No Longer Laughing: Jerry Seinfeld and the End of Fandom

In 2002, TV Guide named Seinfeld the “greatest television show of all time.”** During the show’s nine seasons, I watched it almost religiously; it was literally “must see TV.”
I enjoyed all of the characters–Jerry, Elaine, Kramer, and especially George–as well as Seinfeld’s/Larry David’s irreverent way of looking at the world. I have seen almost every episode of this show and have most of them memorized. From time-to-time, I still watch the old shows if I run into an episode while flipping through the channels. I did, that is, until February when I saw a BuzzFeed Brews interview with Jerry Seinfeld during which he derisively dismissed a question about diversity and his internet show, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”

Honestly, I had never seen an episode of Seinfeld’s internet program prior to watching this interview. (Subsequently, I did watch a couple of episodes in preparation to write this post.) But this was not a new criticism for Seinfeld. On the old Seinfeld show, some critics pointed out its lack of racial diversity. The main characters and the majority of the recurring characters and guest stars were white, but I was never concerned about that. I had watched established shows with predominantly white/all white casts attempt to insert people of color, and it just seemed awkward and disingenuous. Besides, I was often uncomfortable with Seinfeld‘s depiction of African Americans in the episodes where they made an appearance.

I even endured Seinfeld’s support of his former cast mate, Michael Richards, after his very public meltdown on stage at The Laugh Factory in 2006. However, his racist diatribe against black audience members, laden with racial epithets and lynching imagery, was the reason that I refused to purchase the Seinfeld show’s DVD set. I was not about to let “Kramer” get one thin dime of my money.

It seemed that my fandom knew no bounds until the BuzzFeed interview. Although the interviewer, business editor Peter Lauria, was quite deferential to Seinfeld, he gingerly brought up the fact that “most of the guests are mostly white males.” Whether he was feigning anger or genuinely annoyed, Seinfeld relayed that this “really pisses me off.” He asserted that he had “no interest in gender or race or anything like that.” Folks who brought up those issues were simply “anti-comedy” with their “PC nonsense.” Well, he didn’t pull a “Kramer,” but Jerry Seinfeld’s comments were defensive and dismissive. He was unwilling to consider, even for a moment, that it was a valid criticism. Perhaps Lauria was just being ironic when he asserted that the interview would be “a very serious and earnest conversation.”

Clearly, Seinfeld doesn’t feel the need to think about or respond to racialized or gendered “others.” According to him, his only concern is comedy. But humor, like beauty, is subjective.  Maybe Jerry Seinfeld said it best when he said if “you’re funny, I’m interested.” Well, I’m no longer laughing, so I’m not interested.

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**A subsequent list in 2013 listed The Sopranos as “the best series of all time.”

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Foto Friday: Sojourner Truth

In honor of Black History and Women’s History months, 2 Dope Sistahs will be posting photos of our visits to historical sites on Foto Fridays. This week’s pictures are from Battle Creek, Michigan, where anti-slavery and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth lived for more than twenty years.

Sojourner Truth carte de visite

Sojourner Truth carte de visite, sold to support herself.

Sojourner Truth (c. 1797-November 26, 1883) was born into slavery in Ulster County, New York at the end of the 18th century. Known as Isabella (or Isabella Baumfree/Bomefree), she freed herself (walked away) from slavery in 1826. An advocate for abolition and women’s rights, she changed her name to Sojourner Truth in 1843. Truth’s narrative, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, is available on the web and can be downloaded free of charge. Click here.

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Sojourner Truth Monument in Battle Creek, Michigan

12-foot statue of Sojourner Truth at Monument Park

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Sojourner Truth’s signature, from April 1880, Sojourner Truth Monument

Sojourner Truth was unable to read and write, but the above is a representation of her signature.

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Headstone, Oak Hill Cemetery, Battle Creek, Michigan

Sojourner Truth is buried at the Oak Hill Cemetery. This stone marker was installed in 1946 by the Sojourner Truth Memorial Association. It replaced the original gravestone.

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Historical marker, Oak Hill Cemetery

Several members of Truth’s family are also buried in Oak Hill Cemetery.

Underground Railroad Memorial

Underground Railroad Memorial

Although it honors Harriet Tubman and other Underground Railroad “conductors” rather than Sojourner Truth, I decided to include the above picture. This 14-foot statue is also located in Battle Creek.

Wacky Wednesday: Oscar Snubs

Black Twitter exploded with joy when the film 12 Years a Slave won three Academy Awards on Sunday night. Nominated in nine categories, it won in three–Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, and Best Motion Picture of the Year.fruitvalestation

Often, however, our favorite movies go unnoticed. This year, for example, Fruitvale Station, received no nominations at all. Based on the life of Oscar Grant, who was killed by Bay Area police in 2009, the film stars Michael B. Jordan and Octavia Spencer.

My favorite movie of all time, The Color Purple, was ColorPurplenoticed. Adapted from the Alice Walker novel of the same name, it was nominated for eleven Academy Awards in 1986 but won nothing. For me, this was the ultimate snub. Directed by Stephen Spielberg, this movie had so many great artists associated with it–Whoopi Goldberg (Best Actress), Oprah Winfrey (Best Supporting Actress), Margaret Avery (Best Supporting Actress), Menno Meyjes (Screenplay), and Quincy Jones, et. al. (Best Music, Original Score). How could it not win?

Well, I could go on all day, but I’d like to know what you think. What films/actors/actors deserved Academy Awards but got snubbed instead?

Still talking about Slavery in 2013: Why 12 Years a Slave Now?

If you watched the Academy Awards last night, you may be luxuriating in the afterglow of 12 Years a Slave’s Best Writing, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Motion Picture wins. Therefore, I thought it was a good time to revisit Da Hype 1‘s post on slave narratives. To her credit, she realized the importance of 12 Years a Slave some time ago.

Why We Write/Talk about Slavery

Harriet Jacobs, author of The Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Harriet Jacobs, author of The Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

I have been teaching African American literature for more than a decade now. During this time, I have taught a number of narratives that address the subject matter of slavery. In fact, during Fall semesters, I teach a course called The Slave Experience. When teaching these courses, my students and I often discuss, “Why it is important to continue to write/talk about slavery?” This question has arisen in the mainstream media and in social media lately, with the movie release of Solomon Northrup’s narrative, 12 Years a Slave.

I teach about the subject matter of America’s institution of slavery for a number of reasons, but the one that seems to be the most pronounced for me and for my students is the fact that we (others who study slavery and other human atrocities) want to be connected to, give voice to, and honor the humanity of those who have been robbed of the status of “human.” My classes are filled with students who elect to take a course on slavery that is not required because they genuinely believe that by better understanding the experience of American slavery, they will be better citizens and better humans. For me, this is what education in the humanities is all about.

Writing/Righting the Accounts of Slavery

Below, you will find a list of some accounts of slavery. I decided to list both fictional and non-fictional accounts because there is so much to learn from them both.

Traditional/Conventional Slave Narratives

Frederick Douglass, author of A Narrative in the Life of Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass, author of A Narrative in the Life of Frederick Douglass

This list consists of narratives written by or dictated by slaves themselves, once they escaped bondage. Those who were incapable of writing themselves, often received help from others to chronicle their experiences. These narratives were primarily written as a way of validating (or give witness to) the horrors of slavery, in hopes that the escaped slave’s story could support the abolitionists in emancipating all of those still enslaved.

The conventions of the writing reveals that those who escaped were gracious enough to not only tell their personal stories, but they also wanted to give voice to all who were still silenced and victimized by slavery. They had to tell the stories of how they escaped carefully, without revealing too many details of those who aided them to “freedom”. Assisting a slave in escaping slavery was a federal crime and it could result in prison time or worse for all of those caught participating.

This is only a short list of slave narratives:

  1. Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano (1789)
  2. Mary Prince, The History of Mary Prince (1831)
  3. Frederick Douglass, A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845)
  4. Henry Bibb, Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb, an American Slave, Written by Himself (1849)
  5. Henry Box Brown, Narrative of Henry Box Brown, Who Escaped from Slavery Enclosed in a Box 3 Feet Long and 2 Wide (1849)
  6. Josiah Henson, The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself (1849)
  7. Solomon Northrup,12 Years a Slave (1853)
  8. Harriet Wilson, Our Nig (1859)
  9. William Craft, Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom; or, The Escape of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery (1860)
  10. Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861)

Neo-slave Narratives

Gayl Jones's Corregidora

Gayl Jones’s Corregidora

Not to be confused with conventional or traditional slave narratives, the genre of literature often called the “neo-slave” narrative, consists of works of fiction that address the institution of slavery. Generally speaking, there are two types of neo-slave narratives: a.) works that have the institution of slavery as its setting, and b.) works that revisit slavery within a contemporary context.

Oftentimes, the narratives were based on actual documented accounts of slavery, as in the case of Beloved, which is loosely based on the experiences of Margaret Garner. These contemporary writers took the opportunity to address, without the rules and conventions of the 19th century, the realities of slavery that perhaps the traditional slave narratives could not. For example, 19th century works of fiction could not explicitly address the sexual violence black women experienced in slavery because the writers did not want to jeopardize the Abolitionist Movement by offending supporters of the movement with their stories of being raped by white slave masters. After all, no one wanted to address the rape culture that existed in American Slavery.

Octavia Butler's Kindred

Octavia Butler’s Kindred

Below, you will find a list of some neo-slave narratives. This list is, by no way, exhaustive:

  1. William Wells Brown, Clotel (1853)
  2. Margaret Walker, Jubilee (1960)
  3. Gayl Jones, Corregidora (1975)
  4. Alex Haley, Roots (1976)
  5. Ishmael Reed, Flight to Canada (1976)
  6. Octavia Butler, Kindred (1979)
  7. Sherley Anne Williams, Dessa Rose (1986)
  8. Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987)
  9. J. California Cooper, Family (1991)
  10. Toni Morrison, A Mercy (2008)

Please share with us your experiences reading these narratives.

Gridiron Soap Opera: Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito

Image courtesy of arkorn/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Image courtesy of arkorn/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

With the release of Ted Wells’ report (February 14) on misconduct within the Miami Dolphins’ organization, I decided it was time to revisit my November post on Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito.

I first heard about the Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito story a few weeks ago on a local sports radio station. As I recall, it was presented in this way: On October 28, a Miami Dolphins player (Martin) had quit the team because he could no longer take the razzing from his teammates, who referred to him as a “weirdo.” I snickered and shook my head. That seemed innocuous enough. A grown man should be able to take that. In fact, my immediate thought was, He needs to suck it up.

As this story continued to unfold, my thoughts on the matter evolved as well. Now there seems to be much more to it than name calling and locker room hijinks. When Jonathan Martin left the team, he sought treatment at a hospital for emotional distress due to the sustained harassment. Coach Joe Philbin visited Martin during his brief stay in the hospital, but he did not “name names” nor make specific charges. Later, however, Martin’s agent released text and voice mail messages from Richie Incognito that included racial epithets and violent threats toward Martin’s family. After initially brushing off the incidents that led Martin to leave the team, the Dolphins organization responded by suspending Incognito indefinitely.

On October 28, according to Incognito, he and fellow offensive linesmen decided to pull a prank on Martin. When Martin came to join them during lunch, they all got up and left, leaving Martin alone at the table. As a result of this juvenile act, Martin threw his tray to the floor and left. In an interview by Fox’s Jay Glazer that aired on November 10, Incognito insists that his “actions were coming from a place of love.” When asked about the effect the endless ribbing was having on Martin, Incognito–model citizen that he is–feigned ignorance. He insisted that no one knew Martin was having a problem. And if they had known that Martin was being hurt by all of the schoolboy antics, they would have stopped. Despite his use of offensive language toward a black teammate–e.g., calling Jonathan Martin a nigger–he viewed Martin as a “close friend” and a “brother.” And he denied being a racist.

Incognito’s interview echoed the responses given by teammates last week. They described the well-known troublemaker, who was released from his college team (Nebraska) and his first professional team (St. Louis Rams) for issues relating to his documented anger management problems, as a good guy; a leader in the locker room; best of friends and like a big brother to Martin; and, incredulously, an honorary black man.

Jonathan Martin’s attorney released a statement (prior to Incognito’s Fox interview) charging that “Jonathan endured harassment that went far beyond the traditional locker room hazing.” He even “endured a malicious physical attack” from a teammate.

Certainly, those of us who are outside the locker room can never really know what goes on inside the locker room, but I smell a cover-up. People are readily coming to Richie Incognito’s aid and casting him as the “good guy” in this gridiron soap opera. Jonathan Martin may not exactly be the “bad guy,” but he is at least being cast as the “soft” guy or perhaps the mentally unstable guy.

Instead of questioning the culture of the NFL, many people are questioning Martin’s football and mental “toughness,” using his background as evidence of his unsuitability for professional football. Three generations of his family had attended Harvard. He attended an elite prep school. He attended Stanford University, which is not a typical football factory, on a football scholarship and studied the classics. He has discussed his desire to attend Harvard Law School. So, maybe he was not meant for the hard knocks life of the NFL.  But Martin’s lawyer contends that “toughness is not an issue.”

The NFL is currently investigating the circumstances that led Martin to leave his team which will, perhaps, bring clarity to this situation. To me it doesn’t matter whether Martin left because of sustained childish pranks or more sinister harassment. He has that right to say enough is enough. To paraphrase the late Pro Bowl safety Sean Taylor: These are men being paid a king’s ransom to play a kid’s game. So far, Martin seems to be one of the few adults in this matter.

Related Links

Foto Friday: Sojourner Truth

In honor of Black History Month, 2 Dope Sistahs will be posting pictures of our visits to historical sites on Foto Fridays. This week’s posts are from Battle Creek, Michigan, where Sojourner Truth lived for more than twenty years.

Sojourner Truth carte de visite

Sojourner Truth carte de visite, sold to support herself.

Sojourner Truth (c. 1797-November 26, 1883) was born into slavery in Ulster County, New York at the end of the 18th century. Known as Isabella (or Isabella Baumfree/Bomefree), she freed herself (walked away) from slavery in 1826. An advocate for abolition and women’s rights, she changed her name to Sojourner Truth in 1843. Truth’s narrative, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, is available on the web and can be downloaded free of charge. Click here.

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Sojourner Truth Monument in Battle Creek, Michigan

12-foot statue of Sojourner Truth at Monument Park

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Sojourner Truth’s signature, from April 1880, Sojourner Truth Monument

Sojourner Truth was unable to read and write, but the above is a representation of her signature.

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Headstone, Oak Hill Cemetery, Battle Creek, Michigan

Sojourner Truth is buried at the Oak Hill Cemetery. This stone marker was installed in 1946 by the Sojourner Truth Memorial Association. It replaced the original gravestone.

SojournerTruth6

Historical marker, Oak Hill Cemetery

Several members of Truth’s family are also buried in Oak Hill Cemetery.

Underground Railroad Memorial

Underground Railroad Memorial

Although it honors Harriet Tubman and other Underground Railroad “conductors” rather than Sojourner Truth, I decided to include the above picture. This 14-foot statue is also located in Battle Creek.

Foto Friday: Springfield Race Riot

In honor of Black History Month, 2 Dope Sistahs will be posting pictures of our visits to historical sites for Foto Friday. We begin today, one day early, with photos I took in Springfield, Illinois, home of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Springfield, Illinois was the site of a race riot in August 1908. The outrage from the riot led to the creation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909.

A scene from the Springfield Race Riot

A scene from the Springfield Race Riot

Please click here for more on the history of the race riot.

"Acts of Intolerance"

“Acts of Intolerance”

This sculpture by Preston Jackson was inspired by photographs of the riot’s aftermath.

Springfield Race Riot marker

Springfield Race Riot marker

Historical marker, Union Square Park, Springfield, Illinois.

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Close-up of sculpture.

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Close-up of sculpture.

Much Ado About Nothing: Richard Sherman’s Post-Game Interview

Image courtesy of arkorn/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Image courtesy of arkorn/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

I watched last week’s NFC Championship game between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers. At the end of the 4th quarter, with his team down by 6 points, 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick drove his team down the field. But the 49ers’ comeback was thwarted when a pass thrown to wide receiver Michael Crabtree was tipped by Seahawks’ cornerback Richard Sherman to linebacker Malcolm Smith. Interception. At that point, as far as I was concerned, the game was over. “My” team was going to lose (23-17), so I changed the channel.

Later, when I was on Twitter, I began to see references to Richard Sherman’s post-game interview. (I remember the announcers discussing Sherman’s path from Compton-to Stanford University-to the NFL during a game earlier in the season, but, to be perfectly honest, I didn’t know him from Adam.) Some were attacking his so-called “classless” behavior, calling him a “thug,” an “ape,” and even a “nigger.” Others were being supportive of him. And I wondered, What on earth did he say? I imagined all manner of socially unacceptable language and behavior, but I decided not to investigate. I just wasn’t in the mood to be angry.

On Monday morning this story still had legs, so I reluctantly read an on-line article that was critical of Sherman’s in game antics–which included giving the 49ers’ quarterback the “choke” sign–and his post-game interview. I braced myself for something outrageous, but what I saw almost humorous. Perhaps I had only seen a clip of what had to be a longer interview. I couldn’t find any reason why people would be upset. Sherman was excited after the game, and he engaged in some very mild trash-talking. Come now, calling someone “sorry”? Well, I’ve heard worse trash-talk than that during a game of Spades. This was clearly “much ado about nothing.”

Yes, it was “much ado about nothing,” but this situation exposes the schizophrenic nature of how football is framed and the ugliness of racism. The NFL cultivates this “hard knocks” image of tough guys who hit hard. Players are sometimes referred to as soldiers, warriors, or gladiators, invoking the image of being engaged in a life-or-death struggle. They put their well-being on the line in a physical, brutal game where serious game-ending/season-ending/career-ending injuries can happen every week. At the same time, however, the league also attempts to cultivate a “family-friendly” image, especially when nearing “the big game,” the Super Bowl. (Janet Jackson, anyone?) Less “hard knocks” more Disneyland. So, Sherman was fined by the NFL and pilloried by others.

It’s clear to me that the league wants those raw, adrenaline-filled reactions in the post-game interviews. Otherwise, why not allow players to go to the locker room, shower, and field questions in the post-game press conference only?

“Much ado about nothing” except that in what is often described as a level playing field (sports), some people that earn their livelihood covering football (media) called Sherman a thug, even though he did nothing criminal. Sherman was boisterous; he may have even been annoying, but his behavior was certainly not outside the limits of “normal” football behavior. Yet, some fans, who consume the game for their entertainment, felt justified in using racial epithets to describe him.

If you ask me, we shouldn’t be debating Sherman’s words or actions, even if our attempt is to explain them or defend him. We should be discussing why people who consume the NFL for profit or entertainment saw fit to trot out tired tropes and negative stereotypes about blackness, to use vile racial epithets, or to use code words like thug, “as a substitute for the n-word,” to describe Sherman. That is what is classless.

Teaching and the Power to Disrupt: Notes on Shannon Gibney

Image courtesy of criminlatt/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of criminlatt/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

disrupt– to interrupt the normal course

If someone were to ask me why I teach, I would probably have a two-part answer. First, I have always loved school, so teaching just comes naturally to me. It provides me with an opportunity to do the things that I love–research, reading, and writing. Second, and perhaps more importantly, I love the fact that education has the power to disrupt. In fact, I think it is my job to disrupt students’ thinking.

When you mentally wrestle with a difficult topic–whether it is calculus or philosophy–it may blow your mind at first. Once you begin to understand, you can pick up the pieces of your mind and rearrange them, but you are never quite the same again. This thinking process can be uncomfortable, but it is a necessary exercise in order to learn.

disrupt–to interfere with an activity

I have been thinking about these ideas of discomfort and disruption since December when I read about Shannon Gibney, an assistant professor of English and African Diaspora Studies at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC), who was disciplined by the college for making white students feel uncomfortable. Gibney’s discussion of structural racism in her Introduction to Mass Communications class was interrupted by students, three young white men, because they objected to the subject matter and did not want to discuss it. Although Gibney attempted to explain the importance of the topic within the context of the course, the students were unsatisfied with her response. Finally, after repeated interruptions, she explained that the students were free to file a complaint if they desired. And they did. Then, in an ironic turn of events, Prof. Gibney received a formal reprimand which asserted that she had created a “hostile learning environment” and ordered her to attend diversity training, thus modeling and reifying the very structure that she had attempted to discuss in her class.

When I read about what happened to Gibney and watched the video of her response, I was sick to my stomach. It was a familiar uneasiness, a queasy feeling that is fueled by experience. My research on the structural violence of American medicine has often made people “uncomfortable” whenever I present academic papers. Discussions of race and critical race theory have elicited hostile responses from students in my American and African American history classes. Therefore, I could see myself–and quite frankly all of the other black women professors I know–in Gibney. How many times had students like hers disrupted my class? How many times had I complained on the phone to my mentor and friends about the naked disrespect shown towards me in my own classroom? How many times have students questioned me about whether I have a PhD or not (as if not having one would discredit me), sometimes while I was sitting in my office, at my desk, directly under my Doctor of Philosophy degree hanging on the wall.

If the college experience does no more than reaffirm the ideology that students already hold, they haven’t truly been educated. The actions taken by MCTC undermine Prof. Gibney’s authority and expertise in the classroom, making it impossible for her to tell “the most dangerous, and therefore liberating kind of truth.” The college has taken the power to disrupt minds and create critical thinkers and turned it over those who only wanted to interrupt and interfere with the successful running of the course.

Related Posts

Tressie McMillan Cottom, The Discomfort Zone, 3 December 2013.

Katie McDonough, Three White college Students File Racial Discrimination Complaint against Professor over Lesson on Structural Racism, 2 December 2013.

Aaron Rupar, Shannon Gibney Controversy: Petition Accuses MCTC of ‘institutional racism,” 9 December 2013.

The Worst Moments of 2013

Da Hype 1

Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin

There were a number of really rough moments for me in 2013, but the absolute worst moment has to be the announcement of the Trayvon Martin verdict. (See 2DS posts on “Keep Calm” and “From Don Imus to George Zimmerman”) It was really difficult for me to grapple with the reality that George Zimmerman had not been convicted of murdering this young boy, who was guilty of “walking while black.” It felt as if a heap of new injustices had fallen on black people. I felt suffocated and was depressed. It didn’t help that the verdict was followed by a number of deaths of young black women and men who were shot and killed while knocking on white people’s doors, seeking help (e.g. Renisha McBride and Jonathan Ferrell).

The Martin verdict was announced while I was celebrating 100 years of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Angie Stone, India Irie, and Patti Labelle each took the stage, and all three felt compelled to recognize his life. As news of the verdict spread throughout the crowd, the crowd shuttered in utter surprise. We were hurt.

That night, I was delighted to see my favorite singers, ecstatic to celebrate with my sorority sisters, but in pain for the Martin family in particular, and for black people in general. So, I cried in the middle of a concert.

Da Realist 1

The Trayvon Martin case–the lead-up to the trial, the trial itself, and the reaction to it–was difficult for me as well. I wrote about it at least three times last year. No matter how many times I hear awful stories like his–and it happens far too often–I am always deeply affected by how much black life is devalued.

Da Realist1, Jesse, and me in front of W.E.B. DuBois statue on Fisk University's campus

Da Hype 1, Jesse, and Da Realist 1 in front of the W.E.B. DuBois statue at Fisk University

However, my worst moment was when I found out that Jesse, one of my best friends, had died. Both Da Hype 1 and I wrote about our friendship with Jesse last year. (See 2DS posts I Had Such a Friend, For Jesse, & Foto Friday: Someone You Love).

On May 20, 2013, Da Hype 1 called me crying and screaming  unintelligibly. I had to get her to calm down so that I could understand her. She was so upset because she had just received a message that Jesse had passed away. For some reason I thought she had misunderstood the message. Jesse was in the hospital awaiting a liver transplant. He’d had a surgery (for some other issue), but he was not dead. He was getting better, stronger, right? I don’t remember whether she read me her message or if I looked on my phone and saw the same message, but I felt like someone had knocked the air out of me. After that, we continued to talk. I attempted to console Hype the best I could. She was in her car, and she still had to drive home.

Somehow we managed to pull ourselves together. Hype drove home safely, and I just sat on the couch staring into space for a long time thinking about my friend. I will never forget Hype’s heart-piercing scream that day. It broke my heart.