“We Must Begin Again: The Life Tamir Rice Gave”
Most of you probably remember the popular news report about the 12-year-old African American boy, by the name of Tamir Rice, who tragically died about six years ago. The Cleveland (Ohio) Police officer Timothy Loehmann killed the boy on November 22, 2014 because Tamir Rice was holding a replica toy Airsoft gun in his hand that threatened Mr. Loehmann’s life. A toy gun?
Tamir Rice died because he was perceived as and even believed to be a threat to the Officer. As a parent and father of two black boys, I was utterly disturbed, shocked, and even troubled in 2014 at the hearing of the unwarranted death of this young life that was taken away from his mother and father, siblings and friends, and classmates and from all of us, meaninglessly and mercilessly. In November 22, 2014, my son Joshua was then 9 years old, only three years younger than Tamir (Josh would have turned 10 in December 23, in the same year.); my other son Terrence was actually 11 years old, only one year apart—Tamir and Terrence’s ages were too close. After I related the message to them, I looked at them intently, attempting to hide both my tears and my anger. Josh said to me, “Dad, I already read in the news about the death of Tamir Rice.”
As most people of this nation continue to engage in critical self-reflection and the process of (personal and collective) conscientization, and protest Police brutality toward blacks, last week, as a member of this American nation, I was also reflecting about the fragility of black lives in the American society, in particular, of the innocent death of Tamir Rice; I was also thinking about the deep wound this nation is undergoing. As a result, I wrote a poem entitled “Liberté noire.” I dedicate the poem to Tamir Rice. Yet this poetic narrative is beyond Tamir; paradoxically, it is my labor of love made in intense agony, joy, and pain about the price of existence and freedom in black. As James Baldwin called us to this “moral responsibility” and urgent “future” task: We must build “a new nation” and “begin again” to save the wounded soul of America— only if we want to redeem ourselves and create a society characterized by justice, love, and peace, in which everyone is armed with the appropriate tools and resources to flourish and enjoy existence, rights, and freedom.
for Tamir Rice
Liberté noire has no beginning and no end.
Black liberty is not from the East, West, North, or from the South.
It was birthed in the mother land in pain;
grew in resistance in exile;
and triumphed over death in plantation homes.
Pain, resistance, and death are its roots;
its branches are painted with drops of sang noir that is life;
of collectable soufle noir that is sacred and God-like.
Liberté noire is deep in you and me.
Black freedom is for all of us.
Liberté noire cannot be restrained
nor should it be tamed by any hand;
God above, bid us to sing the Blues.
The devil below, woo us to dance with the crew.
We escaped the dance with death;
we sang the blues to tell the truth.
I heard a sorrow song, from the streets of Cleveland,
rising up from the lungs of Tamir Rice;
I heard a sorrow song, from Ferguson to Minneapolis,
coming deep from Michael Brown’s soul;
bathed in the blood of Amadou Diallo;
I looked around and saw Eric Garner and Michael Brown faded, losing their breaths.
I felt in the marrow of my bones voices and tears coming down,
from the mothers of Manuel Loggins Jr. and Ronald Madison;
deep like the depth of the ocean.
How many of US US US
In the name of the Father,
In the name of the Son,
In the name of the Holy Spirit.
giving us religion in pain;
offering our prayers in vain;
singing their songs with no end.
God made us black and shaped our soul;
we struggle in the dark to be in his light.
we fashioned a man, who is black and our Christ.
in our side, day and night.
God in black face called us to be,
directing our every step toward life,
planting in our hearts a new song of freedom,
walking as children who are free.
Liberté noire means BLACK LIBERATION without conditions.
Liberté noire cannot be hidden.
It is our coumbite to claim and finish;
step by step, together as one;
Natasha McKenna, Kendra James: show us the way;
Freddy Gray, Philando Castile, will light the torch;
We will fly;
in solidary, we are flying;
We will march;
stained by the blood of our righteous black brother and sisters, we are marching;
We will fight;
along the way, we are fighting in death valleys, when;
in all seasons, where;
in Cleveland, Maryland, Minneapolis, Kentucky, Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, Texas…
will I see your hands revolt?
Beneath the banner of liberté noire, we are marching,
Standing tall, the marginalized!
Rising up, my people!
Moving upward, the wretched of the United States!
to claim your freedom, lakou by lakou.
Liberté noire is a precious gem.
It cannot fade or die.
It blossoms, in all seasons.
for the common good;
for human flourishing; yet
the suffering that inhabits my people
knows no days and nights;
does it have a name?
the burden that my people bear
irritates our throat;
the thing around our neck bleeds,
the thing that hits our mouth agonizes,
the injury in our chest leaves a scar;
does it have a name?
toward you and me.
How many of ME ME ME
have been kidnapped, kidnapped, kidnapped…
auctioned, auctioned, auctioned….
sold, sold, sold….
tortured, tortured, tortured…
raped, raped, raped…
suffocated, suffocated, suffocated…
died, died, died…
Liberté noire must face its enemy.
Liberté noire is here to stay,
to deliver in times of disaster and calamity.
giving us, a new name;
clothing us, in royal robe;
we will finish the task of our FREEDOM;
we will embark on a new journey;
whether you’re Nigerian or African American,
live in Africa or the African Diaspora,
black or white,
Asian or brown,
mixed or yellow,
boy or girl,
male or female,
woman or man,
whether you’re from the North or from the South,
from the East or from the West,
there will be NO DISCRIMINATION.
All will be invited.
We’re going to create a global village.
We must begin again.
We must create a new nation.
Liberté noire will take us there.
Black freedom is for all of us.