The “Actorvist” who went viral after playing dead in Philly’s Love Park pens an emotional essay on Ferguson.
For the past few days, I’ve been trying desperately to construct something meaningful to say … something articulate … something moving, profound and inspired … I’ve got nothing.
I’m not okay! How could I be? Why would I be? If I were okay, what would that say about me? Are you okay? What does that say about you?
I am not okay, but I am hurt … disgusted … ashamed. Lately, I’ve gotten pretty creative in finding new ways to keep myself from crying … new ways of not screaming and peeling off my skin each time someone asks: “Are you ok?” (I’ve never been a fan of ‘cute cat’ vine videos, but hey they’ve helped.)
I’ve found new ways of coping with extreme feelings of helplessness, mainly by thrusting myself into schoolwork or any other activity to occupy what little brain space I have left. This kind of helplessness is debilitating… it’s crippling.
This week I’ve been reminded of the harsh reality that exists in this country: black men, women and babies are not afforded the opportunity to cry, grieve or mourn the way that our white counterparts do. Instead, we have to traverse through pain and devastation ‘fighting the good fight,’ seeking justice, continuously having to prove that our pain is valid, palpable, real and RELEVANT.
I can’t help but fear that after the smoldering ashes in Ferguson and the echoing voices of so many thousands marching in cities across the nation have died out, will we return to America as usual. I can’t help but fear that once the initial shock of this injustice wears off, we’ll fall silent again until the next unarmed black man is murdered.
It’s sickening to know that a Police Department, who claimed its annual budget didn’t allow for officers to wear body cameras while on duty, had the finest and shiniest new military tanks and toys. This week I accepted what America has been telling me and people who look like me for generations: black lives are dispensable … expendable. For a very long time I didn’t want to accept that. I had this thorn in my side called hope. As I listened to the announcement of the grand jury’s decision, my heart sank into the deepest part of my chest.
I was embarrassed. Embarrassed at the fact that I knew in my heart what the outcome would be, but I’d hoped beyond all logic that there might be justice manifested for a black man … justice that would extinguish the rage of a nation and temporarily quell the agony of an unheard people.
A quick fix it might have been, but I needed it. We needed it. I was willing to play the junkie for just this one moment in time; until I could think straight or see clearly; until we could regroup … it’s what we needed.
I was disgusted with myself. I wanted to crawl up into a ball and cry. Then I got angry … really angry!
I thought about how every time I see a police car or uniform, my stomach drops and I have that overwhelming sensation of impending doom, like being called to the principal’s office or breaking your mother’s good china.
I’ve imagined the phone call my mother or sisters would get if I was the next unarmed victim gunned down by a trigger happy cop who couldn’t look far enough past the color of my skin to see my worth and the full life that would be ended if he acted “reasonably.”
I’ve imagined what dirt the media would dig up, what stories they’d run, what pictures they’d used. (There was that one time when I was 9 and I ate a piece of candy in the grocery store before got to the register and paid for it.)
I’m sure my white friends don’t have these same thoughts or fears for their children. The same suffocating fear that haunts your daily existence, threatening your own life or mocking you with each passing moment… whispering that Mike Brown, John Crawford, or Tamir Rice could have been you, your son, brother, father, husband or friend.
In reality, I am these men and they are me.
Lately it’s been unbelievably hard to care about anything else other than the faces of murdered black men, women and children whose lives were taken at the hands of police. I don’t care about anything else other than the thousands of protestors (of ALL colors) who are marching for justice and crying out to be heard, but are tear gassed and smoke bombed and shot with rubber bullets. I don’t care about anything else other than this national turmoil and, what seems to be, a lack of empathy from those in a position to protect citizens and our constitutional liberties.
This country is erupting. I implore you to act now! Don’t wait for another Mike Brown headline. Don’t wait for a phone call of your own.
Be on the right side of history. Seek justice. March. Protest. Have the difficult conversations you’ve been avoiding. Educate yourself. Educate others. Be an ally for those who need it most. Be a shoulder for someone to cry on. Listen. Speak. But whatever you do… don’t remain silent. Fight!
by Mr. Keith Wallace
Thanks for reading!
Mr. Keith Wallace is a Philadelphia native and a self-proclaimed ‘actorvist’. He writes, directs, acts and makes short films. He is currently studying in the MFA professional actor training program at UCSD.