The Charleston Emanuel AME Church Shootings: I’ve experienced much thoughtful, passionate, and intellectual talk (personal conversations or through social media) regarding the lives taken at Emanuel AME Church. There’s been much conversation regarding the killer. And, debates regarding the Confederate flag have now taken the lead. However, my mind and heart have been firmly planted on the five-year-old survivor. I’ve heard no conversation regarding her. She (and the four other survivors) is not to be ignored. My new blog post titled “Breathe Lil Brown Sugah! BREATHE!: A Charleston AME June Night” is my tribute to her.
It was a Wednesday like any other unassuming yet seeking and wanting to be fulfilled Bible Study Wednesday night in Charleston, SC. Ironic that Charleston is known as “The Holy City”. And, in recent years has been recognized as one of the most friendly, polite or hospitable cities in the U.S. Yet that was all lost (or was it ever really true) in a blink of a moment due to a lost soul. Actually due to many lost souls as he was just one of many unfortunate messengers who succeeded in being initiated in.
Emanuel AME Church
The chosen few gathered in the open arms of the historically, strong, proud, and standing tall Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. They came for their own reasons, their own seasons. Just like many before them. Since the 1800s, hundreds of thousands of saints have come to “Mother Emanuel” due to its rich and proud legacy. Coming for it’s spiritual guidance mixed with heavy doses of prayer, healing, hope, faith, and love.
But, on this particular Wednesday there was one special guest for the evening. Not who you think I may be speaking of. This special guest was lovely, young, and oh so innocent. She being a lil brown sugah that delighted all with just the existence of HER BEING in the space. Because with her you knew there was promise and hope from the already sometimes unloving, pain-filled, and uncertain world.
Perhaps this was Lil brown sugah‘s have no choice regular Wednesday night bonding activity. Sitting next to her grandmother and attentively absorbing all that she could only to later impersonate Pastor Clementa Pinckney, on her made up soap box as children do. Or perhaps the ritual was one of a fidgety child, anxious to move about and see what she could get in to. “Chile get out of that water in that bowl.” “Sit down.” Or an expertly maneuvered silent scolding by Grandma Sanders with Lil brown sugah being glanced at with THAT look. You know THAT look that’s enough to stop even a ferocious grizzly bear in it’s tracks.
As they were settling into Bible study, another guest silently arrived that June evening. He was quite different from the others. But as WE always do, WE with grace, politely welcomed him into the fold so that he too may take part in the healing words and teachings. “All are welcome. All may come.” Now of course a curious look was given cause we ain’t no fools. But, dismissed nonetheless because we can be a trusting and welcoming people, especially in the safe harbors of the house of the Lord. Not thinking much about him except that he could be of the Eminem or Robert Thicke type “where’d you get your DNA” cool dudes who were visiting just to see how we rock with Jesus and his crew. Perhaps being an ♪♪“intellectual, but the fear is just the same.”♪♪
But, that Lil brown sugah in her rawest and purest form was not be deceived or ignored. You know how children are with their bold and aggressive art of observing and staring one down with that not yet blurred third eye. Being sure to let you know “I see YOU”. And, perhaps to steal a smile or two while hypnotically inviting you to play peekaboo.
I imagine that’s how it went down that night when the innocent child met her unknowing thief of the night. Lil brown sugah saw him. She acknowledged him. He was not to be ignored. Until that unfaithful moment, he too became restless as he fumbled and brandished that cowardly weapon, his birthday gun that was no toy. At that moment, she realizing that the game was real because it involved playing dead instead of that all too familiar ♪♪peekaboooooo I seeeeee yoooouuu♪♪ endless fun.
One hour! ONE WHOLE HOUR he remained. Not even the grace and kindness of our people, the sweet and melting smiles of Lil brown sugah, or the teachings of our most merciful God could penetrate his already poisonous flowing veins that fed straight to his confused and severely damaged heart.
The innocent Lil brown sugah not alone as she was shielded, but alone to be courageous enough to fend for her own life. She pretending to lay nonexistent in hopes of avoiding the soon chalk formation of her breathless life. Silencing her own precious beating heart. Did her only five-year-old mind comprehend what was happening? You know we tend to discount the knowledge a child possesses. However, Lil brown sugah in her rawest form became raw no more as her sugar was instantly coated with the poisoned words and actions of a lost and sick mind. Of one possessing a heart of hardened stone.
Blazing up the trail of those Bible studying repenting souls who hopefully in their final moments were instantly lifted up into peace, even if they had not yet seeked repentance. Wouldn’t they get a pass? Surely THEY would get a pass!? Admitted on the express line to heaven. Allowed to cut the line right through the pearly gates of a now infinite time. VIP STATUS for you and you and you… With POPPED corks saying YES to a heavenly destiny reached even if they thought it was way before their time. ♪♪“We started from the bottom now we’re heyah.” ♪♪
But, Lil brown sugah, raw no more is left here. LEFT HERE?!?! Yes and grandma too. WHY?!?! Was it the bookends of their existence that spared them their lives? The still yet realized life of the young. And, a wisdom filled life of a loving grandma fighting for life for herself and her young.
But, that Lil brown sugah continues to be on my heart. Why would this be her fate? Would it be to live their dreams as their newly appointed legacy? To speak their truth? To comfort her grandmother in times of sorrow for she lost her son “Tywanza the poet and peacemaker” that Wednesday night too? Lil brown sugah left here in hopes that she can be all she is to be. One day so eloquently speaking the words of her truth like she witnessed time and time again watching the pastor speak his truth of the love of God. Of faith. Of hope. Of unconditional love. Of courage. Of perseverance. Of forgiveness. Surely God will be on that list. “Grandma, why would God let this happen?” After all it did take place in his home.
We can only hope for Lil brown sugah‘s healing, for this can surely be a haunting experience not only attacking her in her night sweat dreams, but also embodying her every waking day that she breathes. I pray she knows she can now breathe. Hoping that her Angels will not hesitate to visit her whenever she has fallen and can’t get up. Gently providing her still growing body with much needed CPR. Her appointed Angel(s) from time to time gently shaking her and whispering to her “Breathe Lil brown sugah. BREATHE!”
Top it off with what might be the counterproductive thoughts of those diagnosed with survivor’s remorse. “I’M ALIIIIIIVE!” “Dayum I’m alive. Why me?” See, demons can be vicious and latch on to one’s soul so tight that eventually they become part of the family. You know the one member you’d rather not attend the reunion. You don’t even invite. However, they always seem to show up and suck the honey out of the many reaching out for life branches of an abundant ring tree.
Damn that thief of the night. We know them so well. You know you do. You know that moment in your oblivious ♪♪laaaa la laaaa la laaaaa♪♪ younger days. That moment, that millisecond when your innocence was snatched from you from your own thief of the night. The moment that hurt being injured your spirit that you no longer thought or moved in a naïveté, I can do anything bold kind of way. The Lil princess or prince now banished to the forest to join the wolves. No longer dancing with them, but moving through life with a side eye of reluctance, while fighting for dear life. “Can I trust?” “Can I achieve?” “Can I feel?” “Can I love.” “Can I just BREATHE!” Questioning moments of one’s worthiness and soul destined paths. You remember the moment or maybe you might not as it subconsciously debilitates you even right now. Right.Freaking.Now! But, Lil brown sugah will remember that moment for the rest of her life. Forever and ever, Amen! The repeat reel will play over and over again in her head and broken heart. “To murder Black people”, was his reasoning he obnoxiously said. Where even at this tender young age, it is made clear to Lil brown sugah that in OUR America, Black Lives Do Not Matter through her no longer color blind eyes. Yeah, Lil brown sugah will remember that moment for the rest of her life. Forever and ever, Amen!
My prayer for you Lil brown sugah is that you will heal from the tragic memories of witnessing the nine Black precious blood shed lives stolen. My prayer is peace and grace for you Lil brown sugah. You are faceless and nameless to me, but I still SEE YOU! I still HEAR YOU! You are me. You are humanity. I still pray you will heal from your pain and once again BREATHE and exhale with ease. BREATHE and be FREE with absolutely no fear of being seen.
Lil brown sugah, I pray you will find the will to LIVE, TRUST, HOPE, BELIEVE, and LOVE! That you will have the unconditional love and support of a nurturing village, full of compassion and patience. That your recent stunted growth will be for a short time only to be birthed with wisdom and an abundance of love. And, that you Lil brown sugah, you will BLOOOOOM like a radiant flower. That you Lil brown sugah will BECOME the BEAUTIFUL and VIBRANT butterfly SOARING and BEING all you were destined to be before you were even birthed into this promising yet confusing world.
Peace to you Lil brown sugah. I hope one day you will have the peace of heart to live and love, pausing for many, many more moments to steal a smile or two like you did when you once played peekaboo. The peace of heart to BREATHE! To BeDoLove!
To Those That Transitioned: May all be resting in peace on the other side of those pearly gates. Embracing Lil brown sugah, Grandma Sanders, Mrs. Pinckney and her daughter, the third unknown survivor, and your family, friends and the world as our Angels.
To All of Us As Survivors: We are a strong people rich in beauty, personality, courage, character, intellect, culture, perseverance, and so so sooo much more. These qualities are firmly embedded in our DNA’s from those way before our time. We can’t be held down. We can’t be silenced. So scream, shout, cuss, cry, grieve… Do want you have to do. It’s okay. In the end, we will always ROAR!!! We will always BREATHE! Because, indeed “Black Lives Do Matter”. All of humanity matters. Peace to all in Charleston and those far and wide. –kcb BeDoLove
Backstory: I began writing this Thursday, June 17, 2015. It was the night after the Emanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston, SC. I sat at work feeling very heavy, yet also intermittently distracted from the day’s work. However, while everyone talked and posted on social media about those who were killed and the killer, I couldn’t get the five-year-old survivor out of my mind and heart. The moment I left work she came to me again, and I began composing this in my head while driving. I could not afford to let the thoughts pass me by. I wrote a good amount of this that night while at Half Note Lounge, while celebrating a friend’s birthday, head nodding and taking time to enjoy the moment by dancing and singing to the band Be’la Dona. All for Lil brown sugah. And, I continued to write and tweak throughout the weekend and early part of this week. And, here I am.