By Steven W Thrasher
Spots of joy are necessary and needed in the seemingly endless fight for justice. In Baltimore on Tuesday night, as the city reeled from how the death of Freddie Gray exposed the violence of a decades-long police occupation of the black population, I didn’t experience many moments of sweetness. But one came in the form of a parade of young girls and sashaying boys shortly before nightfall, who made it their business to fill the intersection outside the now infamous burned CVS in West Baltimore with dancing.
The dancers fearlessly responded to the acute violence of the previous night’s events by prancing and voguing. These flamboyant young men and women used energetic dance and music to turn the void of black death into a space filled with black life – their spines were straight in defiance of a broken spine the police had severed.
In Ferguson last summer, there wasn’t much levity in the days after Mike Brown was killed, either. But there was something sweet happening outside the infamous burned down Kwik Trip gas station on West Florissant, where families gathered to take a stand. Children drew with chalk on the ground, sometimes drawing Superman, other times making chalk outlines of their own bodies to articulate their fears they couldn’t express with words. It was tender, touching, even, to see black families responding to the black trauma of white supremacy with black community.
Children draw outlines of their own bodies in chalk.
In New York last December, after the lack of an indictment in the death of Eric Garner, there wasn’t much holiday cheer in the air. It was cold and people were angry, as protesters took to the streets about a lack of justice even in the case of a homicide recorded on video. But there was a lightness to the marching, at times. “The whole damn system is guilty as hell” and other chants were not sung in a cowering position, but with emboldened spirits of people who knew the joy of standing up for themselves.