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What I Discovered During My Author Journey
George Floyd’s murder was a pivotal moment for me. The generational trauma of being black in America was awakened from the compartment in my brain that I hid it in as a way navigate the world as a high functioning human being. The image of Gianna Floyd’s daughter, sitting on the shoulders former NBA star and activist Stephen Jackson, at a peaceful protest in honor of her father in 2020 triggered other memories.
In April 2016, I was going deep into the social media rabbit hole and began watching a video that made me pause. At first, I was unsure of what was happening, and then it became clear that I was watching the traffic stop of a black family. The family appeared to be cooperating with the police officer who seemed unnecessarily agitated. The father, who was sitting in the passenger seat conducted himself the way most black men have been taught-cautiously and respectfully. The officer asked for his identification and registration and the man carefully explained that he was reaching in the glove compartment but warned the officer that he had a license to carry, and that the weapon he legally owned was also inside the glove compartment. Out of nowhere the officer shot the father and I continued to watch in horror as his wife and four-year-old daughter were rendered helpless continued to be held at gunpoint by the erratic officer. The injured and lifeless father began to lean toward his wife who was unable to move, to comfort him as he slowly drifted into unconsciousness, for fear of being shot herself. Her pleas for help and understanding still rings in my ears so many years later. I am also haunted daily by the vision of their daughter, who was only four years old at the time. Throughout the entire incident, the little girl remained unbelievably calm. She begged her mother to stay calm so that they both could stay safe.
At this point, I’m shaking, and cannot control my tears. I thought, “This can’t be real? Why is this happening? Where is the ambulance? Why is the officer still yelling at the father and pointing his gun? Why isn’t anyone calling for help? Why won’t anyone remove the child and protect her from this awful scene?”
And just like that, Philando Castile became another hash-tagged name added to the endless list of victims of police brutality.
As a mother, I often think about his mother, Valerie Castile, and the daily struggle she goes through knowing the senseless way her son left this earth. I think about his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds, and how she is doing. How is she able to move forward and raise her little girl, Dae Anna, in a world that showed her exactly how unprotected, disrespected, and unloved we are? I think about how George Floyd, Daunte Wright and countless other victims called for their mothers-the most human thing anyone could do-in a moment of intense fear and pain. I look at my own daughter and I’m filled with the anxiety and sadness of the reality that I may not be able to protect her from the ugliness of racism.
And while I wrote “Zara’s Wash Day,” to empower children and their families with the knowledge of their “hairitage,” I’ve discovered throughout my author journey that I was writing a love letter to Gianna Floyd, Dae Anna Reynolds and all the families who suffered and continue to suffer. I wanted to celebrate us and uplift us with our heritage, by way of our “hairitage.” Every picture of a smiling child that is sent to me, is healing, and encouraging because the message of love, protection, empowerment and knowledge is being received exactly how it was intended. I am humbled to be able to walk in my purpose.