Akilah's Column

The Joys and Greifs of Summer | Stember 15, 2013

Trayvon Martin

This is, so far, one of the most joyful summers of my life. Everything is going in divine order with me. I am experiencing some of the most surprising and pleasant synchronicities. Of course, there have been some things that I allowed to pull me right out of this vortex of good feeling.

I’m not talking about the mysterious bugs that are feasting on the leaves of my broccoli rabe, or the sweltering heat and stifling humidity that keep me inside when I would rather be in my garden. I’ve got recalcitrant ivy that needs to be pulled away from the garage wall so I can scrape and paint it before winter arrives. The rain makes that area too wet or the sun makes standing there with my clippers unbearable. That’s okay though. I’ll get to it. But the trial of George Zimmerman, and the verdict that absolved him of any wrong doing in shooting 17-year-old Treyvon Martin left many of us numb and unable to stay on track, even if we were having an amazing summer.

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those pesky garden insects decided to munch on rocks instead of my plants, I found that trial sad. It affirmed for many of us that the system remains flawed. That conclusion is drawn in part from our many experiences of being of African descent in America, and our relationship with the criminal justice system. It does not matter whether we are the victims or the perpetrators. The trials are rarely fair. There are other elements in the case; there’s the constitution that guarantees our right to bear arms, and the “stand your ground laws” that make it quite acceptable to use those arms, especially if you are white and find yourself in an “African-American male” induced state of fear.

As a nation, we accept that it is quite normal to be afraid, especially of African-American males. We have accepted that reactions to this fear, in this case the reaction that prompted Zimmerman to shoot and kill Treyvon, have justifiable defense in a court of law.

Sometimes I think, though, that the lens through which we view our life experience, might benefit from a little adjustment, a shift so to speak. One that is broader based, more planetary.

What I mean by that is no matter the color of our skin, black, white, red or yellow, we have some of the same emotional reactions to the loss of our loved ones. We know the depth of the sadness, the anguish, the throes of grief that Treyvon Martin’s family is experiencing. It is the same grief experienced by families on the south side of Chicago, or in the neighborhoods of South Central, Los Angeles. It is the same grief that a mother experiences when she loses a child to violence or disease on the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota.

Grief transcends the borders of the United States. Among many other human emotions, grief connects the Maori man who holds his son in his arms, killed by gang violence in New Zealand, to the young Palestinian bride who must identify the body of her newly wed husband, gunned down on the streets of the West Bank. It’s the same grief that connects the father of a 14-year-old New Delhi girl, raped then set on fire, to the Canadian man who makes funeral preparations for his partner whose life was shortened by a tour of duty in Iraq. It’s the grief that accompanies the lowering of a tiny casket of a 3-month-old in Mali.

Trinidad knows grief. Melbourne knows grief. Beijing knows grief. The Yucatan knows grief.

All tears of grief flow, from the well of brown, blue, hazel and green eyes, down black, white and red cheeks. Tears of grief soak tie-dyed blouses, linen shirts, flowered cotton hijabs, and 5th Avenue ties. Tears of grief fall on boots, thongs, stilettos, and bare feet alike.

Treyvon Martin’s death is not a special case.

In Africa alone, a child under the age of 5 dies every three seconds from hunger-related causes and malaria. Let’s count together. 1, 2, 3, a child dies, 1, 2, 3, another, 1, 2, 3, and another…

No one mother, no one father, no one family, no one nation, no one race is going to win the grief Olympics. Grief is a dominant planetary experience. We’re all in first place.

It is not an anomaly that African-American life, and especially the life of an African-American male, has no value in the United States or elsewhere in the world. Life, in all forms, trees, animals, a newborn in Kenya or an 87-year-old white grandmother in Boise, Idaho, generally has no value on this planet. Let’s stop pretending. While there is a dominant experience of grief, there’s no dominant belief of the sanctity of life. We can blame it all on guns, or stand your ground laws, greedy corporations, the military industrial complex, colonialism, ethnic conflict, drugs or anything else. We never seem to run out of excuses, or something or someone to project blame onto.

Are White Americans fearful? Yes, they are. So are African-Americans, Palestinians, the Navajo, Russians, Aborigines, Israelis, the British, the Dutch, Ethiopians…We are all afraid.

If we could begin to see things from a broader-based consciousness, we would discover that we all have the same fear, the fear that motivates anyone who pulls a trigger, drops a bomb, dumps toxins in the ocean, rapes, mutilates, abuses.

I have come to the conclusion that what we deeply fear is our power to love unconditionally. It’s weird. We just veil that fear with beliefs, and excuses, about race, nationality, history, sex, whatever. We are very clever at covering things up. But by making the choice to love unconditionally, we could automatically, and effortlessly, reject suffering, poverty, war, famine, ecocide, homophobia, animal cruelty… By making the choice to love unconditionally, we reject violence and say no more to fear and being afraid. It’s a simple choice between love and fear.

And I guess that is scary: Living on a planet where love and all that comes with it--peace, joy, and wellbeing-- dominate our day-to-day experiences. It certainly wouldn’t be like this good ole planet. How about that? That’s my say for this month.

How would you feel if you went to the bank and found out that your money was depreciating at a rate of 2.5% annually? Mmmm. In the blogspot this month is an interview with writer and author Charles Eisenstein. I read his book Sacred Economics in preparation to interview him. I found it hard to turn my Kindle off. The only books on economics that I have ever enjoyed are…well actually there aren’t any. I have added Sacred Economics to the “publications and good reads list.” The video selection this month is of Eisenstein’s talk on “Money and Life.”

In joy,


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