I am not from Missouri, nor have we ever met, but none of that matters. Not today, not for the past few weeks, and not in the future that lies ahead. Today, you and I, we are family. More than just family, we are sisters. Together, we are part of a greater community, one filled with questions, concerns, and a desire for justice. But I’m not here to discuss law suits, fundraisers, or political movements, though my sister, know that we are out here doing what we can to bring your son justice. The reason I wanted to write this letter is to just say, Black woman to Black woman, you are loved.
I would ask how you are doing, but in such a time as this, that question seems almost silly. So, I think the better question would be, how are we doing by you? And by we, I mean women like me. Women who may not live in the same part of town that you do, women that may not live in Ferguson, women who may not even live in the same part of the country as you, but women who nonetheless share the same beautiful brown hue that your skin beholds. Women that know what it’s like to know that the Black men to which they are connected may not come back from the store. Many of us could never comprehend what you are experiencing, then again too many of us can. And truthfully sister, you should never have ever had to have this experience yourself. Yes we are women who wear t-shirts, carry keychains, and claim with no uncertainty that we believe strongly in and celebrate sisterhood. But in moments like these, the words, “First we’re Black, and then we’re Greek” ring with resounding and we are all Black women.
Now, I know we have sat around with the women we have called sorors and talked about our anger and frustration with this tragic loss of life and gross injustice, but my sister, have we called you? And if you don’t want to talk, have we been a presence to support you in silent moments that are often the hardest to endure. Have we taken the same arms we so often intertwine to sing songs and greet each other, and wrapped them both figuratively and literally around you? I know we have undoubtedly availed ourselves to march the streets of Ferguson, but have we made ourselves available to you? Have we shown you this sisterhood we so proudly stand upon as core to who we all are? If we haven’t Lesley, if you haven’t felt our presence as much as you hear our voices, tell us. We need to know, because we should be there. Because of an overzealous officer empowered by a racist culture left unchecked, you are a sister in a place that no Black woman should be. The universal founding principles of our collective organizations compel us to not just care but to act.
I can see that Ferguson is a place full of love and family, and I know that they have poured their love and support on you because contrary to some sentiments, that kind of passion only comes from a place of deep of love. But Lesley, in case we have been stingy with our outpour, in case we have been part of the ranks who have seen this moment in your life as an opportunity to elevate ourselves and organizations instead of an opportunity to show love in action, in case we became so consumed with the struggle that we forgot to be there for our sister during her emotional struggle, I apologize. We love you, Lesley. We may have thought that you knew our love by the way we have lifted your son’s name at our social action strategy meetings, or conferences, luncheons, and banquets. I am sure we thought you knew our love because we are standing and marching alongside our brothers and sisters. But the truth is, sometimes we must say our love and show our love that have nothing to do with agendas and ways that can so easily be misconstrued as opportunities to gain laud.
So Lesley, we love you and not because it is convenient, or because it is the popular sentiment at the moment, or because it is the right thing to do. We love you Lesley, because you are one of us. We saw pieces of ourselves when you shed tears over the space they took your son. We saw our reflection as you searched and continue to search for solace, in the days that followed. We felt our unspoken connection as you allowed us and the world to join you in laying to rest the beautiful young man you raised.If you need us to fight for you as you walk through this season, we will fight for you. If you need us to wrap our arms of love around you to feel both loved and safe, our arms our available and outstretched. Here, with us you can be strong when you feel and vulnerable when being strong is too heavy of a load to bear. There are no expectations of you here to be anything but human, and a woman. As time moves forward and the media attempts to slander your son’s name, or attempts to make judgments about who you and those you love are, know that we are here to defend you. We are here to push back and dismantle politics of respectability and racist notions of who you should be, how you should dress or talk, pressures to smile and be calm and polite when maybe that is not how you feel. We are here to affirm the freedom for you to be who you are, who ever Lesley feels like being on that particular day. We are here to hold you up, to back you up, and to lift you up when you need it. That is sisterhood, and you are our sister.
As I watched the emotional meeting of you and the mothers of Sean Bell and Trayvon Martin I was in awe and inspired by the beauty and strength that resonated on the screen. You, Valerie, and Sybrina reminded me of how Black women carry so much on their shoulders and in their hearts with such grace. It also reminded me how even in the midst of our own personal challenges, we can come together to be the encouragement and sanctuary for a sister who has now found herself in a space unimaginable. Yet, I also found myself disheartened and enraged that you have now entered a sorority of sorts yourself that is gaining far too many members, and growing far too fast. Lesley, we commit ourselves to the cause of changing that fact. As these days following laying your son to rest come and go, I know only those who have been where you are can speak to exactly what you feel and experience. But I do know that you are surrounded by love. We are told that weeping only endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning. No one ever says how long night will be. But Lesley, know that until morning comes, we your sisters will be here through the night, because no one should have to journey through the night alone. Susan L. Taylor says, “Hands that serve are holier than lips that pray.” May we, the women that have committed to a lifetime of the principle of sisterhood, remember that point and extend both our hands and our prayers to you. Because, Lesley, even if you are not our soror, you are undoubtedly our sister. And in times like these, that is the only thing that matters.
May God’s arms of love wrap around you. Let us be those arms when God’s arms seem too far.
With all the love I can muster,