Two shots were fired.
Then there was a pause.
A few moments of silence followed.
In these few seconds, in between the two bullets,
And in between the two cops
I saw you die.
Everything you ever were to someone else
A son, a brother, a father, a friend, a lover, a role model, a human,
Every person you’ve ever met, every memory you’ve ever made.
Was all gone; within those few seconds of emptiness.
I saw your black blood taste the cold concrete.
I saw your black chest with gaping holes, embellished with bullets
And after these few seconds, a few more bullets rained on you
I saw your black body waste away.
I saw your black life not matter; it never did, you see.
In those few seconds of emptiness,
I mourned every black body that had been slaughtered
I mourned every black body that was being killed
I mourned every black body that had yet to be taken.
In those few moments,
Your country betrayed you.
Those who took your life reveled in those few moments of emptiness
Before they emptied their bullets into your chest.
At that moment, they made sure that it was they who were in danger
And they who needed protection from your black existence.
The free who call it their land and the brave who claim it their home
Decided that after pushing you to the ground and shooting you
They would take a few moments to declare who you were in absolute silence
And to shoot you a few more times.
They took those few seconds to tell the world that you were nothing more than
A Black Man.
In those few seconds of void,
They hung a price tag on your body.
They asked each other how much a Black man’s life is worth and laughed
At the mere idea of your body being worth anything.
Each one of them stood and bid on your black body
A black body trophy that affirmed your black skin’s inferiority, up for their taking.
They added you to their trophy case of black bodies to display just how well
Our justice system works.
In those few moments of silence,
They laid you in the ground and raised your tombstone
“Armed and dangerous black man” they wrote on it
“The scapegoat of injustice, violence and bigotry”
“An isolated incident”
“An endangered species: The Black Man rests here.”
“RIP: Rest in Police Brutality”
In those few seconds of emptiness,
I inhaled the toxic air of hatred and felt the cold winds of another looming black death
I swallowed my tears and felt my chest get heavy with the tears I never cried
And the words I never spoke.
My tongue laced in fear, I told myself,
“It’ll be okay. It’ll be alright. I’ll live.”
But I was telling myself lies to keep me from seeing the black bodies pile endlessly.
In those few moments of nothingness,
You became a number, a hashtag, a very small part of a very large problem.
A line in a graph, a chapter in a book, a novel in a library.
You became the news, the papers and the articles.
Your name exists infinitely on a never-ending list, across the nation and even the world,
But you have ceased to exist altogether.
In those few seconds of pain between life and death,
between something and nothing,
I wrote the eulogies of my black father, my black brother and my black love.
I told my unconceived black son how sorry I was about the world he was being born into.
A world where his dark skin would be a weight as heavy as death,
A weight he had to carry his whole life until one day, it crushed him.
I told him that he was kind, important, loved, brilliant, beautiful and most importantly,
I told him that
His faith will be shaken and fear will colonize his soul
But I reminded him to never let that be his last thought;
which could be at any of these void empty moments.
I told my future black daughter that the rules apply the same to her.
All they will see is the skin that you live in.
It did not matter if you were walking with a hood on, or pulling out your license,
Your body is the best match and ideal target for their bullets.
Your very existence is a threat to their power and every breath you take,
May be in fear.
But within those moments, before the last few shots were fired
I pray for the strength to carry on, and for the will to fight as long as I live.
RIP Alton Sterling
By Edom Tilahun