Trayvon Martin will never get to go to college, find someone he loves, and have his mother and father watch him grow up to be a young man that puts some beauty in a world that desperately needs it.
Trayvon will never experience a 26th birthday where he would have a wealth of experiences that would assuredly get him ready for his third decade on Earth. And as I get older, many recent events have had me contend with mortality–the blessing of seeing another day and the feeling in my stomach when I hear another Black person has died. If it’s not a pandemic, it’s simply sleeping in your bed in your apartment where death can meet you sleeping.
Being Black in America feels like a battle with the clock, and there’s never enough time to do the things you want to do. It’s acknowledging a lingering feeling of survivor’s guilt along with an urgency to leave the world in a better place than you left it. Every day, there’s a reminder you are “beating the odds.”
On the 10th anniversary of his death, my heart breaks thinking about everything that Trayvon didn’t get to experience. Or that Breonna Taylor won’t become a nurse and dance to Mary J. Blige’s ‘Everything’ at her wedding as she wanted, and Ahmaud Aubrey isn’t going to become an electrician. Dreams averted when they didn’t have to be.
With Trayvon’s death, a movement started, but I fear that we say that too many times when it comes to Black people and loss of life. Black sons and daughters shouldn’t have to be on murals, posters, and slogans for the world to recognize racism is a problem. When I was younger, my mother sang Denice Williams’ Black Butterfly to me. These lyrics always stick out in my mind and one of the reasons why I write:
Black Butterfly, sail across the waters
Tell your sons and daughters
what the struggle brings
I’m no longer a caterpillar, but I’m still learning how to be a butterfly. I’m still telling these stories, but my heart feels a little heavier each time–thinking about all the others who don’t get to fly with me. We should celebrate milestones and not collect obituaries for those we have lost. Ten years later, it still messes with me that I’m speaking about Trayvon in the past tense. He should still be here–but with every triumph, smile, and piece of joy Black Americans experience in the face of extreme prejudice and racism, he is.