio State. I have heard Marshawn voice ring from those same steps crying for justice for John Crawford. I have seen him fight to change laws and policy.  The state of Ohio must account for his body in the same ways they must account for Tamir, Taniesha, John and countless others. The city government of Columbus once told organizers that they need a body in order to enact the type of police reforms needed, well they got a body on their doorsteps now. I witness him building power with community.  At his vigil someone said that he is one young person that would have followed where ever.  If we trusted him to lead us in life, I believe we have to also trust him to lead us in death.  We don’t have to understand or agree.  I believe he had much more work to do alive, but I also respect his laying down his life.  Having agency.  Deciding that he will not wait until for some officer of the state to take his life or become so demoralized that he might as well be dead. Deciding he will leave this world on his own terms.

Marshawn was a freedom fighter and he taught me how to fight. We gon’ fight all day and night until we get it right.

I also think a lot about heaven and hell. I have stop believing in hell. Not sure if I believe in heaven. We create both in this world.  I believe that there is no finite line between the living and dead.  I believe our ancestors are all around us.  Even if we can’t see it.  I believe in being transformed. I believe the end isn’t really the end like we think. I believe in a circular and not linear life cycle.  I believe that there is no shame in what and how Marshawn chose to live and how he chose to die. That time comes for everyone and we all must resist. Who are we to judge the means someone chooses to resist? Rather we must focus on their need to resist in the first place.

Marshawn was a freedom fighter who taught us how to fight and we gon fight all day and night until we get it right.

This life is hard.  This work is hard.  Remember there are people placing their body, mind, spirit, life and relationships on the line every day to fight for us.  To make the world know and understand that we matter.  In a world that is also telling us that we  don’t matter.

We got to fight.  We got to check up on each other. Most, importantly we gotta love each other and support each other.

How do we imagine a world where we don’t have to choose that type resistance? How do we create a world that suicide is not an understandable choice? How do fight the state and systematic oppression when they can’t see or care about our humanity? How do we make them heard us? How do we radically imagine the future?

We fight all day and night until we get it right.  Marshawn was a freedom fighter and he is teaching us how to fight.

This week I have been reminded to love harder, hold on tighter to the things and people that give me joy. But most of all it reminded me why I fight. In my heart I know Marshawn sacrifice his life for us. So today when I attend his funeral I will celebrate his light, his love and his legacy.

~justTab

 

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Marshall L. Jr. Shorts photo credit

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Posted by on February 13, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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