To my unborn son:
I write this letter to you because I love you already. My soul cries out for your justice, your peace, your love and your pain. Sit still, surrender to the peace that demands your attention and listen to your mother’s calm, sweet voice.
Before me and your father met, something happened. Something was happening. What happened, before your father and I met, was chaos. We lived in a nation where we thought racism had come and gone. We had a black president, a black attorney general. Our mayors, congressmen and congresswomen, lawyers, doctors, teachers and athletes were black people.
Despite such amazing accomplishments, there were thousands of black men in prison. Many of these black prisoners were poor. They didn’t always have money, thus, they had no proper representation. They spent long years in prison and, sometimes, for minor crimes. In some communities, black men were gang leaders, drug dealers and high school dropouts. Most of these black men lived in the same communities. They lived in old, abandoned houses and housing projects. They wore baggy clothes. Because this was their way of survival, which is essential to livelihood, they taught their children to be the same way.
This was the way of life for thousands of men of color around the world. They were taught to survive in an economy that had little to no jobs for uneducated people, government assistance was limited, and educational opportunities were targeted towards certain communities and not their own.
One day, a 17-year-old boy went to the store to pick up a pack of Skittles and an Arizona Sweet Tea from a corner store. On his way home, a man followed him until he got to his father’s house. After this teenager confronted this man about following him, the man proceeded to follow him to the backyard of his father’s house and approach him. They got into a fight and, in a matter of minutes, the teenager was dead.
Trayvon Martin was the teenager’s name. Each morning as you begin your day, look in the mirror and you will see glimpses of Trayvon in you. Sometimes, when it’s raining or cool outside, you wear a hoodie. There might even be times when you just want to take a walk to get some fresh air. Baby, this is your right.
I want you to soak in every moment of bliss. I want you to feel the rain, enjoy nature because it belongs to you. Don’t be afraid of nature, the dirt, the flowers, the trees. I want you to take long walks and drink sweet tea. I want you to learn independence, so I will always be with you in spirit, but not always physically.
I write this letter because I don’t want you to walk around in fear. Trayvon Martin was your color. His killer was not. His killer went to trial and a predominantly white female jury found him not guilty. His killer walked away, as if he had done nothing at all. Folks say he was “Standing His Ground.” I won’t put you in a place where you are not safe. I want you to love all people, because people are beautiful. Take a look around you at black, white, red, brown and yellow people and love them because they are people, but don’t forget who you are.
Although you will learn and grow around people of all races, if by this time nothing has been done to ensure your safety as a black man, I don’t deem it safe to live in a mixed community. I want to apologize. With tears in my eyes, trust me. I want you to live and grow where there is life!
Speak for justice. If these conditions still persist, be careful about what neighborhoods you decide to walk in. If you are approached by the police, put your hands up and be respectful. The law is not your friend, because you are my son. Fight for a better system. Do the work of God. Don’t beget violence with violence, because only love can do that. Raise your voice and not your fist.
I pass the torch to you, just as my father did for me ...
Tabatha Holley is a native of Dawson. She is a rising sophomore History major on a pre-law track at Spelman College in Atlanta. After college, she plans on attending law school and becoming a human rights attorney.