She Deserved Better…

Breonna Taylor, alive and beautiful

No you won’t be name’n no buildings after me

To go down dilapidated, no

No you won’t be name’n no buildings after me

My name will be misstated, surely…

Erykah Badu, “AD 2000”

I had a comic review planned for this week..been planning it for the past few weeks. I had an outline, a few cool things to say, a hook. I had this thought that I could just push through, you know? Business as usual.

Then I had this…itch in the back of my mind that said, on the last night of her life Breonna Taylor probably went to bed the same way I did last night: thinking about tomorrow. She probably washed her face, wrapped her hair up, and fell asleep to the sound of petty bickering on some reality show, or maybe a rerun of Girlfriends. Maybe she had just got done gossiping on the phone with her girlfriend…maybe she went to bed annoyed with her boo, knowing that all would be forgiven in the morning. Either way, tomorrow would come, and though it might have been a mundane repeat of its predecessor, it would have been extraordinary because it was another day to simply be Breonna Taylor.

There is so much tragedy to be found in this story, but the one that rings truest for me is we’ve allowed ourselves to turn Breonna into a hashtag…a symbol. We’ve robbed her of her humanity, and that’s the saddest thing for me. We were so busy putting her on t-shirts, and murals, and picket signs, that we forgot the woman she was. I can’t help but see my little cousin when I look at her. I see my wife. I see my homegirl from high school, the barista at my local cafe, the lady in front of me at the post office. But that’s the problem with symbols…eventually they become too easy to ignore, or worse, forget why they were important in the first place.

A basketball court with a mural of Breonna Taylor

So when I sat down to write my comic review, and I thought about Breonna, and George Floyd, and Nigeria, and on, and on, it just hit me how staggeringly difficult it can be to be a Black creative in a world that consistently looks to snuff that creativity out. This very day, I felt heavy and my mind was clouded. I started doomscrolling through social media, and came across this video of Black boys dancing. I couldn’t help but smile and feel lifted. It’s jarring, this juxtaposition of joy and sorrow that seems to be the default for what it means to be Black. I mean think about the whiplash of waking up and wondering what new ways the world will end and still finding ways to dance, and sing, and joke and laugh in the face of a world that mines our pain for entertainment.

The blues is an impulse to keep the painful details and episodes of a brutal experience alive in one’s aching consciousness, to finger its jagged grain, and to transcend it, not by the consolation of philosophy but by squeezing from it a near-tragic, near-comic lyricism.

Ralph Ellison, “Richard Wright’s Blues”

I think about what Breonna’s creative outlet was. Her mom said baby Breonna used to sing the blues, and that’s so fitting it hurts. But it’s a reminder of the blues in my blood. The reminder of the magic in my DNA. And that’s all the impetus I need to continue, because back to normal isn’t moving on or forgetting when you’re Black. It’s celebrating through sorrow, while continuing to push and fight for better. So yeah, I’ll keep writing, and I’ll keep talking about heroes and villains and art and colors. It’s the least I can do. Because the truth of the matter is, this normal we’re all trying to get back to? Breonna deserved that and more.

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