When I See Us…

I have had no words to explain the ache in my heart. All I can do is share what’s on my heart. It’s so heavy right now.

My heart breaks with the pain that we are all feeling. A pain that has been felt with every injustice shown towards us. Both in private and in public. A wound that never gets to heal. A shared experience of trauma and outrage that has gone on for way too long in far too many ways to count. I weep for us. I mourn the lives lost. I stand firm in the fact that our lives matter.

When I see us— I see beauty and power and resilience. I feel pride in my lineage of faith, strength, love, fire, brilliance, calm and grace. I feel blessed to have been covered by a sense of ancestral spirit in my youth. Many of my childhood memories happened in a neighborhood filled with hope and struggle and connection and complexity. The Lane is what we called it. Now, it’s known as The Pleasant Square neighborhood. Beautiful shades of brown and black people. I see music, running through the sprinklers in summer, family reunions, family fights, nosey neighbors, jokes, love, church service, bike rides, softball games in the park, exploring the creek and nature paths.  Varied stories, all interconnected.  I felt protected and looked after. Once, I was riding on the back of my friend’s bike and my ankle got caught in the bicycle spoke. It was a neighborhood emergency! Lol Everyone seemed to have gathered there to get little Tiffy’s ankle out in one piece. I look back and just smile. I had my first crush in that neighborhood, he was older— David was his name, brown skin and pretty eyes. I remember being young and trying to look cute skipping down the sidewalk as he was across the street in his house standing behind his screen door and I fell! Skinned my shoulder and he helped me up and made sure that I was ok. That covering I had time and time again was essential because once I stepped out of that safe place and into my predominately white community my experience was different.

I was obviously “other.”  I was the only black girl in many of my classrooms throughout my education. I had wonderful times in school and made fun memories with former classmates but I also had moments of immense hurt that reminded me that I was seen as other. I was in elementary school when I was first called the “n-word.” I can remember feeling so confused because I knew how awesome I was. I could never be reduced by those moments. Even still, I remember it like it was yesterday. I know his name and I can still see his pitiful face. I also remember the stares from my peers when the slavery section came up during our history lesson, and I couldn’t wait until the end of the year so that we could get to the Civil Rights Movement portion. I looked forward to that powerful flex so that I could show them just how amazing we are. I also know the importance of teachers stepping up and supporting students of color. My English teacher in my senior year, Mrs. Nell held an afterschool “meet-up” in her classroom and we read poetry and other writings. I fell in love with Nikki Giovanni’s way with words and had an excitement about having a space to explore the Black experience in my school. Being the Co-Features Editor on the school’s newspaper The Lebanon Light also gave me a way to express myself and shine light on issues that we were interested in. I’m sharing this glimpse into my experience because I have never supported this colorblind society that many speak of. I feel it’s necessary to see each hue, each shade, each color of everyone and appreciate those differences. Understand our differences. Celebrate our differences. See the humanity in every person. Learn each other’s stories. Share stories and hold space for one another. Maybe then, we can find a way for the justice system to work in a way where every citizen feels seen and heard and respected. If we are going to have real change and have the systems (healthcare, education, financial, ect.)  work properly for all of us, it’s going to take all of us working together and supporting basic fundamental rights. Truly seeing. Truly changing. Using our voice in action. Being an ally during this time is essential. My sister-in-love wrote a truly heartfelt post on Facebook and she’s allowing me to share it with you today:

Long post, but my heart hurts so bad right now.

As a white woman, I was brought up a bit differently than some in my generation.  My mother traveled with us.  Showed us places where MLK and so many others marched and ultimately where he died.  I visited the sight of JFK’s assassination and was educated on the environment at the time.  I visited many civil war battlefields where I was taught what the war was about.  I’ve traveled through the south, only to look at trees along long gravel lanes thinking to myself about what those trees have seen, and about “strange fruit”.

I learned way more than what was in my history book.

I’ve studied Social Psychology, Psychology of Law and Justice, African American Psychology, Educational Psychology, Sociology and more, only to better understand the injustice that plagues this country.

I married a black man, and joined a black family.  I’ve seen firsthand the pain that they have experienced, and the pain that transgenerational trauma can cause.  No, I don’t know what it feels like.  I never will.  And no, I don’t know everything there is to know about the struggle, but I know it exists.

I’ve been called a ni**er lover, a gorilla lover, and many other names I’m just not going to share.  Because it’s not about me, but more so about the reason these people chose to call me these names in the first place.

But nothing I’ve ever seen or been through can prepare me for this world my son is going to live in.  As I watched the news tonight and saw so many angry, frustrated people, acting out in a way only those who have been silenced do, my heart broke even more.  Because my 4-year-old bi-racial son sat in the floor playing with his toy bugs, oblivious to the horror that has been unfolding before our eyes for centuries.  Oblivious that another man with skin like his was murdered in the street by a police officer.

As I lay there stroking his little 4-year-old hair, thinking about the pain and anger so many feel, he asked me to talk about our day.  We talked about our favorite parts, and smiled from ear to ear doing so. I haven’t always “gotten” it, and never claim to.  But I have always tried to walk in others shoes.  I have always tried to empathize with people that hurt.  I have always tried and will continue to try, and will continue to stand with anyone who is marginalized and targeted because of the color of their skin.

It’s been personal for a long time, given my husband and his family who are now my family.  But today, it got more personal than ever.  My son, my sweet, kind, caring, smart, empathetic son is starting to ask questions.  He’s wanting to see more.  I’m not ready.  I’m not ready AT all. But it has to be done. We have to be honest with him.

Today, I felt a feeling that mothers of black children have been feeling for centuries. Today, I say I will fight harder.  Today, I ask you to do the same.  Let’s make this world a better place for our children.

-Olivia Forrester

I am so thankful for my upbringing. Our values, thoughts and perspective begin at home.  Growing up within a supportive family and having a village who had my back allowed me to never have to question if my life mattered. I was shown daily. That message gave me wings and the confidence to take my place in this world. My hope is that we get to a point where every life is truly seen as valuable and treated as such.

I pray for our country. I pray for every family hurting. I pray for our children. I pray for all of us. I pray for healing. I stand in power with you today and always.


Tiffany Reneé