I was surfing the internet and happened upon an article about a Rekia Boyd vigil in NYC that had an embarrassingly low turnout. I believe the numbers were less than a hundred people. I was surprised and disappointed to hear that such a large city who has been active in many other things movement related (I still struggle with the term “movement”…but that’s neither here nor there) had such a poor turnout for something so important. Then a couple days following I saw a post on Facebook about a march being held here in St. Louis for Black Women who’ve been killed by state violence. I was happy I saw it in enough time to make plans to attend, and happy that we were doing something here. I thought surely the turnout would be better…but then…if I’m completely honest, I had my doubts. Regardless of my doubts, I was hopeful and excited to be able to stand with my people and for my sisters and daughters who’ve been taken.
So I get downtown and am walking several blocks to the meeting spot. As I’m walking I’m looking around to see if I spot anyone I know or recognize to walk with. No one. I kept looking the entire walk because I knew that I would eventually spot someone who looked like they were going to the same place as me. I didn’t spot not one person the entire walk. It wasn’t until I got down to the arch, which is where we were to meet, that someone spotted me. A white woman. She noticed my “Unarmed Citizen” tee that I’d borrowed (thank God or I’d have been completely alone) and approached me. After meeting her (sidebar- every time I met a white person at the march I wasn’t sure if I should thank them for standing with us) but after meeting her, together we began running into people one or both of us recognized.
At first, the majority of the people there were white. This little old white lady approached me and asked if I was Loctavia Butler (my twitter handle, which she could not pronounce) and said she recognized me by my hair…*sigh* So more people, including my activist family, began to show up. There were still a great number of white people and women. At first, there were only two Black men, one being a photographer. I remember standing there thinking “man, there are a lot of white people here…did they organize this?” My next thought was “why am I not surprised that there are no Black men here?”
It’s funny how the lack of surprise doesn’t equal lack of disappointment. I was not the least bit surprised that Black men had not shown up to a march for Black women whose lives have been taken by state violence. I was, however, no less disappointed. It really made me think of my own personal letdowns, abandonments, and pain caused by Black men (that’s another story for another day though…). During the march, it was evident that I was not alone in my feelings. My sisters were embarrassed, angered, hurt, disappointed, and some even cried. I stood quietly, periodically nodding my head in agreement at their vents…I’ve become somewhat of a cynic in regards to this particular subject so I tend to be quiet about it.
My sisters were tweeting and telling us what was happening in their mentions…also not a surprise. Black women are not allowed for any reason to speak out against Black men. To do so does not go without consequence. It wasn’t until that night when I logged on Twitter that I both saw and experienced first hand the abuse from Black men toward Black women about speaking about them not supporting us.
At first I just retweeted, because again, this subject is quite personal for me and my voice is quite strong about it. I didn’t want to bring my personal views/situation into such a public space. There was, at one point, where I did make a comment and immediately someone hopped into my mentions and told me that the march (that they did not attend themselves) was poorly planned and the organizers should not have tried to divide Black men and women. He even went as far to say at the march (that he did not attend) that the organizers bashed Black men and shouldn’t have. I never engage trolls…but this one time I had to clarify some things.
His allegations were completely untrue. At least I thought I needed to…I ended up ignoring his nonsensical arguments. But I continued to watch as my sisters who were asking for the support of Black men get called out of their names, threatened, and accused of not being supportive of Black men…by Black men. We had white people saying how embarrassing and disappointing it is that Black men don’t support Black women enough and our very own Black men attacked us for asking for their support! I don’t even know how to make sense of that one…but it hurts.
Last night opened up very personal wounds for me. It was a reminder that no matter how much we love and support them, the chances are high that Black men will not reciprocate. And not only will they not reciprocate, but they expect us to bow out and be silent about it.