“Black lives matter.” I know many of you have heard this saying a lot over these past few months. The phrase Black lives matter was coined after the unjust death of Mike Brown by three Black women activist/organizers Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi.
It’s a phrase that has appeared on social media sites, posters and t-shirts nationwide. When we say black lives matter we are saying to a racist society where the murder of black people is sanctioned by the state, that our lives are viable. We are demanding that our children grow up in a society where they are safe. We are demanding that they are not met with gun fire when they are stopped by those who are supposed to serve and protect them. Black lives matter.
Yet do all black lives really matter?
I was met with horrible news that one of my favorite bloggers had taken his own life last night. Blake Brockington was an 18 year old transgender activist who recently graduated high school. Despite being kicked out in his sophomore year by his father and forced to move into a foster home, Blake was the first African American trans masculine homecoming king at East Mecklenburg High School. He raised thousands of dollars for a chosen school charity to win the honor. Blake was an affable and kind teenager who was struggling with receiving support around his gender identity. His death is not only untimely but sparks a very urgent discussion.
“We are still human, I’m still a person and people are still people. Our bodies just don’t match what what we feel inside. We need support, not people looking down at us or degrading us or overlooking us. We are still human.”
– Blake Brockington
Over the course of the years I have dedicated my life to studies of race. Currently I am in school to become a 9th grade history teacher because of my love of children – especially the ones who look like me. Every day I pour over articles and books upon books on racial theory and I notice a reoccurring theme. When race is spoken about, it is used as a blanket that encompasses sexual, gender identity & class. There is this fallacious idea that the most acute oppression that ALL black people face is racism. There is this concept that everyone outside of a Black male has to hierarchize their identities especially the Black LGBTQ community. Black people who identify with other groups are forced to ask ‘Am I black first or gay first?’ ‘Am I black first or Trans first?’ Not only is this fracturing of identity unfair on all accounts, its dangerous even deadly. It eclipses the narrative of Black LGBTQ communities and it also results in the sexual prejudices they face outside of racism to be met with skepticism.
According to the CDC Black Trans* youth have twice the suicide rate of their white counterparts. According to the NTDS* 50% of the Black respondents experienced harassment at school, 41% experienced homelessness, and 15% were assaulted while at work. Not only are these statistics daunting but it magnifies the fact their is an epidemic happening right here in our own communities. We cannot embody ‘Black Lives Matter’; we cannot hope to dismantle white supremacy until every structure of inequality is dismantled brick by brick. That includes the gender based violence that Black Transgender people face even by those that share a skin color. It’s up to us to challenge biases and we mustn’t silence the unique experiences of the black LGBTQ community. We have a very limited narrative on feminism and masculinity meaning that those who don’t fit the “mold” are ostracized and objectified. We cannot move forward until these issues are addressed. Black empowerment is all inclusive, not just those who fit our narrow definitions of Blackness.
l can no longer sit passively in my home knowing that the world is on fire outside my doorstep. I can no longer discuss racism without discussing the biases that many Black people face that are interconnected. We have to have an open dialogue on mental health and gender based violence within our community. I know things don’t change over night and that there is always a rough road ahead when it comes to revolution. However, the changes we make today will impact the lives of generations to come. So that when we say BLACK LIVES MATTER we are inclusive of the many Black LGBTQ youth that were killed just for existing. We are saying we will no longer tolerate discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation in our neighborhoods and that we are ensuring the protection of us all. Its time we start celebrating the lives of ALL black people. We also must speak to the truth of those who met death all too soon.
Blake Brockington life matters. I don’t know if he was told that. Nor will I get the chance to tell him. I knew early on I wanted to be a history teacher. I wanted to help black youth understand the importance of education and instill a love for it in them. Now with the passing of Blake I have to remember to teach them about world wars as well as how to deal with their own private emotional ones. In conclusion I wrote an open letter to Blake. I think he deserves to know how important he is, even in death.
Today at school I received the news that you had decided to end your life. I stared at the computer screen for 5 minutes. I don’t think I blinked. I have known you for a little over a year now and I loved your tenacity, transparency and wittiness. You seemed so happy, your confidence and openness with your gender identity was refreshing. I am writing this letter to you in tears and deep sorrow. Your story and life touched so many people. You were so strong. Stronger than a lot of us and we envied that about you. The way you forgave people who hurt you so easily and you were always smiling even in the midst of your pain. God Blake, I know what is like to be rejected by ones father. When our fathers deem us disposable we think the rest of the world will. I am so frustrated that he was not able to see the beauty in you. There are no mistakes in the universe and you were perfect just the way you were. Blake you are a flower in a forest fire. You are a volcano. You are wind on summer nights. You are songs whispered by mothers in the mouths of newborns. If no one ever told you before I am telling you now. YOU ARE ENOUGH. I am so sorry that this is happened. I am sorry Blake. Yesterday I watched a movie called Pariah about a coming of age Brooklyn teenage girl who was struggling with her sexual identity. Towards the end of the movie she recited a poem called “I am not broke. I am free”. I want to dedicate this poem to you. For You aren’t broken Blake, you are free.
Heartbreak opens onto the sunrise
For even breaking is opening
And I am broken
Broken to the new light without pushing in
Open to the possibilities within, pushing out
See the love shine in through my cracks?
See the light shine out through me?
I am broken
I am open
I am broken open
See the love light shining through me
Shining through my cracks
Through the gaps
My spirit takes journey
My spirit takes flight
Could not have risen otherwise
And I am not running
Running is not a choice from the breaking
Breaking is freeing
Broken is freedom
I am not broken
Written by Dee Rees
Oh Blake where do we go from here? I guess it’s just one day at a time. I wish you peace always and in all ways.
Goodbye, for now.
*National Transgender Discrimination