A Love Offering To Breonna Taylor from The Writer's Group with Shanna T. Melton
Artist: Jean Benoit (Click Image for Contact)
A question inspired by Langston Hughes was asked during a recent interview with Sacred Heart University. "Shanna, do you create art as if your life depends on it?" I ultimately responded saying that I create art like my legacy depends on it. I use art to tell stories of my culture, love, imagination and just by being a Black woman telling stories of my life in America and the world. My existence is an act of revolution.
The murder of Breonna Taylor is heartbreaking but also terrifying. I am much like my sister-friends who wake up, eat something and get dressed, I work, eat dinner, watch tv and spend time with loved ones and begin again. There are precious times when I can break the monotony of daily life with celebration or travel. I use my work to serve, educate, entertain and community build. The right people haven't always been in my life and it is a constant challenge to make sure that I hold on to the good ones tightly as possible. Breonna's life was structured much like mine and she tried to live her best life in the best way she knew how yet she was still brutally murdered. Murdered while sleeping, with her love, in her home.
I run The Writer's Group with Shanna T. Melton twice monthly. This conversation about the murder of innocent Black people has come up repeatedly and I have redirected the conversation numerous times. On August 1, 2020, I fessed up to being hesitant to have this conversation. The hesitance comes from exhaustion. It comes from not wanting to have another conversation where I have to break down my anger about a never ending holocaust. It comes from not ever wanting to wake up to another story or another video of someone being killed. It comes from knowing the trauma and ripple effects of slavery that knock us off of our feet each day. It is about loving Black people and not wanting to hear the our existence scrutinized. It is about a lack of empathy for having survived slavery and still keep some faith that this country will love us back.
The truth is that there are good people in the world who are marching, resisting and working towards loving us back. It dawned on me that my role in this is to help us process and navigate our way to that place through writing. In a recent panel discussion with Beechwood Arts for our Amplify Series a woman said that she didn't feel "kumbaya-ish" meaning that she doesn't feel like nurturing people through this movement because we have done that repeatedly only needing to begin again and again. I completely understood what she meant when she said it. I told her that she is exhausted by nurturing too many people through seeing us as human. It has gone on so long that we wonder if they will ever make it over. After this conversation I thought about the meaning of kumbaya, it means 'come by here'. The song actually says, "come by here my Lord, come by here, oh Lord come by here". It is a plea for the presence of God. We are feeling kumbaya-ish, we want God and all the mercy that can be mustered up to come by here and fix it. We don't want to wake up to another brutal murder of innocent people.
If this should ever meet the eyes of Breonna's family and beloved I pray that they feel the loving space from which it was created. I pray that they feel the empathy along with the understanding that they need to be surrounded with healing vibes and prayer because they have the truest understanding of this loss. She is not a hashtag or a number. Breonna was a woman who loved, she was a daughter, sister, front line worker, community member and more than anything she was a human with a birthright to live peacefully. This love offering is our effort to Say Her Name, Tell Her Story and give voice to the ripple effects.
This gathering was an effort to process our feelings. It is the challenge of saying the things that we fear and posing the questions that we need answered. It is honest and part of our journey as individuals and as a community. Thank you to City Lights Gallery for sponsoring our monthly gatherings. Thank you to Jean Benoit for lending his art to this love offering. Thank you to The Writer's Group for being vulnerable and honest. Thank you for trusting me and coming together in a effort to grow into stronger human beings.
Take your time and read these love offerings. We will welcome love offerings in the comments if you are inspired to create your own.
I pray for our safety and wellness.
Shanna T. Melton
"Stop Killing Us Series ~ Broken Hearts" by Shanna T. Melton
my life depends on it
i am black
i am a black woman
my story is necessary
because i was here
i was here
i was intended
by The Creator
i was sent
i was meant
and yet i was stolen
i was exposed and i was chained
i was imprisoned and i was maimed
written down in history as
so as an artist
every attempt to create
is an act of revolution
an act of rebellion
an act of self actualization
creating my self up and out of
up and out of
generational ties that bind me
this is not easy
my tongue was snatched
from my mouth
for speaking truth
chopped into pieces
scattered to the winds
i am only just
finding the pieces of my voice
gathering up the language
to say her name
that speak lifetimes of
MISS BREONNA TAYLOR
B is for Beautiful.
R is for … Who am I kidding? I am sad, confused, mad, angry and just plain un-glad. I am saying her name. BreonnaTaylor. BREONNAA TAYLOR! And talking about her pain.
She was a sleeping beauty. Still, quiet and connecting with her spirit. Assassinated in the midst of a wonderful dream. A “No-Knock Warrant” in the middle of the night is a home invasion. The three murders at one time were sworn to protect and serve her. Breonna. A sweet essential EMS worker dedicated her career to helping others. Who came to her aid? Twenty-two shots were fired into her dark apartment. Eight bullets hit her in the chest. She crawled from her bed seeking another breath. Gasping, clutching her chest requesting relief, yet no one stopped to contact Emergency Services. The murdering cops spent precious moments searching her abode for illegal drugs. Ransacking the wrong place at the wrong time with wrong intentions. Three wrongs didn’t make anything right.
Breonna Taylor. Her mother cried. Her sisters sobbed. Breonna’s nieces remained confused. Miss Taylor’s boyfriend was arrested at the seen for having a permit to carry. Yes, he shot at the police officers. Intentionally aiming low to provide warning shots. The boyfriend was protecting his girlfriend, his castle. Yet some 200 days later, Breonna Taylor is a hashtag on Twitter.
Where is the justice in America? The home of the free and brave. This land is remaining a place where so many are not free. And few are brave.
I wish I did not know Breonna’s name. At least not this way. “Breonna? Yes, girl I met you at the Essence Festival. Good to see you.” Or maybe it would have been nice to read about her in Black Enterprise magazine and marvel at her being brilliant. Or better, seeing her on a Black Girls Travel Excursion tour bus in Sierra Leone. She seemed like an amazing woman. However, due to a clerical error in an administrative office at the police department, 22 flying bullets and poor judgement we all must say her name: Breonna Taylor.
Art will be my muse
There was another police shooting
Will it be a book or collage that centers me, and helps me to cope with the cruelty?
A collaged mask
We need a cure
Death by deception
A pandemic problem
Was it a suicide, a hanging by a door knob?
Tears and protest
For another shooting
Death by deception
Followed by fear
Scared to death
Where was the outcry
Why was there silence
OH PULEEEEZE NOT ANOTHER ONE! I need a cigarette, I have to quit
I don’t want to hear about it, but I will listen with my front ear
She was an ema I mean EMT, CRS kicks in when I am anxious
Who was she? Breonna Taylor
Was she the one eating ice cream? No that was Jean
I am still on Sandra Bland
Do another one right now
I heard they came in while she was sleeping, Before Corona. . . I think
Pre-George Floyd. Time has been escaping me, and painful experiences, exacerbate my CRS
I can no longer endure the news in this pandemic
I am busy making mask and smoking too much
Mask on Mask off I am confused
I was going to quit in April. Does it matter?
Do I matter? Do you
Shit Black Lives? What about your ass do you matter really
In a pandemic
Breonna’s name plays softly in the background. I plan to hear the whole story as soon as I clean up my messy work space, as soon as I finish this art piece, my next novel.
I leave to get more supplies
Was she the one who was playing XBOX with her nephew?
I need to create something they will remember, so they will know I was here
I smoke a cig/several while I am scrolling past the protest and the quarantine Tic Tok videos making us laugh, Don’t Rush
Making us laugh and avoid the destiny of our foolish hatefulness
Scrolling past Trump tweets and worldwide protest
Mask on Mask off
I need to make more masks, or not
I need to finish the book
Work? When am I going back
No way am I going back
I miss the children
Wonder what and how they are doing
What is my daughter doing?
It is too much to even think or imagine . . .
Later I will hear the story. I will give her the undivided attention she deserves
I will not march
My protest is in my pen which is busy right now
Woh did you see how many people came out world-wide to protest the injustice for George?
So many/ Mask on nope
I don’t need to see that right now
The Kung Flu. Really! The Chinese disease?
I need more supplies, gotta stimulate the economy, right? I need to discover a cure
I must keep the world uplifted with positive affirmations
No knock warrant? Breonna plays in the background
As stores, restaurants and businesses close
Rats run rampant in the streets a bear scampers through the hood
Going for supplies-the number s are climbing. Statistics and polls lie
I have but one tear for all of it ONE! And I am saving it
Wondering if she was having an affair with an officer
What did she know? What did she learn, at the hospital? What were they trying to silence?
I go to the store for food and supplies. I mail mask.
The people I pass react differently than they did three weeks ago and three months ago as well. Chinese people are the new niggers And they tell a different story on the news about Chinese people being racist to the Africans in China
They don’t explain why. We find that strange.
I will never get the full story this way. I will have to search the dark web. I will find out. . . I cannot imagine White folks envy me because my people are somehow not being affected by the plague
They look at us with contempt and head back to the lab again.
Buy toilet paper and hand sanitizer buy a bunker and move there or make friends with someone who owns one go there and wait it out.
There are too many people the Eugenicist say – Gates resigns
Faucci comes to the helm: face palm. He then plays in the background with Breonna
Mask on, well you may not need it.
School ends without the pomp and circumstance, now parents understand the importance of teachers and the extended day staff and how true their words were in those conferences.
The schools need to reopen so the rest of the country can go back to work.
White people continue to protest because their privilege does not allow them to think a plague would actually keep them from life as they want it to be, with people waiting on Karen’s hand and foot.
No mask on a lot of them. They are thugging it out, burning it down, setting some shit on fire, stealing and looting in the name of Black Lives Matter, not that they really do, to them, but everybody likes free stuff from high end stores.
Chicago murders continue to rise faster, than the Rona, they are not named just numbered.
Police are outraged they can no longer shoot people at will and walk away.
Somehow the white people become friendly after/well during the protest. Trump has the special police fire on the protesters for a photoshoot of biblical proportions’.
They smile now and offer their dogs for petting while boarding up their shops and hanging BLM signs in the windows of stores which generally follow blacks around the facilities on normal days. They are fearful and want to be considered allies, as news casters search for the token black to say can’t we all just get along. None come.
Nick Cannon finds an old tape of he, and Professor Griff he puts it up on his youtube podclass. He is fired
Breonna plays in the background
Unemployment is at an all-time high. Come what may the numbers are great, really great!
Now Blacks are dying in great numbers alone in hospitals where families are not allowed.
Bodies rot in the street inside Uhaul morgues as the cost of funerals quadruple. No one wants to touch the bodies, so they force the prisoners.
There were no plans made for mass graves.
Walking down the streets now Mask on, and the flat line smile of the white people is gone again. They almost cross the street to avoid contact, Sidestepping eye contact because they can no longer see color, this time for real, as if the pandemic chooses black people.
We have somehow become the face of this disease
Is selective racism going to take us all out before we find a way to live and love together?
They cannot see me and I am here, unlike Breonna, and alive looking for a cure the same way they are, knowing if I was to find one they would say it does not work murk me like Breonna and steal the treatment.
Still I search not only for the cure but the cause because I know they are synonymous.
They look past me, because the police turned the protest into a parade by taking a knee,
Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben fade into the background
They look past me and blame me
They fixed Nick Cannon for telling his truth and
they want to open the schools and
they sent in special forces to quell the masses in Oregon and. . . CRS
people are protesting because they are tired of the bullshit and the ignorance of what happened to Breonna
My art is playing in the background
©Keren Afrikess Sheffield
Say Her Name Breonna Taylor daughter friend Kenneth’s girlfriend niece EMT 26 spunky loved life cars laughter was going to buy a house get married have a family
Hopes and dreams shattered in an instant no-knock they get dressed Kenneth grabs his legally owned gun Who is it? home invasion? answered by silence followed by loud boom battering ram door knocked off the hinges
barrels of guns pointed spray of bullets everywhere including neighboring apartments unjustified
Breonna, who loved life a woman who spent her days on the frontlines helping others spent her last moments gasping for air as the police who vowed to serve and protect stood by and let her die in her hallway conveniently forgetting their vow and, oh, by the way, there were no drugs only Breonna
who vowed to serve and protect Kenneth in handcuffs for firing one shot attempted murder of a police officer to injure the invaders looking for drugs finding none
Three months later LMPD incident report is released virtually blank transparent reported no forced entry no injuries even though Breonna was not the person they were looking for she was shot at least eight times and died in her hallway
LMPD have banned no knock warrants and the officers who committed this heinous act continue to live their lives while those who protested outside the AG’s home have been arrested
We will continue to say her name and call for justice for Breonna in the memory of every black person whose lives have been taken
Say Her Name
As I think of you, I am reminded of “The Souls of Black Folk”, by W.E.B. DuBois. He spoke of white supremacism as a construct – a veil. A reminder that we have been relegated to separate and unequal status in America because of the color of our skin. Redlined into the inner cities where we are over-policed and under-funded. Every day, but especially this day, I am reminded of what is it like to be seen as a problem to be dealt with. As a threat to be neutralized. Neutralized is too clean a word for what has been done to you by the brothers in blue. The police see us through the veil of blue supremacism and fear. They fear being carried by six more than being judged by twelve because their lawyers will claim self-defense. Despite being armed with a no-knock warrant, bulletproof vests, military style weapons, night vision and backup, against one brother armed with a handgun. Twenty bullets indiscriminately piercing the walls of their home, striking Breonna eight times. She was left lying in her hallway – alive for a time. How long is in dispute, but no aid was administered for at least an hour.
Is it so difficult for police to recognize the form of a fellow human being through the veil? A daughter? A person in need of immediate medical assistance? Why do we make up 13% of the U.S. population, but are being killed at over twice the rate of whites? Your death raises so many questions, but few answers.
The only lasting truth is this:
Black Lives Matter!!!
©Maria Michele Williams
July 11th and August 11th revised
What a heavy topic this is. There are so many things to consider.
When the framers of the Constitution made our country, they included a line that we had the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The problem that I have is that I am not defined by a dark skin color; so, I don't have as deep an understanding as my darker skinned friends in our Saturday Hollywood Squares but I will give it a good try.
But I do see a lack of regard towards the lives of these innocent individuals. It brings to mind the paintings or stories of the slaughter of innocents or in our recent history of the September 11th atrocities when buildings fell and people became missing or dead or their lives torn apart just from living their daily lives.
These people, of the Breonna Taylor ilk, had 2 or more decades invested in them and the disregard snuffed out their candle. Elton John played " Candle in the Wind" where a candle is a bright light. I attended our Service of Shadows of Shadows where a candle is snuffed out at each Station of the Cross. In this ceremony, the room becomes dark and we must exit in total silence out of respect for this death and dying of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is part of history and must be pliant to life in general.
Yet with Breonna Taylor or George Floyd, they were ordinary people that life got intertwined with and got messed up with.
I feel bad for Breonna Taylor's Mom to be filled with uncertainty and then find her daughter's life was snuffed out and not be told in a proper manner.
Heartbeats are rather constant in life but it is abrupt with the lives of these black people.
I am told that there are many shades of grey in some of the answers that we find. There are many shades of white. When I view the men and women that surround my life, white really is not the color. It is rather shades of tan.
Rather, I see a kaleidoscope of colors as part of a fan of beauty that gets unfurled neatly from day to day. I see this as a flag that flies strongly in the breeze.
I also see this on the Maine coast. I see the aqua color of the water that moves beneath and through the ocean. Its color is influenced by the mixture and blends of the clouds in the atmosphere.
I would love and dream for our culture to be filled with the right composition of color and warmth so that the lives of my friends could really create what they are worth.
In answer to Shanna's question of "do I create my art as if my life depended on it?" my answer is probably not. But in the general gist of life as an artist, it does matter and does matter tremendously. And my intent is showcased by my imagination that takes abstract forms. But my abstract art
helps others find meaning to the deeper images that I may not see at first. Acting like parables to be discovered. That is why I call my art
"Painted Devotionals." For they tell stories by themselves without words.
Or parables to be discovered and found out to be true.
In a way that is what makes life so much more difficult to see and understand. We may have many struggles that can be seen as undercurrents now and also have been across the realm of time.
But now as ripples have emerged with the life of George Floyd, It makes me real sad to see the disruption emerge. And to see and hear the riots and the fires and the looting and confusion. All near the neighborhood where my family lives. And speeding around the globe.
The only comparable battlefield that I have been on is when I was teased for looking and appearing different. Yet others don't always see what I can offer in the beauty of life., It is as if I won't win in the beauty contest since I often lose in the contests of life. Yet I love how contestants of various
races do stand up and become counted. Even if they lose their battles.
I am at a loss of words of how to dissect the issues. It is more complex than taking the scalpel and knife to an earthworm in high school biology class. For these are human lives that we are dealing with here.
So I can only trust for having my heart open and our hearts opened up. And possibly live by the adage of James 1:19 which states, "Be quick to listen, slow to speak and be slow to anger." Some painful lessons that I have learned at church and been reinforced by my Mom. And in the backdrop of COVID-19 and our racial divide and injustice.
Live on Breonna Taylor. I never had a chance to say hello or goodbye to you. But your friends and family loved you much for what I have heard from them in my midst.
You lived your life well.
©Scott R. Davis
Chief Encouraging Officer of Life (C.E.O.O.L)
Petals On Her Pillow – for Breonna Taylor
There are many plants, flowers, shrubs and trees in this world. Some of those flowers and fruits come up in rich, fertile soil with adequate water and just enough sunlight. It is no wonder that these lucky flowers bloom and thrive.
Other flowers are not as fortunate. They may come up in rocky or dusty soil without adequate water supply and either too much or not enough sun. Maybe their soil or groundwater is polluted with waste or toxic chemicals. Flowers and plants need the perfect amount or ratio of soil to water to sun to be able to bloom and thrive.
Some hardy, persistent flowers survive the harsh conditions. And, not just survive- but through their own strength and perseverance actually grow, thrive and even bloom!
As we celebrate a flower who came up in harsh conditions and despite the challenges, bloomed anyway, another arm is reaching to grab the stem of this “revolutionary petunia” and rip it out of it’s home killing it in the process.
Some flowers are like a poison. They take and they hog and they bully then sicken those nearby. When you look closely at the seed packet for this last kind of flower, it promises that these plants will protect and serve.
Then there are the medicinal flowers like Breonna Taylor. Her purpose in life was to help sick and injured flowers recover.
No matter that this Breonna flower overcame harsh growing conditions to follow her life’s purpose to help. No matter that this Breonna flower was a frontline worker flower (in a pandemic) and provided beauty in a sad space. These poisonous, “protecting” flowers killed Breonna flower in her bed while her petals rested on her pillow. - j roots 6/7/20
Say Her Name
She did everything right: As an EMT helping the survival of others During this COVID-19 Pandemic, Working double shifts at the hospital, She was a loving sister and daughter Bringing joy to all those she touched, Dancing and singing her way through her young life She illuminated those around her.
She did everything right: Leaving her drug-dealing boyfriend behind, And finding a man she could trust, She continued taking care of the needful With her effervescence and joy of life.
She did everything right: lying asleep late one night, No warning was given For the intrusion of noise that came exploding through their front door.
Waiting in bed, watching her boyfriend Cautiously picking up his gun and rushing out Hearing a shot fired, then horrified by the barrage of bullets From automatic weapons let loose through her bedroom window.
Lying in agony beside her bed, life’s blood dripping out from eight wounds, for twenty minutes she waited. Who was coming to help her survive? Was she reaching out for her lover? Calling for her mother? Praying for deliverance that never came?
She did everything right: Say her name, Breonna Taylor
©Christine Maxwell August 2020
When most people think about racism, civil rights movement or Black history , they focus on Black men such as Frederick Douglass ,Malcolm X., Dr. Martin Luther King or WEB Dubois. Fewer people focus on Black women such as Sojourner Truth, Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, or Shirley Chisholm who ran for president in 1972. Many people know about the Tuskegee syphilis experiments done on Black men . President Clinton made a public apology to the black community about these experiments. I just found out a couple weeks ago that the so-called father of gynecology , James Marion Sims, created medical instruments and perfected operations on the Vagina by having live black women who were enslaved be operated on without any anesthesia. He believed that Black people felt no pain, and that the only reason the women were crying and screaming was because they were ornery slaves. There are statues of this so-called father of gynecology at medical schools. They should be taken down and a statue to the Black women should be erected instead. I am glad that the Black Lives Matter movement is making the lives of Black women matter as much as Black men’s lives matter. It is good that the Black Lives Matter movement is educating the public about Breonna Taylor and fighting for justice in her case of murder by police.
©Lady Beth August 2020
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