by Martina “Mick” Powell
I have been impatiently holding my breath for sixteen long, long months, awaiting George Zimmerman’s trial. Sixteen months. 67 weeks from that specific night. 469 days. And 469 times I have let myself breathe momentarily only to suck the air back in, quickly and uncontrollably, because of my persisting panic as I watch my now-eighteen year old brother leave the house. He walks into a world that hates him (and when I follow him, I step into the same world). In my mind, I put him in Florida, miles away from our Connecticut home. I put him in that symbolic hoodie on that significant night.
The thought of my now-twenty-two year old brother in the American South has crossed my mind 469 times. I make him Trayvon. I put him in that symbolic hoodie. In my heart, I hold vigils for him, lighting shallow white candles and whispering small prayers that I hope will send his soul somewhere safe and somewhere warm. President Obama says, “If I had a son, he’d look like him.”
As the jury selection process begins, I watch anxiously and have small, fleeting bits of hope. My hopefulness disappears when a Fox News guest suggests that Trayvon Martin was armed on the night of his death—that, potentially and hypothetically, an iced tea bottle can be transformed into a lethal weapon. My hopefulness disappears when my grandmother, with little knowledge or understanding of the case, tells me that I shouldn’t be worried about a person I don’t know and that Martin was probably “up to no good.”
Again, my brothers come to mind—two young black boys trapped in a realm where they’re never allowed to be or understood to be up to any good. I put my brothers in that symbolic hoodie. I whisper sincere wishes.
Simultaneously, James Holmes awaits his trial. An atrocious crime is committed in my state. The city of Boston is attacked. In Santa Monica, California, a mass shooting occurs. I whisper sincere wishes.
Simultaneously, I come across a picture of a Barack Obama doll hanging in a noose at a Virginia gas station. Days later, he is re-elected. I whisper sincere wishes.
Simultaneously, a young black woman from my younger brother’s college is reported missing. Her body is found weeks later in my city. I worry about my seventeen year old sister. I whisper sincere wishes.
I recite these events to my grandmother in conjunction with the death of Trayvon Martin. She doesn’t see the connection. Originally, neither do I. I just feel it—I recognize how uneasy these events make me, both in the sense of discomfort and fear and in the sense of wanting to act. I memorize that feeling; I internalize it, until everything inside of me has an unshakeable need to understand exactly from where that pain and want stem.
I conclude that the connection is this: the importance of the human body, the significance of the living and how they become the dead, and how black bodies (young male ones, especially) become vessels of assumed bad deeds, malintent, and misbehavior. My grandmother, therefore, cannot mourn the death of Trayvon Martin because, despite the fact that their complexions match, their demographics do not. The missing young woman from Eastern State could not be mourned until the public understood that she was a good student with a polite demeanor. The hanging Barack Obama doll cannot be fully shamed until he has revived this nation and proved himself worthy of humane treatment and life.
We all, as we rightfully should, mourn the crimes committed against mostly white bodies without requiring profiles or proof.
I wonder what my grandmother would say if it had been one of my brothers, one of her grandchildren. I wonder if she would wish that the nation mourned with her or if she could consciously apply her own mindset to those who stand against her, understanding that they assume my brother was “up to no good.”
In court, George Zimmerman wears a bulletproof vest. He fears for his life. I want to tell him that’s how I feel daily, but not only for my own safety. I fear for my brothers and for my father, my sister and my mother, my grandmother, my aunts and cousins. I fear for the lives of every single black kid who walks outdoors with or without that symbolic hoodie. I wonder if George Zimmerman can imagine the desire I have to dress every black body in a bulletproof vest every single morning. I wonder if George Zimmerman can imagine the weight of that fear.
The importance of the human body and the human life should never be negated. For instance, the human heart beats approximately 115,000 times a day, which means, in 469 days, my heart has beat almost 54 million times for the Martin family. So, as I wait for the trial to begin, I connect my nervous, brown hands and whisper sincere wishes from the bottom of my nervous, brown heart.
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Mick is a junior studying Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, African American Studies, and Creative Writing at the University of Connecticut. She likes good novels, good poetry, and good company in no particular order.
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