46 Boyd Street Newark, NJ 07103
"Praise the Un" (2017) by Red and Students of Newark Leadership Academy
During the enslavement of Africans in America, Blacks were psychologically and behaviorally conditioned to see ourselves as being inferior. The worse we felt about ourselves, the stronger the hegemony of Whites over us. White Supremacy and Black Inferiority are two sides to the same coin - as Blacks are convinced that we are inferior, White people, comparatively, look superior. Dr. Frances Cress-Welsing, the late, renowned, Black psychiatrist, spoke about the connection between White Inferiority Complexes and genotypes. Black death was a proxy for White survival - economically, egotistically, and biologically. During the course of enslavement, Black people learned behaviors that we never unlearned, such as eating particular foods, speaking to each other in particular ways, and approaching the world from particular perspectives. Some of the learned behaviors that were once adaptive while in bondage, have become maladaptive once were we "freed."
The Black community has been suffering ever since and some of us play into the structures working toward our demise while others work to empower and uplift us. This is not to say that there are only two camps; we exist in multiplicity and in the words of Dr. Boykins, a Black psychology professor at Howard University, Black people are not a monolith. Though we may have experienced similar and common atrocities, traumas, and oppressions such as housing discrimination, oversexualiation, and criminalization, we have responded to there in idiosyncratic ways.
In Newark, NJ, we still see remnants of enslavement in our community's affect, behavior, and cognition. The system we live in is dysfunctional but due to power, we are often the ones considered "crazy." The loss of life in our community is traumatizing for us all and we each cope with our inescapable awareness of our mortality differently. Students at Newark Leadership Academy were inspired to cope through memorializing young people who died in the city of Newark with a mural, similar to candlelight vigils and more permanent. The youth, alongside Red, collaborated to create a wall for the community, allowing community members to sign names of young people who died in the city.
How does this connect to the opening paragraphs about enslavement? Our young people are often killed by police, a gang that evolved from slave-catchers, and other young people. When the shooter looks like the victim, homicide looks like one archetype committing suicide. Too often the archetypes of Black men and Black women have been put into cycles of self-destruction which is inseparable from our history. This is not to absolve personal accountability of individuals; rather, more importantly, we must acknowledge antecedent causes of psychological trauma and the environment in which the death of young people has become normalized. Jim Crow, failed Reconstruction, the Crack Era, Cointelpro, and water crises in Black, urban neighborhoods all play a role in the mortality of Black youth, the genocide of the Black community, and the loss of precious life - all too often for senseless matters.
Rest in Peace to all of our Beloved Angels
And fuck you to the system that endorses the wasting of Black life