To some extent it was as though we were all living in a time that had moved backwards. America withdrew, counter-clockwise into chaos, locked herself in retrograde for three uncompromising years under forty-five. And I suspect I selfishly compartmentalized the loss more than most. That is to say, I dug the black semicircle of dirt from the underside of my stubby nails into the efficiencies of the day and pretended that I was not drowning beneath the failures of the humanitarian gains which, once celebrated, shifted, irredeemably, and backslid daily, defaulted under a new regime; fumbled backwards to the unspeakableness of their rudimentary beginnings. Stripped down to our origins, however pale, in reverse, everything felt was divided, estranged if you will, and at the same time amplified by the deprivation of the virus –not corona virus, the racism that permeated the continent like a Windsor knot tied too tightly around the necks of those who knew that in spite of emancipation and proclamations, that we still were not free.
At night I would inhabit the guest bedroom of the home I still shared with my ex in a county adjacent to Los Angeles. There was, at that time, an underlying current of stagnation which permeated the thick argumentative air and felt as unvarying as small talk. To avoid the entrapment of quarantine I tried not to live with nicotine, and in exchange, I habitually drank a glass of tequila, mixing it with any willing accomplice so as to dim the decay that bookmarked the year and clouded the staleness of my suffocation over. Under the weight of my stagnation I sifted through dumpsters of electronic information in search of things that resounded as universal truths, something legitimate I could sink my teeth into, something as solid as gold. With a quest for knowledge I became a miner of a new age. In isolation the revelations uploaded to Twitter replaced headlines news, became the computerized porch stoops and street corners where people gathered to share their experiences. Under the curtain of a nigrescent night sky the iris of my scopic brown eyes ingested the prejudicial hostility of the unvaccinated. My timeline flooded with reactions of Karens caught on video, knees that were weaponized more consequentially than Colin Kaepernick’s ever could –ending the life of George Floyd, and outrage from the killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor were added to our narrative. #saytheirnames
Plausibly, I imagined that half of the planet was like me, suspended in an environment that felt strangely offbeat, unable to sleep through the night, circadian rhythms interrupted by the anxiety of a nation under siege by a crisis of hatred and inequality. And in witnessing those reoccurring moments through my phone it was as if the pleas made by Black America in our wish to be arrested with the same dignity provided to others, was split upon a peak of pain, broken in half on a precipice of neglect and disregard, and ended, impotent upon arrival. To some degree the pain was superimposed upon my soul by the repetition of those digital screams, as though I could feel their tightened throats grow hoarse from transcribing hashtags of the names recounted, which became nothing less than a daily roll call of the dead, defiant cries echoing throughout cyberspace, heartbroken retweets of racial injustices that repeated without end.
I could not escape how the compilation of brittled bones condensed in memoriam, in a measure that was nearly unquantifiable, contorted the unbearable weight of loss and fueled a bonfire of rage, setting the collective spirits that would assemble against tyranny, ablaze. And I estimate that if there ever was an accelerant to Black voices –a point of pivot in the plight for fair play, that ally was covid itself, and the global seclusion it forced. Seclusion created an aftertaste of resentment and immediacy in me and others, and now exempt from distraction, it unexpectedly pointed our navels in the same direction. I saw the world as I knew it withdraw, punctuated by the antonyms of everyday life: freeways became empty wastelands, crippled employers dismissed staff by the millions, toilet paper became the currency with which security was measured. Resigned to home I was forced to view my own iniquities as much as others. As an artist I held myself accountable for the absence of art and creative practice in my life. And I questioned not only myself, but those whom helped build the cage I was in. Yet in all places, the constraint of introspection bore witness to a sudden eruption of consciousness and singularity of being. However truant, it was the first time I had witnessed citizens the world over act as one. In that the observations of lives lost so unjustly became exceedingly personal, an assault upon all who sought a better way. As an act of preservation and rebellion, the incurable nature of a modern day plague culminated into the only reaction with which humankind was left with, revolution.
The day rioting began in Los Angeles I had already completed the process of deliberately unraveling my life. Afterall, tomorrow had been taken. Prompted by a sense of urgency from within I chose to answer my own prayers as I determined to move to Nevada City, California, in order to reconcile my creative void and to also be closer to the only lover that mattered. Two days before the end of May my guardians came in the form of less than a dozen friends who descended like angels from all corners of Southern California to pack my twenty-six foot U-Haul. As soon as the sliding door clamped shut, my protector and friend Juan was ready, right then and there, to set off on the near eight-hour journey towards Northern California. We arrived before the sun on a Sunday, shortly after midnight, passed armies of giant cedar trees which safeguarded our odyssey as highway forty-nine narrowed against the glow of a half-hearted moon. Juan slept in his hoodie on the bed of an old pullout sofa the previous tenant had left behind. The coldness of the air cut against us and we had no blankets. I slept on three sofa cushions that I assembled into a makeshift mattress in the empty space that I would call my bedroom. When morning broke we began unloading all of my earthly possessions into the three-bedroom house I would mostly occupy alone. Sometime around eleven, prompted by hunger, I headed out to the nearest town over in search of takeout. I drove less than a block away, westbound, towards the freeway entry at Broad Street and was welcomed by fifty locals protesting on the overpass. Each holding a variety of multicolored signs in support of #BlackLivesMatter.
"Stop Racism." "Who Do You Call When Cops Kill?" "White Silence Equals Violence." "The Hate You Give."
In this community embedded in a forest on the outskirts of oblivion, with less than forty-five hundred inhabitants whom were all predominately White, they woke up determined to leave the comfort of their Victorian homes in order to fight for my right to a peaceful existence and take a stand on the merit of equitable due process for all. Overwhelmed by appreciative tears I began honking my horn over and over. I tried to say “thank you” but I was lost in the space between the words. It was evident, other allies were appearing. Demonstrations were springing up across the globe and together we were more than a million strong. And even if one had never walked the streets that day or any other, we were of the same mind. We wanted a world without racism. The Black journey, in all of it’s complexity and uniqueness, may have begun this resistance as a sole congregation but the planet was not as solitary as we had believed. In the end, the hope we carried, revived together, combined by the countenance and support of others, was enough to alter the disequilibrium of the world.