October 22nd, 2018
I’m at the Atlanta International Airport. I said goodbye to Ngosa earlier today, and I’m en route to Montgomery. I miss him so much that my stomach hurts. I have an unreal anxiety attack on the flight.
I’m seated next to a very friendly woman who looks about my age. As we get closer to Montgomery, I start asking myself what the fuck I’m doing and why I’m going to Alabama by myself.
I’m a pretty sensitive bean. I’m super aware of vibes and when I’m in a mood, I can overthink with the best of them. I think this is deeply connected the reason I art, but anyways. When I feel like this, writing always helps me settle down.
It’s night, so after we take off they turn the cabin lights off. I should turn on the individual light that is above my seat, but I’m so nerve wracked that I’m afraid that the friendly girl will hate me. I resolve to sit in the dark. I know that this doesn’t make any sense. But I’m frozen.
I arrive in Montgomery at around 11 PM. It’s humid here. The energy feels slower.
I am greeted by a small airport, and a banner with a photo of the Tuskegee Airmen. They are Black pilots who fought for their country in World War II. I find them all handsome, but seeing this display makes me upset.
Only 2% of pilots are African American, huh? Trayvon was going to be a pilot, I thought, but he wasn’t allowed to grow up. I feel so heavy. This is the first airport I’ve ever been to where there isn’t a taxi I could hop into immediately as I walk out the door, so I have to wait. I talk to two men who I don’t know if they were proper police officers or just security people. One is Black and one is White, and they both look like they’re in their 50s. I’m immediately weary of the White guy. He has the accent that racists in the movies always have. I guess that’s just a Southern accent...but I think American movies have really made me associate that accent on white people with racism. My brain is babbling and I feel uncomfortable with my own body.
It is immediately apparent that the White guy is actually far more pleasant than the Black guy, who keeps making jokes about my drama degree being unnecessary because I’m a woman and women already have enough of their own drama? Lol, okay, Uncle, who hurt you? Fuck. I just highkey judged this White man, who is now making a very charming joke about getting my autograph because one day he’s sure I’ll be famous. Am I an asshole for expecting him to be racist? Or am I smart because thinking like that might actually help protect me if I get into a sketchy situation? I don’t know what the tea is in Montgomery, but the Montgomery I’ve seen in movies is a hostile place. What the fuck am I doing here where am I what am I thinking I’m so stressed I’m not thinking straight and I think I hate myself.
My cab driver’s facial expression is world-weary. He is older than me, but he calls me ma’m. I tell him that I came to Montgomery to check out museums and connect with Black history. He tells me of his 12 year old daughter who got in trouble at school recently because she argued with her teacher when the teacher said Christopher Columbus was a good man. His daughter is half Dominican, and she knew the history of Columbus coming to the island of her mother’s people and slaughtering their ancestors because they had no gold. He tells me about how Black men in nearby Tuskegee were once purposely infected with syphilis. They were told there would be give a cure but they weren't. He tells me of a doctor who performed operations on Black women without anesthesia (he is considered the father of gynecology, by the way). He tells me how they teach less and less about slavery in schools.
I say to him, “But...this is where slavery happened…”
By the time we reach my hotel...um, motel...I’m overwhelmed. I check in and my room is so grody ahhhhh. It was one of those like, you-probably-wanna-wear-flip-flops-in-the-shower, feeling-sketchy-about-sleeping-on-the-sheets type shitty motels. “Self fund a trip,” they said. “It’ll be fun”, they said. (No one said that, actually. Everyone told me apply for a grant but something about making a case to a jury as to why I should go felt anxiety inducing and weird. There was something about spending my own money felt right. That way the trip is truly mine, and not Canada Council’s. #noshadetocanadacouncil.)
The next morning I feel so depressed, I can’t get out of bed. I’ve been praying all morning (to whom, I’m not sure). I’ve got my crystals laid beside me. I’ve been trying to “positive affirmation” myself and it’s not working. Maybe my body is telling me something, so I decide to let myself sleep in.
I finally get out of bed at around 2 PM and I go downtown. I’m not kidding about how gross this motel room is. I don’t have flip flops to wear in the shower so I lay a towel down so that I don’t worry that my feet will be eaten alive by ancient foot germs of motel people past. Yikes.
I take a bus downtown and I meet a guy named Jonathon while I’m en route. He hits on me. The difference in attention I get from the male population here versus Calgary is palpable. I am considered way more attractive in Montgomery. Perhaps the predominately Black population doesn’t feel I’m hard to approach. Maybe they actually like my African features. Maybe I’m pretty in a regular way and not in an “I’ve-never-fucked-a-black-girl” way. My energy is a little brighter at this point so I’m chatty with Jonathon. I want to tap back into my confident Queen-of-YOLO-energy, so we exchange instagram info. After we part (like literally 10 minutes after we part) he sends me a message with a selfie. It implies we should meet later, and he asks me to send him “good sexy pics if I don’t mind plz”. I feel sad that I’ve come here to learn about civil rights and slavery, and a Black man feels he deserves my body. I block him.
Whaveter. I have a mission today, and the closer I get to my destination, the more tingly I get. I walk to the front of the building. It is a museum dedicated to a woman I connected with when I was 7 years old. The third grader in me smiles from ear to ear.
“Welcome to the Rosa Parks Museum” I hear.
I say, “I’m very excited to be here.”
November 10th 2018
It popped up on my instagram feed, of all places. I was just meditating on my trip to Ferguson, finding the right words to articulate all the information I gathered while I was there for this very blog. I decided to take a break by scrolling mindlessly through my phone. That’s when I saw it.
It’s a picture of young black man. He’s 24, and his name is Dayne Jones. He’s hanging by the neck from a tree near his home. He’s dead. His mother is an activist named Melissa McKinnies who was super active during the Ferguson protests. She believes that her son was lynched as a warning to her. She posts that her baby was lynched on Facebook. Facebook later removes the message. The police say it was a suicide. Several people, including me, think that’s bullshit.
This happened in Ferguson! That same quiet city I was driving through. The same one I described as “lush”. Did I drive by the tree where Dayne’s body hung, lifeless? He was found on October 17th, 2018 - so three days before me and Ngosa’s day trip.
Did Spirit keep this information from me until now? I know that I was led to Ferguson, and I know that if I had learned of this, if I had received this friendly reminder that LYNCHINGS STILL EXIST, I would not have gone. And I would not have let my male cousin take me to Mike’s memorial because I would take complete responsibility if anything had ever happened to him.
This is my privilege.
Yes, I am a Black person. But I’m not African American. I had the luxury of driving to Ferguson for the day, to talk to people and to take pictures, to see “where the action was”. But the real tea is that I don’t live there. And the fact that I could exercise the option of not going to Ferguson because of a fear that I might be unsafe is the clearest demonstration of the difference between my Black Calgarian experience and that of several people in Ferguson and places like Ferguson.
When I learned of Dayne Jones being lynched, I was terrified, but I am 2,798 kilometers away (yes, I looked it up). That fear would look very different if my home address were 100 kilometers away, 50 kilometers away, or 25 kilometers away. Real talk, what if I lived on that exact same street? I don’t, and if you’re reading this it’s likely that you don’t. But several people do. As much as this news hurts me, the way that I receive Dayne Jones’ death and the way his neighbors receive his death should not be conflated. It is different, and it is very important for me to continue to acknowledge that. Being Black does not mean I automatically understand all facets of any type of Black experience.
I have learned that a lot of my writing is me processing the connection I have to different Black experiences. This is why I travelled: to better understand that connection, to acknowledge it, to appreciate it, and to write with it.
I’m a lover of words. I know that words have the power to change the world, but today I don’t have anything to say except his name: Dayne Jones.