Today marks the 4th anniversary of the murder of Philando Castile. I can’t say for sure what about his death specifically impacted me so much, but four years ago today, I felt myself slip into a deep depression that was nearly impossible to get out of. The feeling of despair, heartbreak, hopelessness, and fear I felt, is indescribable. Even now, I can feel bile creeping up from my stomach.
On July 6, 2016 I wept for Philando, his partner Diamond, his 4-year-old daughter, and his family…but also,
Buy why Philando? Maybe it was the fact that he was my husband’s age at the time and also a public school employee, or that he had his concealed carry permit (which my husband also has), or was it his “wide-set nose” that made him fit the description from an armed robbery…
As I watched and listened to the police footage, the 40 seconds of dialogue that included saying and doing the EXACT things that my husband has practiced with me over and over again, in the chance that he would get pulled over — and then 7 shots.
Philando’s last words were, “I wasn’t reaching for it.”
And then despair set in, the complete loss and absence of hope. Is this truly the world my husband has to navigate every day? Is this really the future for my sons? How can I protect them? How can I make sure they know they are loved, valued, worthy?
You may be wondering what I am getting at, or where this is going… and I wish I could say there is a happy ending to this story. While I was able to eventually pull myself out of the darkest of places, I continue to find myself treading lightly around the same thoughts and feelings, the emotional landmines that have the power to suck me back in.
One would say the opposite of despair, is optimism. As a mother of three Brown sons, I have no other option than to find hope, and where I can’t find it, CREATE IT. This desperate need and desire led me to creating the project I am sharing with you today. While our country continues to grieve the unwarranted and senseless murder of Black men (and women) at the hands of the state, allies and activists have found their own ways of taking action and demanding justice. When reflecting on my own sphere of influence it only made sense to create something that would bring hope, not only for my sons, but for every Black and Brown boy, for every Black and Brown man.
Enter a new superhero, and more importantly the protagonist’s hero of my first children’s book, Black Man. “Black Man” is a superhero that my 4-year-old son, Langston, created using his imagination. After listening in on him playing with his brothers and always hearing “I’m going to be Black Man, he always wins!” or “Black Man is the best superhero!”, my curiosity got the better of me, and I finally asked who this “Black Man” was. That conversation is how the story begins.
As I have watched my son pretend to be “Black Man”, it was clear that many of his superhero characteristics and qualities come from the important Black men in his own life—whether personally known, or learned about. This book will be for each of us that have our own “Black Man” in our lives. Our everyday heroes, our superheroes, and everything in between—paving a path for a bright and promising future for all of the young Black and Brown boys who see the very best in them, and want to be them.
While I don’t have a release date for you (yet), what I do have is hope.
…and a small excerpt from the book.
“Ugh! Nothing is right in here! How am I supposed to pretend to be Black Man if I can’t dress up as him?” Langston said, as he rummaged through the costume box.
Momma poked her head into Langston’s bedroom. “What’s wrong, baby?”
“I am trying to play superhero and I can’t find anything in here to make me Black Man.”
“You mean Batman?” Momma questioned, thinking she hadn’t heard him correctly.
“No, no…not Batman, BLACK Man.” Langston responded confidently.
“Black Panther?” Momma tried again, still confused.
“Mom! I said Black MAN!”, this time a bit more annoyed.
Amused she began to question him, “Who is he? Is he from a book? Did you see him on a TV show? What are his superpowers?” Momma asked.
Langston shook his head and let out a sigh. “That’s too many questions Momma!”
He turned and looked at his reflection in the bedroom mirror, “He’s just Black Man, and he’s the greatest superhero of all time.”
JULY IS NATIONAL MINORITY MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH