There are deaths that haunt me. Senseless ones that force me to reckon with the realities of our mortalities and times:
The murder of Michael Brown shook me. Then came Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, their deaths so utterly senseless. Their lives treated with such callousness. And then there had been Laquan McDonald, whose body had ricocheted off my screen [trigger warning] while the bullets did not. Shock had kept his body standing where mine had dropped to its knees on my bedroom floor. Sixteen bullets in the middle of a Chicago night for a Seventeen year old boy who had yet to live.
In the midst of all of this had been MarShawn McCarell—who, when faced with the realities of his existence, chose to leave. On February 8th, 2016, MarShawn killed himself on the steps of the Ohio State Capitol. He was 23, a Black Lives Matter Organizer, and a promising leader who said heaven wasn't worth waiting for if it meant living in hell. In one of his last tweets, he posted, "If we don't don't have to live through hell just to get to heaven. I'ma stay right here."
His death refuses to leave my side because I too have glimpsed the inescapable truth of the hatred and anger poured into Black bodies in America—and the weight it bears on your spirit. You see, racism in its insidious way involves a lie that every Black person must tell themselves each and every day. The lie asks that you erase yourself and your troubled history with this place as you move through the spaces you find yourself in. It asks you not to ask too many questions, or to expect the right answers; a complicitness in your own erasure as you listen to the evening news and hear a dominant culture's concerns regurgitated at you. It means growing accustomed to not seeing yourself in the things you consume and—consequently—the work of reminding yourself that you too are beauty, that you too are visible.
It is watching yourself killed in so many gratuitous ways, in so many places, day after day, with the heavy understanding of the history preceding this. That the killing fields have lightened their loads. That you, in this time and moment, are standing in a place of progress.
Yet you are not.
MarShawn McCarell took his life on the steps of the Ohio statehouse as a final act of protest against the injusices Black people in America are asked to live with daily. The love he felt and knew couldn't supersede the hatred of generations boiled down into this current place he found himself in. Like many, he was seeking resolution to this nightmare that is 400 years too long.
Our work, as healers, visionaries and record books to our present, is to dismantle a system that kills Michael Brown and MarShawn McCarell in different ways for the same thing. But within that, we must find spaces to breathe and love and be.
In Memory Of MarShawn McCarell.
Feature Image: Tampa, Florida. December 2015