February 5th, 2015Dear Readers,
In 2012, Trayvon Martin was killed. He was only seventeen years old. He loved planes. He was the best player on his school’s football team. He fixed up old dirt bikes in his spare time. He hung out at the park with his friends. He was a kid. He was a kid. He was just a kid.
He’d be twenty today – maybe he would have spent tonight eating the first slice of his cake, with the new D’Angelo album blasting, his friends crooning Happy Birthday off-key, his mother laughing bright and loud.
The systems of injustice, of white supremacy, of racism and misogyny, that govern America (and much of the world) must be acknowledged, and must be dismantled. There is no denying, as featured artist Kia Dyson titles her work, the American Genocide. The mental models that develop as a result of these systems of inequality lead to violence, impoverishment, and tragedy.
When I decided to name this feature Hands Up Don’t Shoot, I didn’t dwell on the implications of correlating a mantra born of grief and murder to the words “what it means to be black in America”. And that was my mistake, because those implications are dire. Being black in America is not restrained to a singular focus on the effects of the institutional racism that plagues the United States – though that is an important aspect. There is not just one black American experience. No one identifies as just one thing – the intersections between different, and sometimes contrasting, personas is what makes being human so fantastic.
There is incredible diversity in the voices featured in Hands Up Don’t Shoot. There is an incredible resilience. There is incredible pride. Incredible love. Incredible grief. Incredible joy. The spectrum of blackness in America cannot be defined, or restricted, or subdued. The following writers and artists understand that. They have no excuse-me’s, no bowed heads, no apologies. They claim their space. They amplify their own voices.
You have the responsibility to alter the atmosphere of your world. Call out your friends, your family, your teachers, your co-workers. Refuse to tolerate willful ignorance. Educate yourself. Understand the power of language and art – every word and every image holds a significant weight.
Remember the hundreds of black Americans whose lives are cut short each year as a result of ignorance, fear, and hatred. Remember Michael. Remember Tamir. Remember Renisha. Remember Trayvon.