Friday, April 6, 2007
For Antwanisha Morgan: Communities Anguish Over Murders and Justice.
The 'interlocking systems of domination' don't mean shit when pitted against the caskets of dead Black girls.
Hip Hop feminist Joan Morgan once wrote that "departed colored girls are the ghettos given". Seventeen-year-old Antwanisha Morgan is San Franisco's latest high profile murder. Killed on March 17th in what's being described by local authorities as a case of mistaken identity, Ms. Moragn's murder is mobilizing many residents in San Francisco's Bayview to rally around senseless violence. Articles in the Chronicle are calling for justice, while community folk in the area are rallying city officials to offer more afterschool initiatives.
But it's so much more complicated than that. So much more complex than candle light vigils and horse drawn carriages carrying the corpses of innocent Black girls. I mean, don't get me wrong, that's all part of it. But how does a community fight for justice when its most feared are people who look like them? And what is "justice" to a community that has barely ever known a moment of peace? To a city with a police department with an abysmal record of unsolved murder cases?
The end of this month will mark the 17th anniversary of my sister's murder, so I guess I'm speaking as someone left behind in all the madness. Her murder was plastered across the front page of papers, my mother was interviewed then and years later to bring publicity to the case, reward posters for "information leading to the arrest and conviction of the persons responsible" are sometimes still seen throughout the city. For Ms. Morgan's family's sake, I sincerely hope that her tragedy isn't met with the same weary indignation that my sister's was, as an unfortunate tally, a number, a statistic. Because eventually the headlines fade, the "In Memory" t-shirts grow too small, and you learn to count time based on how many years your loved one hasn't seen.
Shit gets so complex when I've got family members getting alliegences to a city tattoed on their hands while that same city has relentlessly wreaked havoc on our family for nearly three generations. Because it's those same tattoed hands that sit in handcuffs at least once a month in court appointed sanctions for petty crimes. It's my mother who, working for theTransit agency, gets belittled by "sexism", "racism", "classism" and "ageism" (otherwise known as the prices of humanity for black working class women) on the daily. I don't know if she's more afraid of the people she works for or the kids along the newly cemented T-Line that runs along Third Street and have tagged it "T, for target practice". Maybe she's afraid for them, not of them. How do you call hell your home and still muster up the strength the pay homage to all those who've literally died for your right to be here? How do you try to articulate this shit in a Feminist Theory class? Hell, I could go on to get a Ph.D. in Feminist Studies, lead a march of queer women of color on Washington mall and my mother would still know more about being a Black womanistfeministactivistwoman than I could ever imagine. So here's my frustration as Black woman on a search to find a language with which to articulate my community's pain: that I can sit in a three hour seminar every week learning about the theoretical approaches to intersectionality and can barely find the words with which to speak to my mother about either her work or her dead daughter.
The truth is that I fucking hate San Francisco for every child who's been murdered there, for every family that will meet frutilessly with police detectives for the next twenty years, for every community member who will be mobilized during their time of grief and then bused out to Treasure Island or Richmond to make room for yuppies' luxury apartments within close distance to the Ballpark.
I'm left with this quote, that I half-heartedly started off with. It's Joan Morgan (no relation) writing on how she interpreted Ntonge Shange's "for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf":
"It didn't matter that I didn't know a damn thing about suicide. Death, yes -- since departed colored firls are part of the ghetto's given -- but none of them had left in ways so exotic as checking out under their own volition. But I reasoned the play had something to do with being black, female and surviving -- and those were intuitive, if not conscious concerns for any ten-year-old colored girl growing up in the South Bronx 'round 1975."
Surviving is only half the battle.