Strange Fruit

Postcard of the Duluth lynching: Wikipedia

Strange fruit litters the streets…

Billie Holiday featured image for Strange Fruit

At fourteen, a fight broke out next to my school bus. I watched as the other children pressed their faces against the window glass, eager to witness and cheer it on.

I was appalled, and I yelled.

At sixteen, an argument with my sister escalated into a fist fight.

I was amused, and I laughed. It was stupid, neither one of us could land a decent punch. My sister ran and told my mother. I told my mother I laughed because the violence was ridiculous. At twenty, I watched the world be baffled by the shooting of Trayvon Martin by a member of the gated community neighborhood watch. He was trying to keep his neighborhood safe, a word this society often associates with White.

I was silent.

While the rest of the country was distraught, I, like every other Black person in this country had a certain acceptance about the event. The only difference was, this time, the shooter, who would later be acquitted, got caught.

On the day I turned twenty-two, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Michael Brown’s killer would not be charged in his shooting. The reports stated “[t]here is no evidence upon which prosecutors can rely to disprove the stated subjective belief that [the accused] feared for his safety,” and that accounts that Brown put his hands up are “inaccurate because they are inconsistent with the physical and forensic evidence.”

I stayed in that night.

Over a year later, and we are months away from an election in which one of the candidates has mobilized and encouraged proactive hate and violence based on race, ethnicity, and nationality.

I joked on Sunday that this would be the last Fourth of July that I would be unashamed to be an American.

Yet, bang.

Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang.

I was on a boat watching fireworks. Hours later, Alton Sterling was dead.

Before I could process the death. Before I could post a hashtag, my feed filled with a new name.

A video of Philando Castile surfaced — “Stay with me” — his Black skin covered by a white shirt thick with red blood.

White hands in a blue shirt point a black gun.

Blue hands and bullets have broken black skin for centuries. The recent publicity has only been generated due to the fact that social media has made it impossible to ignore. Even when covered the events are often framed as “Police shootings,” what a cute name for murder.

I refuse to take part as our screens continue to flood of images of government excused and  supported violence against the Black community.

I will no longer watch Black people be slain. I will no longer speak the names of their killers. I will no longer type a hashtag asking for justice.

I will proactively support leaders, organizations, and legislation that protect the lives of minorities. I will pray that these stolen souls find peace. I will pray for their families and loved ones. I will pray for the safety of my unborn Black children.

The pride I once had for my country is catching fire leaving nothing but ashes and smoke of disillusion and sadness. Who could rally behind a symbol of white hands in blue uniforms spilling red blood, Black red blood?

561 people have been killed by the police so far this year, 136 of them were Black lives.Their names are listed below. Data provided by The Guardian.

Rest in Peace

July 2016

Philando Castile, 32, Minnesota
Alton Sterling, 37, Louisiana
Delrawn Small, 37, New York
Jai Williams, 35, North Carolina

June 2016

Kawme Patrick, 25, Ohio
Tyrone Reado, 50, Louisiana
Lafayette Evans, 37, Iowa
Sherman Evans, 63, District of Columbia
Germichael Kennedy, 22, Nebraska
Donte Johnson, 30, Illinois
Ismael Miranda, 36, New Jersey
Jay Anderson, 25, Wisconsin
Deravis Rogers, 22, Georgia
Angelo Brown, 35, Illinois
Quencezola Splunge, 44, Mississippi
Isaiah Core III, 20, Alabama
Antonio Richardson, 46, Michigan
Rashaun Lloyd, 25, New York
Clarence Howard, 25, Florida
Antwun Shumpert, 37, Mississippi
Michael Moore, 18, Alabama
John Williams, 61, Kentucky
Lyndarius Witherspoon, 27, Mississippi
Keith Bursey, 31, California
John Brisco, 52, Texas
Willis Walker Jr, 49, Virginia
Henry Green, 23, Ohio
Demarco Rhymes, 35, Alabama
Willie ‘Meek’ James, 43, Virginia
Rodney Smith, 18, North Carolina
Michael Johnson, 21, Georgia

May 2016

Osee Calix, 33, Arizona
Ollie Brooks, 64, Oklahoma
Devonte Gates, 21, Illinois
Terry Frost, 20, Ohio
Doll Pierre-Louis, 24, Florida
Vernell Bing Jr, 22, Florida
Michael Wilson Jr, 27, Florida
Joshua Beebee, 31, Nebraska
Kentrill Carraway, 22, Florida
Jessica Williams, 29,  California
Jabril Robinson, 23, Georgia
Arthur DaRosa, 28, Massachusetts
Jaffort Smith, 33, Minnesota
Arthur Williams Jr, 33, Texas
Lionel Gibson, 21, California
Alton Witchard, 37, Florida
Deresha Armstrong, 26, Florida
Burt Johnson, 38, Wisconsin
Reginald Dogan, 53, South Carolina
Charlin Charles, 25, Florida

April 2016

Ashtian Barnes, 25, Texas
Joshua Brooks, 26, Virginia
Willie Tillman, 33, Arkansas
Demarcus Semer, 21, Florida
Jorevis Scruggs, 15, Missouri
Rico Johnson, 28, Maryland
Demetrius Dorsey, 18, Georgia
Richard Bard Jr, 31, New Jersey
Kisha Arrone, 35, Ohio
George Tillman, 32, New York
Edson Thevenin, 38, New York
Robert Howard, 44, Maryland
Rodney Watts, 35, California
Pierre Loury, 16, Illinois
Quron Williams, 19, Pennsylvania
Diahlo Grant, 27, New Jersey
Lamont Gulley, 43, Michigan
Dazion ‘Jerome’ Flenaugh, 40, California
Laronda Sweatt, 40, Tennessee
Kevin Hicks, 44, Indiana
Darius Robinson, 41, Oklahoma
Cameron Glover, 30, Indiana

March 2016

Matthew Wood Jr, 43, Maryland
Kimani Johnson, 18, Maryland
James Simpson, 31, Nevada
James Brown III, 34, Virginia
Deriante Miller, 18, North Carolina
Jermon Seals, 22, Missouri
Dominique Silva, 24, Rhode Island
Alexio Allen, 30, Tennessee
Robert Dentmond, 16, Florida
Torrey Robinson, 35, Florida
Thurman Reynolds, 21, Illinois
India Beaty, 25, Virginia
Scott Bennett, 29, Texas
Christopher Nelms, 30, Texas
Lamar Harris, 29, Illinois
Jacai Colson, 28, Maryland
Peter Gaines, 35, Texas
Marco Loud, 20, Texas
Keith Montgomery Jr, 24, Pennsylvania
Tyre Privott, 25, Virginia
Arteair Porter Jr, 22, Nevada

February 2016

Akiel Denkins, 24, North Carolina
Kionte Spencer, 18, Virginia
Greg Gunn, 56,  Alabama
Cedric Ford, 38, Kansas
Christopher Davis, 21, Wisconsin
Travis Stevenson, 48, Louisiana
Marquintan Sandlin, 32, California
Kisha Michael, 31, California
Che Taylor, 47, Washington
Paul Gaston, 37, Ohio
Dyzhawn Perkins, 19, Virginia
Calvin Smith, 22, Louisiana
Calin Roquemore, 24, Texas
Ali Yahia, 29, Iowa
Sahlah Ridgeway, 32, New York
Peter Fanfan, 29, Massachusetts
Mohamed Barry, 30, Ohio
Jerand Ross, 24, Georgia
Shalamar Longer, 33, Pennsylvania
Eric Harris, 22, Louisiana
David Joseph, 17, Texas
Marese Collins, 23, Ohio
Wendell Celestine Jr, 37, California
Antronie Scott, 36, Texas
Randy Nelson, 49, Alabama
Peter John, 36, District of Columbia

January 2016

Charles Smith, 29, Illinois
Bruce Kelley Jr, 37, Pennsylvania
Randolph McClain, 33, Massachusetts
Christopher Dew, 29, Texas
Christopher Kalonji, 19, Oregon
Johnathan Bratcher, 32, Tennessee
Janet Wilson, 31, Michigan
Cedric Norris, 39, Oklahoma
Timothy Albert, 40,Louisiana
Crayton West, 52, Missouri
Henry Bennett, 19, Florida
Rakeem Bentley, 24, Michigan
Carlton Murphy Jr, 33, North Carolina
Rodney Turner, 22, Oklahoma
Eric Senegal, 27, Louisiana
Germonta Wallace, 30

Strange fruit litters the streets, blood on the leaves. God bless the land of the free.

Postcard of the Duluth lynching
Postcard of the Duluth lynching: Wikipedia

Editor’s Note:

The title of this article is inspired by Billie Holiday’s record with the same name. The song was inspired by the image (taken in 1920) above.

Written by Manny King John

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