By Mackala Lacy
“Death is seen as a stage of life. The living dead are still members of the tribe, and personal immortality is assured as long as one’s memory is continuously passed down to each generation by the tribe’s oral historian.” (White & Parham, 1990)
To start this piece I tried to make a list of the names that we are mourning, but I didn’t know when to stop. What is considered “recent” and what hurt are we supposed to have healed from by now? How does time function within death? I’ve decided that it doesn’t. So, in throwing away time, I refuse to make a list if I don’t have the capacity to name us all; we all deserve our name. There is not one who I will not recognize for the sake of easy consumption. For all of my family that no longer inhabits their bodies, regardless of bloodline, era, and circumstance, I write this for you.
We are Spirits held within a body. When the physical is no longer available, that does not mean that we are also. We are held in the tongues of our descendants, in the hands red from clapping, the feet calloused from dancing, the candles burned to the wick on the altar. We are held in ink, in tears, in blood, and in song. Death is a part of Life, and especially and particularly Black Life. If we forget that we are immortal, kept alive by the memory and honoring from those surviving us, we lose our power. We lose multigenerational wisdom. We lose our family. We lose our names. We lose ourselves.
Death is the inability to remember.
Tools such as #SayHerName and #BlackLivesMatter can be understood as methods to call upon and honor our infinite generations of named and unnamed family. This connects us globally and across time. It allows us all to be historians. It makes us remember. The dead still play important roles in our community and in our efforts toward liberation. We cannot stand to lose their contribution. It is the responsibility of the living to keep them present. Let us promise to remember. Let us promise to tell the stories that keep us alive forever. Let us keep living even after we’ve died, then we will never experience Death.
Black folks exist in the Wake. We exist in the aftermath of the Crossing (, and so) we move across space and time infinitely in all directions. We are infinity and expansion, incomprehensible Dark Matter- some “stuff” we hypothesize may move the Universe. Remember. Remember. Remember! I am asking you to remember yourself. It will come in small pieces, it will come in a dream, and/or in a haze. It comes and you are not sure the reflection ever really happened. (It did.) Then tell us about it. Ask your great-grandmother for her story and why her spine curves the way that it does. Ask her to remember. Remember. Remember. Remember!
“When the lights shut off/ And it’s my turn to settle down/
My main concern/ Promise that you will sing about me/
Promise that you will sing about me.” (Kendrick Lamar)
I came to the place I was born
It is the same place I died
I look out at its expanse with both
Living and dead eyes
Its waters are
Blue, grey, greenish, pale and bright
Black like dark, like me, like night.
I put my foot in the water
The water was cold
It chilled my body
But never my soul.
It’s the place where I died
It’s the place where I was born
It’s where I lost my memory
It’s where I found eternity
It’s where I was baptized
It’s where I found God
It’s where I found me
It’s where I found my hair
Coiled up in seaweed and dirty foam
I crossed here many times
It is home.
It’s where I threw myself overboard.
I fought the captor and won
I fought the captor and lost
I fought the captor and still remained in
Too thick chains that tear the
Flesh of my too thin wrists that are now
Exposed to the dried blood of someone’s
Too lost mother.
I lost my name here
I lost my mind
I was born here
I died here too
All I am sure of is
I am infinite.