We See Your Silence: A Look At Systemic Racial Injustice Through Their Eyes.
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 com