Captioning Eulogies: Police Violence Through the Lens of Social Media

A collection of my Instagram captions from posts regarding the murders of the Black men, women, and children I grew up witnessing. In bold is the age I was when I wrote the caption.

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History is not supposed to repeat itself, yet these things keep happening. Innocent Black men, murdered for no reason at all. Trayvon Martin shot and killed a little over two years ago, and Eric Garner less than 48 hours, choked to death at the hands of six policemen. He had five kids, that’s five kids that have to grow up without their father. #racism – July 20, 2014. 

Twelve years old. 

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ATL. We’re protesting tonight. This is not a riot, it is peaceful. But peaceful doesn’t mean we’re not angry. We’re not slashing tires and burning corner stores, we’re chanting “hands up, don’t shoot!” and encouraging each other to keep going. Because at this point in time, it seems we’re all each others got. – July 9, 2016.

Fourteen years old. 

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I don’t have words. #jordanedwards – May 4, 2017. 

Fifteen years old.

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If brown skin was the crime then George acted as judge, jury, and executioner. 

Mama’s screams, howling grief, while the entire nation echoed her. 

Shot down cause his hoodie was up “looked like trouble” and apparently that’s enough. 

Cause when you fit a description, a box you’ve been put in, when there’s melanin in your skin you are trouble’s definition 

and to put it in perspective he was just seventeen. 

A case like I’d never seen, televised before our eyes as his murderer was set free. 

Chants in the streets, protested in heat drowning me and I don’t think I ever stopped. 

Rest in Power Trayvon. 

An angel with god. – February 5, 2018. 

Sixteen years old. 

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Why do innocent Black men keep dying? And why have these headlines become normal? And why does no one care anymore? I know we’re tired. I know there is a new face on the news every day.I know it hurts like hell to read these stories, but we must continue to. Change is slow fam, it’s mad slow. But we have to keep going, keep fighting. We owe it to these families. -March 28th, 2018.

Sixteen years old.

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These are pictures I took at a protest today. It was outside of a prison in Brooklyn where the heat and electricity has been shut off for a week. For anyone not living in New York, it’s been below freezing here for days. It is inhumane for people to live under these conditions. It is government sanctioned torture. I was surprised by the diversity, both race and age wise, at the protest today. From babies in strollers to old women with walkers, fromBlack to white toLatino to Asian to MiddleEastern and everything in between, there was a little bit of everything. Many protesters had friends and family members inside. The demonstration was incredibly peaceful. There was free coffee and snacks that had been donated for the protestors, coloring books and sign making stations for kids, pillows and blankets laid out for anyone who needed to rest. We sang protest songs while a man accompanied us on accordion. If you scroll to the last video of this post, you’ll see a video. The sound you hear is the people inside the prison clanking in the barred windows with metal cups and plates. Letting us know they are there. They are suffering. They exist. – February 3, 2019. 

Seventeen years old.

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When they kill you with a needle, lethal, legal, is it not murder?

When they kill you with a bullet but mask it with a badge, is it not murder?

When they kill you one, two, three times a day, when the numbers are spread across decades, adding up to millions, when the murder is labeled a side effect of democracy, is it not still murder?

Is it not a genocide?

Is this not a genocide?

When I see my people die, everyday, everyday, everyday. 

The stolen children of Africa are the bricks that lay this country’s foundation, bodies at the bottom of the ocean.

The stolen children of Africa are buried in unmarked graves. America built the White House on top and called it casualties of war. Who exactly was that war being fought for? 

My people are being sacrificed against their will to a country that does not want them, and that is NOT sacrifice, that is NOT a casualty, that is NOT justice it is MURDER. 

The system is not broken, it’s just working for the people who built it. 

In America, murdering my people is legal.

My god, 

is this not a genocide?

Nathaniel Woods, an innocent black man, was murdered by the United States government tonight. He was pronounced dead at 10:01 pm, by lethal injection. His final meal was sweet potatoes, spinach, chicken patty, chicken leg quarter, cooked apples, fries, two oranges and orange flavored drink, according to a statement from Alabama Department of Corrections. He took one bite of the chicken and left the rest of his meal untouched. -March 5, 2020. 

Eighteen years old. 

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Do not tell me violence is not the answer when there is so much violence in question. 

Because I was just 4 years old when Sean Bell was murdered. 

I was 9 years old when Trayvon Martin was murdered. 

I was 11 years old when Kimani Gray was murdered. 

I was 12 years old when Tamir Rice was murdered. 

I was 12 years old when John Crawford was murdered. 

I was 12 years old when Mike Brown was murdered. 

I was 12 years old when Eric Garner was murdered. 

There was so much death in 7th grade. 

I was now-years old when Nate Woods, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and so many other Black and Brown people I will never know the names of were murdered because of the white supremacy that terrorizes this country, and I do not want to write another poem. 

I do not want to post and repost and repost another piece of artwork with dead Black lives as the paint. 

I don’t want to use a hashtag. 

I don’t want to make this post. 

There is no justice in any of these things. 

I want to burn down a building and smash a window and scream at the top of my lungs and feel this violence in my chest flow through my fingertips, I want to do some harm. I feel so full of harm. So do not tell me violence is not the answer when there is so much violence in question I can mark the years of my life with the murders I watched. – May 28, 2020.

Eighteen years old. 

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For years, I have tried to use my ability of making words make sense to translate the complicated emotions that come with being a Black child in America. Putting all these captions together, they seem to me a eulogy, a million eulogies, for all the Black and Brown lives that were stolen. It is strange to see the quality of my writing progress this way. It is strange that I learned to write by writing about grief and death. It is maddening to see the repetition, so much so it makes me feel as if nothing has changed and things may have even gotten worse. I am reminded of the words of Black Panther Assata Shakur. 

“Only the strong go crazy. The weak just go along”