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Voices / Essay

‘I want you to hear me. I want us to heal.’

An ode to the death of white supremacy and a call to liberatory politics in Windham County

Amber Skye Arnold is the co-founder of The SUSU Healing Collective in Brattleboro, a healing space committed to “commUNITY reciprocity for the healing, affirming, and liberation of black, indigenous, people of color and the allies who ride with us.”

Brattleboro

Can you hear the  h u m  of my ancestors when my voice shakes as I speak in the room that wasn’t designed for me?

Can you hear the  h u m  of my ancestors on transatlantic slave ships rocking together in unison, calming their bodies, and defying all odds?

Can you hear the  h u m  of my ancestors as I challenge your fragility and deep fear of being uncomfortable, even if it means the murder, incarceration, emotional dis-ease of my people?

Can you hear the  h u m  of my ancestors as I challenge your superiority? Can you step off your polished white block of isolation and stand beside me?

Will you  h u m  with me? Will you heal with me? Will you transform this culture of White supremacy that has harmed, even you, me, and these generations beneath me? Will you h u m with me and free my people from continuous slavery?

I know it’s uncomfortable. You will never be free, when the innocence of my children’s big bright eyes and beautiFULL brown skin is challenged by your system of  w h i t e s u p r e m a c y . Your freedom, your peace, your liberation, your resilience, is bound up with me.

You can’t truly be free if you are actively unintentionally harming me, and yes, I mean you here in Windham County. I know that you’re triggered, I know that you’re mad, I know you might even resort to feeling a little bad.

So, before reading further take a collective  B R E A T H  with me ... you see? This is how we dismantle White supremacy!

1 2 3 B R E A T H E  with me. Feel the love of your ancestors. Feel the light in your feet. Feel the heat in your chest. Now you’re building collective reciprocity.

I want you to hear me. I want us to heal. I don’t want us to be disconnected. That makes this “unreal.” Once your body is ready please keep reading on. My truth is uncomfortable but it takes a caring collective to transform and to move along:

I feel: great joy, sadness, frustration, pain, hurt, resilience, resource building, connection and isolation.

I see: and understand things that dominant White supremacy culture doesn’t want for me to see or speak of.

I see: a huge rise in equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives that center White voices, resources, and continue to harm communities of color. I continue to see private and state granting agencies announcing equity-focused grants and no Brown people present at these tables.

I see: this funding yet again being funneled into White-run and -owned organizations that are well-resourced and have used people of color to gain these grants, only to toss them to the curb or throw them a few crumbs while they profit off of them, their visions, and their hard work.

I see: Black-owned organizations filled with multigenerational members working day in and day out with little to no funding, going unrecognized. I see you!

Our children: are being violently harmed by structural racism, injustice, lack of access to resources and funding, and safe platforms for us to engage with community.

Our house is on fire: but those words only seem to resonate and make headlines when said by little White faces with bright blue eyes.

Our children: are water protectors, street protectors, people protectors, Earth protectors, and their little voices demanding a quality of life only given to those with White power and privilege make you too uncomfortable to look.

There is a lack of awareness of this harm but the comfort of White folx when we bring these issues up in public is prioritized and centered while we are made to be seen as the “problem.”

* * *

These are all issues happening in Windham County, and we need to start looking at impact and not just intention.

We cannot possibly idolize historical figures like MLK, Malcom X, Rosa Parks, and so forth without honoring and caring for the many brown bodies currently living, surviving, and thriving in our communities.

I want to acknowledge: the suffering and harm that brown bodies in our communities are experiencing every day, most of the time in silence in meeting rooms, in community colleges, in libraries, in grocery stores, in staff meetings, in all the “we don’t have enough time or money” spaces. In all the everyday places.

I want us to be seen and heard. I want us to focus and prioritize looking at structures of injustice that uphold racism in every. Single. Business. Organization. School. Government-funded agency. And place that makes up Windham County.

I want this to be the priority of White folx and not the people of color who spend far too many hours of unpaid labor and emotional pain trying to educate people and fix systems of injustice that they had no part in creating.

Every time: I hear the excuses of not enough time and not enough money I see flashes of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, all the beautiful brown bodies whose state sanctioned murders were the results of...not enough time and not enough money.

I want my people to be seen, and heard, and not be invisible any longer. I want us to matter. I want our children to matter. I want collective care and accountability. And most importantly, I want you to hear the collective wisdom and voices of my ancestors coming through this generation.

I want you to prioritize: the collective healing, safety, and wellness of our people. I want you to help me build a culture that is meant to hold and care for the babies that come after me and you.

A culture that is meant to affirm and nourish us. A culture that builds resilience, reciprocity, and honors the earth and its beings. A culture that has no room for White supremacy. I want us to embody this vision and prioritize our liberation.

I want Black

 and brown bodies

  to be Humanized

   Prioritized

    So shall it be.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #548 (Wednesday, February 12, 2020). This story appeared on page C1.

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