Grieving For Black Lives is Not One-Dimensional
In the wake of the devastating shooting in Orlando at Pulse Nightclub, many of us are at the intersections of grieving and healing, where our mourning is constantly being capitalized upon and policed. Recently, Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, posted a status responding to the numerous amounts of people coming for BLM’s Network response time to release a statement in regards to the tragedy at Pulse. In her status, she reminds us that herself and other leaders are people, with many of them being queer as well.
This politicization of mourning as a celebrity and capitalistic culture is violent and dehumanizing, but also the expectation for certain types of grieving (and publicized grieving at that) are deeply troubling. We must challenge ourselves to see each other through constant brutality and anguish beyond our titles and roles within this fight. We have to put down our organizational and activist armor to realize that our pain and our navigation is not a monolith. This war can never be fought, let alone won, by forgetting about our individual humanity.
Solidarity is not always through publicized sorrow. Healing is not always through burning sage and reading names of our people taken. Grieving is not always a moment of silence. Mourning is not always through tears. Sometimes agony still manages to manifest through poetic words and statements of solidarity. Sometimes healing exists in clapbacks, dragging systems of violence and constantly channeling trauma into different forms of energy. Sometimes healing is marching in the streets, shutting shit down. Sometimes healing is passing a blunt and scrolling on Instagram. Sometimes our ways of feeling better exists in writing think pieces and statuses to explicate our truth because we don’t feel heard off of our timelines. Sometimes we don’t read the stories about the most recent tragedies because we are not desensitized to the pain enough to engage in it. Sometimes showing up to a vigil reminds us of the funerals we never make it to and reminds us of the mourning of our people we carry in our bodies every day. Sometimes pushing organization celebrity culture and activism industrial complexes as truth rather than realizing that we are individual people surviving, hurting, and moving through trauma only reiterates our dehumanization.
Instead of expecting people to react in certain ways to very deep despair, let’s hold on to the fact that most of our people are mourning every day of their lives. Death is nothing new for us. Trauma is nothing new for us. Moments like these — where very specific mass tragedies take more of our people — retraumatize us by the violence we see every day, incapacitate us by fear and violence or remind us to maintain numbness to survive.
If we choose to dance in the streets to remind ourselves of our worth and power, that’s okay. If we choose to drink and smoke a blunt with the people we love to decompress from the violence we experience every second of our lives, that’s okay. If we begin to drown in our pain, and our depression and soreness don’t allow for us to be in large open spaces, that’s okay. If we start a protest in our cities because we feel helpless and sometimes inconveniencing the world around us with our voices, our pain, our chants, and our songs, that’s okay. If we choose to push the tragedies away from our everyday reality because we know how debilitated we would be, that’s okay too. If we choose not to post statements, not to have public responses to tragedy as activists, as organizers, as people — that’s really okay.
We are not meant to have cookie cutter response systems to tragedy when we are the people being killed. We are looking in mirrors at funerals, echoing our pain when we speak the words of our stolen people and hearing audio feedback on every mic we put our lips to because it’s always too close to home.
We are not a monolith. Our pain, our grief, and our healing is not a monolith. Some of us may fall ill because we are in traumatic shock of the violence we constantly experience.
Some of us may disappear in our pain. Some of us might be destructive in our pain. Some of us may cry our eyes out and still manage to support everyone around us like it’s nothing. Some of us just want to demand our humanity be seen through protests, through twerking, through beats, through community power. Sometimes our magic and our resilience shows up in ways that conflict with one another or don’t make sense to one another.
But we are still valid in our pain, because like Audre Lorde told us, “We were never meant to survive.” And if we were never meant to survive, that means we were never meant to heal and move through trauma either. We as humans, as organizations, as communities are all figuring out how to move through constant violence and heartbreak minute by minute because we are never afforded peace, space or time. And when it comes to how we see each other through this pain, let us remember that we are individual people hurting above all else.