Even though I was not at the vigil that evening, the shooting in Dallas hit me hard, as I’m sure it did everyone in my immediate community. But it hit me hard for numerous different reasons than the average Dallas-ite, because as someone working for racial and economic justice I am tasked to hold space for deep, painful, and powerful counternarratives. I am still processing the aftermath of the shooting, but I hope that putting some of my truths to (figurative) paper can help illuminate the path through the pain.
I am holding space for Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Alva Braziel, and many others. I am holding space for the anniversary of Sandra Bland’s death in Waller County Jail. I am holding space for the way Erica Garner’s grief was disrespected at the White House gathering. I am holding space for the acquittal of the cop in the Freddie Gray case. I am holding space for the ways in which black life continues to be devalued in this country and internationally.
I am holding space for my friends from Baghdad who have lost family members in the car bomb. I am holding space for everyone not in the “first world” who experiences this form of daily terror. I recognize my terror and my privilege.
I am holding space for my friend Sara Mokuria, founder of Mothers Against Police Brutality and one of the most amazing people I know, who never stops working for justice for families affected by police brutality.
I am holding space for the immigrants in my community who think that seeing a minimum of 10 police cars patrol their neighborhood on a daily basis is “normal” for the United States.
I am holding space for the homeless Sudanese refugee behind our storefront who routinely gets his camp cleaned up by the city, hidden away when the organizations in the area host festivals where city officials will be present. I am holding space for his friends who routinely get questioned by the police.
I am holding space for how difficult it is to be or do anything when one is under psychological siege.
I am holding space for my teens who told me about seeing a black man harassed by police in our neighborhood, just hours before the shooting happened.
I am holding space for all the moments I have seen hate for myself, my friends, and my family, in a white person’s eyes, that tells me that white supremacy is real. I am holding space for my weariness in thinking such people cannot be changed.
I am holding space for the man in our parking lot who lost his job working odd jobs at the bars down the street, because the local business improvement district shut that shopping strip down and are in the midst of redeveloping it using the excuse that “African American men who hang out at those bars cause crime”.
I am holding space for my undocumented brothers and sisters in my community who have been harassed by private patrols, evicted by changes in property laws, and for whom DACA/DAPA is not enough. I am holding space for their dreams of a better future.
I am holding space for the sex workers in our neighborhood who experience the threat of violence from their pimps and their johns, but can’t call the police without putting themselves in jeopardy. I am holding space for all the sex workers and homeless people in the world who are completely ignored by service agencies with a moralizing focus.
I am holding space for my brothers and sisters fighting against gentrification and displacement in Los Angeles, your struggle is important to me. Your struggle informs my struggle here in Texas and my moral positioning as a cultural worker.
I am holding space for my black brothers and sisters who shouldn’t have to do this work, who shouldn’t have to be subject to the daily reinscription of state-sponsored terror. I wish I could give all of you paid mental health leaves for the rest of your lives.
I am holding space for myself as a teenager, growing up in Texas, terrified that someone will come after me with a gun because of a difference in skin color and belief. I am holding space for the enormous pain that results when civilians and police can access military-grade equipment.
I am holding space for that girl I taught in mural class in South Central Los Angeles, who said she wanted to become a police officer so that she could see transformative policing in her community.
I am holding space for the one cool police officer I know, who is my friend on Facebook, who routinely advocates against negative stereotypes of my community that are perpetuated by other DPD officers, who hopefully knows that none of my rantings about systemic violence are about her.
I am holding space for everyone who knows that “coming together” is really code for “let’s stop talking about systemic violence and the difficult choices people in power will need to make for true justice to occur”.
I am holding space for everyone who wants a more just future.