The Following is the Transcript of a Speech Delivered at the 2017 Humanities Symposium by Denise Brown.
As I opened [Kelly Brown Douglas’ book, Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God] and began reading, I found myself walking down the sidewalk with Trayvon Martin. The hurt that I had given to God rushed in like a wave. I still feel that Trayvon’s blood is crying from the soil of America, and that Trayvon’s crime was truly, as Prof Brown Douglas mentioned in her book, a Kairos time. An opportunity for America to evaluate its history and its relationship with each other and even with God. I felt that this was not only a tragedy for Trayvon and other African American children but for America as a whole.
President Obama said that if he had a son he would have looked just like Trayvon. My two sons were around the age of Trayvon when his life was taken on that sidewalk in Florida. He reminded me so much of my sons down to the hoodie, can of Arizona tea and bag of skittles. Many times, we would stop at convenient stores and my boys would purchase these same products.
I never had a name for the culture that would okay or condone the right for someone to take a young man’s life. This book called it America’s Exceptionalism. Spawned from the Anglo Saxon Myth. Being a Christian, I spotted this sin immediately as the ultimate sin that dates back to the beginning. I saw it when Cain killed Abel, when Pharaoh killed the babies in Egypt for population control, when Herod killed male babies at the birth of Christ, and even when Jesus was crucified on the cross. It was the need to be the superior one. The need to have the power. The creature trying to take the place of the Creator.
Reading the book reminded me of the challenge that I have as a parent of black children. In my case, black males, who are the main targets of this stand your ground culture described in the book. I reviewed the things in my mind that I had already done to rear my boys. Proud young men with a promising future. Since they were young, I taught them their story. The story of their ancestors, how they took the abuse, and made it through circumstances that required fortitude and faith in the Creator, that would see them through. I told them about the contributions African Americans have made in America. The first open heart surgery, the real McCoy and the traffic light to name a few. I often wonder, if this “Stand your Ground Culture” had taken the life of an African American that had the cure for cancer. My boys will continue to attend church where they learn about the only one who is truly worthy of their praise. The only one who has the authority to define who they are.
With laws like Stand Your Ground in place, I will continue to pray for my boys and place them in God’s hands. I’ll continue to pray, as the book suggested, that our nation will be a place where “justice is cherished and where freedom, life, and love flourish.”
I was glad that my son saw an act of kindness last weekend from a white family who interrupted their schedule to help us stranded on the side of the road. Their children and mine got the answer to an old question Cain asked God after killing Abel. We are in fact our brother’s keeper.
Thank you Prof Brown Douglas for this book in its attempt to stop the bleeding, the infestation, the fungus that is killing our African American children and ultimately our country.
Denise Brown began work at Messiah in August 2016 as an Administrative Assistant for the English Department and the Center for Public Humanities. She loves reading books (actual books in hand). Denise and her husband Sylvester have two sons, Jonathan and Joseph.