Rowdy reached out to several black creatives, writers and artists to create a space to protest the violent system that constantly erases them.
Here are their stories.
(Valerie Muzondi/Rowdy Magazine Art Director)
Editors Note: Some of the content in this post may be triggering to our audience. We have deliberately chosen to exclude graphic photos and videos as to make this project accessible to all.
Over the past several weeks, Rowdy Magazine had been working towards getting writers for articles revolving around police brutality and racial injustice after the murder of Ahmaud Arbery resurfaced in early May. After the violent attacks on protestors after the murder of George Floyd, we decided to publish our project sooner in order to create an evolving platform for writers and artists to express themselves in real-time.
The staff at Rowdy Magazine have created this entry to chronicle the feelings of anger, grief and trauma that black men and women are processing throughout these difficult times. As we are unable to mass-demonstrate due to social distancing guidelines after COVID-19, we hope this space serves as a virtual center to protest the systemic racial injustice we see every day.
Rowdy's goal has always been to empower marginalized communities and talk about important subjects as we hand over the microphone to those voices who have traditionally been left out of the conversation.
The following entries are content created by and for black men and women, specifically for Rowdy's project, or have been allowed to be shared with explicit consent.
For resources to demand action and justice, please visit blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/
If you would like to contribute to this project, please email email@example.com.
Thank you for reading.
GANESSA DESIR, 19
Racism is alive and well today. For years the system we live in has nurtured and fed this beast. It’s led me to live in fear for the 19 years I’ve been on this Earth.
I’m sick of living in fear. I'm sick of this helplessness. How much proof do we need? How many more bodies need to fall before the nation is finally woken up? Our system is corrupt and changes need to be made. Black people deserve to feel safe and to be free.
I’m sick of this cycle. Black people are actively targeted by this system but are continually told to trust it. Time and time again, it fails us. Countless husbands, wives, children, family members and friends have been taken. Unarmed. The threat I pose has nothing to do with a physical object, rather it covers me. It’s just over my skin.
We live in a world where the skin of black men and women is weaponized.
Racists today have replaced white clothes with guns and badges.
The system is inherently flawed, and we have to fix it.
I’m not saying that all officers are racist––there are many wonderful cops who are truly dedicated to serving and protecting all people. But with every good cop comes even more corrupt ones. Ones who manipulate the power they gain from their uniforms to torture and hurt black people.
To hold someone’s entire life in your hands and feel no sort of remorse for taking it away is just evil. Those who make sick and heartless remarks about these devastations are just as evil.
I don’t know what’s worse, those doing the killings, or the ones turning a blind eye. There are people on the internet mocking the situation, while those pulling the trigger feel absolutely nothing. To live in a world where our bodies are disregarded instead of given the decency we all deserve is terrifying.
These are people we are talking about. Human beings who lived a life, who had a family they loved. Who lived everyday, normal lives with their own stories that were abruptly cut short.
Personally, I understand how some people can’t watch the news. Every time another face, another story, another act of injustice is plastered across my screen, my heart shatters. But the fact of the matter is, it can happen to me. If you’re black in America, it can happen to you, too. Injustice like this can happen to anyone.
The next headline could be my parents, my siblings, my friends or even me.
If the time were to ever come, I know I’d want someone to fight for me like many of us are fighting for them. It may be challenging to hear about everyone we’ve lost, but we have to remind ourselves that life is a privilege we can’t take for granted
I look around the world, and I’m terrified. As a black woman I’m not shocked, I know that this is the reality we live in. But to see the evil in some people, the lack of humanity… it makes you question everything.
I'll never understand why we need to fight for basic human decency.
It's terrifying to see that hate like this still exists in the world. It’s even scarier knowing that, there would be nothing I could do to stop it if it happened before my own eyes.
At the end of the day, if we were to find ourselves in any situation facing corrupt law enforcement, it wouldn’t matter what we did. Whether we fought back or complied –– there would be no guarantee that we’d live to see the next day. Faced with this reality, I question who we can call on or run to when those with the duty of protecting us are the ones behind the loaded gun, the patrons who are killing us and rewarding pardons to our murderers.
To all those who benefit from this system and don’t speak out against it –– you’re enabling it. By not speaking out, you’re turning a blind eye to injustice and putting the livelihood of others at risk.
Just because the scale is tipped in your favor doesn’t mean you should dismiss how extremely dangerous it is to those who don’t have the privilege to ignore it.
To all those directly affected by the loss of loved ones, words cannot describe how sorry I am for the pain that has been inflicted on you. Know that you aren’t alone and that we will not let their stories be forgotten. Through awareness, through activism. Through art, through poetry, through stories. Their lives will not be taken in vain. We won’t let them be.
To the entire black community: let this anger, heartbreak, and frustration fuel you to continue fighting. We are a powerful people who have proved time and time again that we can and will overcome any and every obstacle thrown at us. Fighting this fight is exactly what we must continue to do. It is crucial for us to continue calling out the names of those lost and demanding for their justice. It may get exhausting to continue fighting a system built to destroy us, but silence is true death. We need to be as obnoxiously loud as possible.
Make them hear our pain, our grief, our anger. Let our voices be heard and our faces be seen. Until the changes we seek have occurred.
"I Feel." ALEXANDRA HAIRSTON, 19
I feel unsafe.
How could I not?
How could I feel safe in a place where those who are supposed to protect me are the ones I fear the most?
How can I feel safe when the black home is no longer a sanctuary, but a war zone? How can I feel safe when there’s hundreds of people celebrating a history of racism, slavery and oppression instead of being ashamed of it? How can I feel safe when the red and blue lights that symbolize protection and freedom now mean oppression and fear in my mind?
How can I feel safe when I know I’m powerless?
When I feel as if my pleas do not matter.
How can I feel safe when the color of my skin is seen as a sign of menace and danger to the outside world –– an excuse for persecution and abuse? As if being a criminal is somehow woven within my DNA.
I must be watched, I must be oppressed, I must be feared.
I must be silenced. Permanently or temporarily, it does not make a difference to them.
I feel terrified. Terrified that the monsters from my nightmares are now the people wearing blue, armed with a gun and badge. Terrified that one day when I get pulled over for speeding, that I may have to call my mom to say goodbye. Terrified that no matter what I do or what I say, it may be me suffocated by an officer's knee or with bullet holes piercing through my back as I lie lifeless on the hot asphalt.
When you’re black, a cell phone, a hairbrush, a license is a weapon and a threat. Suddenly, a mundane object becomes a motive for murder.
I feel terrified for those around me. Terrified that one day, I’ll be the one on the other side of the screen, recording a man die in front of me. That I’ll be the one standing feet away from a heartless murderer. That no crying or begging will make the violence end. That I will be too afraid to try to act –– or that I will be the one pleading for my life to deaf ears.
I am terrified for my younger brother, a six foot, fifteen-year-old black male. I am terrified of the death sentence that automatically carries. Terrified that his face will be the one plastered on the news, his lifeless, bullet riddled form on the pavement, his name that we chant at protest. I’m terrified of how easily they can rip apart my entire world, snuffing out a flame, and continue as if nothing’s wrong.
I feel powerless –– nothing but rainwater in the ocean. My voice is in vain.
How can I feel powerful when we are shot for the smallest infractions while white domestic terrorists shoot up churches and get taken to Burger King after?
How can I feel powerful when we live in a country where we are more concerned about those kneeling during the national anthem than the officers kneeling on the throats of unarmed black men?
How can I feel powerful when trigger-happy inhumane police raid our neighborhood like crackhouses, desperately trying to put back in the same chains they brought us here in? How can I feel powerful when our freedoms are stripped again and again?
How can I feel powerful when black is still the equivalent of dangerous, inferior and expendable in many people’s minds?
I worry that I will be unable to protect my brother, my father, myself or anyone else from the brutality that is our reality. That I will be as powerless as I am many miles away, hours after the injustice as if it were all happening in front of me right now.
I feel stripped, at the mercy of those who are charged with the duty to protect and serve.
I feel heartbroken because it feels as if there is nothing I can do to change this world.
I feel silenced because there is nothing I can say to save my people from the fight against injustice.
"Death by Color" AMIYA ABNER, 19
In my room and I’m shedding tears tonight
Tears that you won’t ever have to shed because your color never has to feel this type
The word is FEAR
FEAR that your life will be taken away by the quickness of a bullet or pressure on your neck
But not just one, four, six, twelve and maybe one more
All because the color of our skin makes you abhor
While you get stand there
Watch the innocent life escape from our bodies
Or stand over us and laugh
“Looks like it’s going to be a closed casket homie.”
Only because your skin color can save you
While our blood lies permanently smeared into the pavement
although these are the same grounds, we all walk on
Yet, our lives are the equivalent to the rubble
Looked at as “Hood rats”, “Animals”, and “Thugs” that need to be buried with your shovel
I’m tired of crying
Tired of shedding tears while our innocent black men shed blood
Crying doesn’t take the pain away
Crying doesn’t save them from their death day
They’re not Jesus so there will be no resurrection
All we're left with is grief and depression
Traumatized because our death has always been your obsession.
"The Skin I'm In" MARIA STAACK, 20
(Edited by Maria Staack, 2019)
"Justice Matters For All Blacks Lives" AMIYA ABNER, 19
#BlackLivesMatter: a movement remaining strong in efforts to diminish what feels like a never-ending flood of racial injustice. Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi are the three black women organizers that created the Black Lives Matter response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman, in 2013. The project is now a “global network of more than 40 chapters” continuing community groundwork of constructing strategies to end the violent unjust treatment towards the Black community.
Even with the power to advocate for these injustices, it’s not universally understood how it feels to go through the pain of watching your own community slain in the streets with no remorse. We are unable to walk home from a corner store wearing a hoodie. When asked to show our license we are unable to comply and reach for it. As a child, we are unable to play cops and robbers, We can’t sell CD’s on the street or go for a routine jog. It feels like the black community is unable to live. At the end of each fatality, it makes you look at the color of your skin, and just for a moment think that you are powerless — all because others have said and treated you as such.
When will the color of our skin stop determining whether we deserve to live or die?
In the past decade, social media has transformed into a place where videos of African Americans murdered in cold blood gain virality; this past week was no exception with the death of Ahmaud Arbery. The two suspects of the murder claimed they were making a citizen’s arrest and then responded in self-defense when Arbery reached for his gun.
As a young African American, saying that I fear for our black men encountering situations that lead to unjust murders would be an understatement. I scroll anxiously through social media each day in fear that another innocent black life has been taken just by seeing a video featuring a black male and law enforcement beside them.
Recently, in the case of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, the graphic video of his murder has resurfaced to all media platforms. It can be heard in a 911 call that Gregory McMichael, and his son, Travis McMichael, spotted Arbery walking into a construction site.
ABC News reports that when dispatch asked if he was breaking in the house and questioning what Arbery was doing the wrong one of the males responded, “No. There’s a guy in a house right now, it’s under construction.” Following the first call, the McMichaels call again stating that “there’s a black male running down the street.”
After initiating contact with Arbery prior to the recording, one portion of iPhone footage shows Arbery running down the street as two trucks trail behind him. Another portion shows Arbery approaching the truck where Travis McMichael stands on the driver's side holding up a shotgun while Gregory McMichael stands on the bed of the truck. Arbery then approached Travis McMichael grabbing and pushing away the gun being aimed at him. Arbery and McMichael got into a physical altercation where two shots were fired before a third one fatally killed Arbery.
The murder of Ahmaud Arbery took place on February 23. No arrests had been made until after the release of the video to the public via social media months later in May. The poor handling of the case by the original prosecutors and law enforcement agencies has led to Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr appointing Joyette M. Holmes as a prosecutor. Holmes will be the first African American to serve as a district attorney and will be the fourth prosecutor that was assigned to work on the investigation of Arbery’s case.
Why did it take the public seeing this disheartening murder to arrest these two killers?
An African American man was hunted down and murdered in the cold blood and law enforcement agencies waited two months to make any arrests of the suspects. If the public wouldn't have seen the video, we may not have known Arbery’s name, much like the list of others that we have never heard of.
Justice must be served for all black lives lost, not just those that garner the attention of the media.
The continuous victimization of African American people, whether by law enforcement or citizens, is not just some fictitious concept that we have rallied together to fight against. When are these unjust killings of unarmed black people going to stop? I am tired of shedding tears for all the lives of my community by the quickness of a bullet. When will enough be enough?
"For those who go to the well and return with no water" PRIYA DAMES, 19
Let me be clear. This is not a hopeful essay. It will not explain structural racism or plead for empathy or call you to action because, to be quite honest, that is not where my head is at on this particular day. It is about a girl named Sim experiencing the vertigo of being black in America; that is to say, the dizzying feeling of standing up quickly in a dark room where she had been searching on hands and knees, like so many before her, for pieces of a social contract that she was never written into.
Sim is like me and you. On May 25, 2020 Sim sat, staring at her phone while an officer kneeled, hands in pocket, on the neck of George Floyd. The next day her timeline was flooded with posts of Floyd’s face. The next day the video was on the news. The next day there were riots. Some of Sim’s friends predicted a civil war while others, more optimistically, felt a change coming. Sim felt nothing. It’s true, she had walked to this well before. It’s a beaten path littered with grief and hashtags and phone calls to Capitol Hill. But each time, despite her efforts, she returned empty-handed.
How many times is enough? How many times do you go to the well and return with no water? How many thoughts and prayers, how many vigils, how many promises, how many widows, how many pimple-faced kids in black suits? Sim is losing hope. She’s running out of places to store her empty buckets.
"Let's Talk About Race" JANAE MOODIE
The discussions around race seems to always suck the air right out of a room. I am not sure if it is because it is controversial or if it is because it is human nature to avoid awkward moments; but what I do know is that the poison lingers in America whether we choose to remove the stinger or not.
Before I even go into my own anecdotes, I want to start by saying his name — Ahmaud Arbery. Ahmaud Arbery. Ahmaud Arbery. Ahmaud Arbery. The video speaks for itself. It is exhausting to see another black man dead senselessly with justice delayed. MLK said it best, “justice too long delayed is justice denied.” In this case, the nation was put on house arrest before the ~alleged~ culprits CAUGHT ON TAPE were arrested. Like I said, the video speaks for itself.
I cannot begin to understand what it is like to be a black man in America. If the ⅗ compromise was used to account for slaves in the 1700s, then I think it is fair to say that in the 2000s black men are still seen as a fraction of a person. For some reason they live a reality where what would be typically classified as ordinary in society is deemed grossly extraordinary — as if it should not even exist. Thankfully we have smartphones to keep the receipts, am I right?
I can only speak from my lens, but humor me.
When I was a 5th grader, I adored soccer. I recall a boy asking the captain to pick me on the team, and to my horror another kid yelled “I don’t want a black girl.” At the time, I was naive and fragile, but my parents taught me to keep my heart soft because he was not the norm in my classroom and that he was jealous. Honestly, that was all I needed to hear to move forward plus we kicked his team’s behind!
When I was 15, I was traveling on a flight from Palm Beach to New York and sat beside an older woman. From the moment I sat, I could feel her rigidity as she snickered and unrelentlessly tried to widen the gap between us. I didn’t think much of this grumpy lady until she told the flight attendant that I shouldn’t be there. She specifically said, “black people don’t belong in here.” At that moment I froze and I locked eyes with the young, white flight attendant that tried to mollify this haughty woman, but instead of real support I saw embarrassment maybe even an apology in her eyes as she offered me a glass of water . The lady cringed and squirmed when the flight attendant reached pass her with the water.
I think about that plane ride all the time, I recall a 15-year-old me desperately wanting to change her mind about us — the weird part of that situation was that I was never taught to think about an “us” because it implied a “them”.
I remember looking out the window — fighting tears and willing the plane to teleport me to my mom instantaneously, because I felt that the lady saw my skin as a contagious disease; that if she leaned too close, it would rub off on her.
It was one of the first times that I personally felt like someone thought that I was a fraction.
Only a few months later, I was running to be senior class president. On a day of campaigning in the cafeteria, I remember joking and smiling with a white male who I thought was a friend. After exchanging light banter with him that day, one of my dearest friends came up to me and advised me to be careful as the said male had expressed that he voted for my white opponent because “black people [were] taking over” (keep in mind, six years later, the black population has increased to only 12%). Of course, I was taken aback given my fond memories with my peer, but it was a humbling lesson that for some, blackness is a disqualifier.
Oh, and that boy is a police officer now.
Disclaimer: Implicit bias is real and although not all police officers are racist, when these biases exist they can inhibit judgment and can create an irrational defensiveness that can cost a life.
Lastly, I have a simpler story just to show the regularity of implicit bias. During my senior year of college, “Black Panther” made its big debut. One Sunday Funday, my friends and I went out for drinks to celebrate senior year. I sat next to a “friend” that told me that even though she did not dislike the movie, she did not understand why everyone had to be black.
Imagine, she felt so comfortable telling the black girl that.
At that moment, I was not floored because I was more experienced. In reality, she was not being malicious, she had been conditioned through her environment and the media to think that a movie with predominantly black characters is abnormal because of a bigger issue of representation in the entertainment industry that she clearly is not well educated on. Some would say that it is desensitization, but I would refer to it as an understanding of how deeply systemic oppression has permeated our society.
I share these anecdotes because I am a black woman in America, and I think it is important to shed light that it is not always explicit or generational.
Also, not every sad story ends in physical death, but without the proper support it can become emotionally asphyxiating.
I once called racism an epidemic, but I think that is a misnomer because racial divide was intentionally written into the system (i.e. slavery, ⅗ compromise, indentured servitude, segregation, Jim Crow Laws, redlining, mass incarceration, gentrification). I would accept the title “manmade”, but it is not a sudden outbreak that can be healed through miracle drugs or widespread testing. It lies below the surface — morphing and evolving with time. I really do think that the discussion around discrimination at large is actually a discussion about fractions of a whole because it is a layered issue, and it exists on a spectrum.
Let’s say that every person in America is given a fractional number where the 5/5 people are “the most privileged”. These are the people where having a barbeque, coming home from work, driving, buying candy, being shirtless, or going on a jog are accepted and expected. For everyone else, parts of the whole get chipped off in fractions based on their intersectionalities of able-bodiedness, religion, age, sexuality, gender, ethnicity and race just to name a few. When dealing with the pieces of our identity, some parts of the whole appear to be perceived as more problematic than others — for some reason the combination of being black and male equates to a greater risk of depletion and a higher level of vulnerability in America. And this is not even including the issue of sexuality.
Even as I go down the rabbit hole (as I so often do) with the complex illustration of fractional American rights based on identities; I would be amiss to not touch on another geometrical figure — the triangular approach towards racism in our country.
You see there are three sides that wax and wane based on where we are at as a nation: the activists, the complicit, and derelicts. At this point in history, I would argue that the majority of our country has the desire to see change (the activists and the complicit) — to live in a society where things done in the dark are brought to the light so that we can all enjoy brighter days. But we have to be vigilant that even though the majority wants better; that more and more people move towards the act of creating change as activists instead of being complicit — overlooking problematic behavior as passable in order to avoid discomfort. As for the third group, they are the unspeakables that steal memories from families and reduce the value of humanity due to the dark choices of their own paths. They speak for themselves.
When people are truly guided by love, we don’t just advocate for equality, we adjust the system towards equity.
Unfortunately, the black man is given the smallest podium and the dullest microphone; it takes allies of all races in all spaces to share the stage and to hold their mic towards justice.
Rest peacefully Ahmaud Arbery. I hope that your family is covered in love as many of us run in solidarity on your birthday. Gone much too soon.
Things on the grayscale:
The way blackness is perceived in our country (even by black people).
The criminal justice system’s approach to the “justice” part.
Individuals of all races and faces navigating their layered identities.
An effective approach for reducing problematic implicit bias in mainstream society in EVERYONE.
Affirmation: I am learning to reconcile that most things fall on a spectrum. I accept that not everything in life is black and white. There is space for gray and brighter days.
"How Many Lives? Tribute to the unarmed" RUBY THEODORE, 16; LAYLANI COBB, 15; AMARIS RIVERA, 17
(Theodore, Singer; Cobb, Writer; Rivera, Video Editor)
"My Homeland Hurts Me" ROB BRACKS, 28
My homeland hurt me with its glutted streets
Its children offered to eagles of blood
With its colonies of police
June skies lit by a burning sun
My homeland hurt me through these sombre years
By its solemn oaths all broken
By its destiny more tired each day
Each step heavily burdened
My homeland hurt me with its double crosses
Its seas charged with slave frigates
Winds fallen to appease the gods
By its bonds cut too lightly with mere scissors
My homeland hurt me with all its exiles
Its prisons gorged its lost children
Behind barbed wire and all those whose lives
Pass far from such sights and never see them
My homeland hurt me with its cities on fire
Burnt by its enemies and by its friends
Hurt me with both body and soul
In the iron straightjacket both are bound in
My homeland hurt me by its youth
Beneath other flags thrown to the four winds
Shedding their blood for the promises
Their elders have no intention of keeping
My homeland hurt me with its mass graves
By brother held at gunpoint by brother
By those who count in contemptible hands
The price of their great disavowal
My homeland hurt me by its slaves
Its executioners of yesterday and today
By the blood that washes its shores
My homeland hurts me. When will it be ours?
"Tribute Cover of Blackbird by Nina Simone" FABINE MICHEL, 21
"Remember" SAMANTHA CHERY, 20
When the protests are over,
When the crowds have left the streets,
Remember the disruption,
And the shift in the human consciousness.
Remember the outrage and the chants,
The cries of a people long oppressed.
When your social media feed is normal again,
Don’t forget the senseless attacks and killings.
Don’t let racists’ remarks go unchecked,
And listen when marginalized groups speak.
Let diversity and inclusion
Be more than just a phrase.
Because if you forget,
The pain and discomfort will return.
It will keep poking at you,
And it will ask you if anything has changed
If you have changed.
What will you tell it?
"United We Stand" JONATHAN CALHOUN, 25, and IAMCREATIVELLC
The all-Black creatives featured in this project include Alexandra Hairston, Amaris Rivera, Amiya Abner, Arley Cakes, Austin Finney, Ayogu Kinglsey, Brittany Campbell, Danielle Coke, Fabine Michel, Ganessa Desir, Hillary Caitlyn, IAmCreativeLLC, Janae Moodie, Jessica Clermont, Jimmy Camille, Jonathan Calhoun, Laylani Cobb, Maria Staack, Minerve Jean, Nikkolas Smith, Poeticxjustin.Lituation, Priya Dames, Rob Bracks, Ruby Theodore, Samantha Chery, Split.Coco, Tayla.Paints, Valerie Muzondi, and Yasmine Adams.
The "We See Your Silence" evolving project ran from May 28 to June 19. While this project has ended, we stay committed to uplifting Black voices and highlighting the struggles of marginalized communities in the fight against oppression. Future projects will be announced on social media as they come. If you have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.