Ivory Bennett is a 29-year-old writer who spent 17 years in foster care. Bennett currently works as an English teacher and cheer coach in Dallas, Texas.
In these two pieces, one a letter to those on the frontlines of the current protest movement, and the other a poem in honor of George Floyd, Bennett shares her unique perspective on the racial strife roiling the country today.
Zora Neale Hurston once proclaimed, “If you are silent about your pain, they will kill you and say you enjoyed it.”
There are those of us who have been tasked with progressing the revolution outside of the picket lines. Some of us may wear the badge of being essential workers. There are those of us who document the atrocities of a change prompted by some, purported by all. There are those who infiltrate the very unjust systems we seek to change, that must first be understood.
And no, we are not silent with complacency. We are intentional. We are multifaceted. And when the time comes, we will pick up the burden when those on the frontline are too weary to press on.
I will write and speak the words of those who bore the physical brunt of protesting on the streets, staring into the snarls of oppression fearlessly full of hope and rage, simultaneously. We bend with sadness, but we never break with the tenacity of unending ancestral vengeance. This is the beginning of a revolution that will require the mobilization of everyone’s strengths – we must be our healthiest selves in mind, body and spirit.
The death of George Floyd is, unfortunately, nothing shocking or unexpected. Black and Brown people have been lynched since the founding of this country – our blood, our bone is the soil of this nation.
James Baldwin once said, “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.”
Time and time again, we say their names: George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, Carol Denise McNair, Ed Adams, Harry Barker and Carrie Diamond.
This is a plea from me to everyone on the frontline to rest as needed, set boundaries as needed, take breaks from the toxicity of social media, grieve without self-judgement, and please ask for help always, in all ways from those of us who are equipped to assist with love and lived-experience. Radical revolution begins from within each of us.
An American Eulogy
I, too, mourn America.
Salt burns the whites of my eyes,
As I look into the faces of a people who
Seek to eradicate my existence.
I, too, bleed America.
My blood runs blue
Before it seeps red out of my veins
Through the nose you deem unworthy of air.
I, too, think of America.
Realism and self-preservation
Bellow from the sorrow in my chest
With triumph through the tragedies.
I, too, strategize America.
The toiled limbs of my ancestors
Mutated into the mold of the man I was
In hopes of building a new ground fertilized of my flesh.
I, too, kill America.
Bare brown fingers clench
oppression into listless memories
Of an America that was never great