A Brief Preparation for Dying

Illustration by Chris Kindred
Illustration by Chris Kindred
Illustration by Chris Kindred
Illustration by Chris Kindred

I think it’s important for Black people to be able share their emotions with as many other Black people as they want, when they physically and emotionally can do so. Often times, the internet is one of the ways for that exchange to take place.

Because I am accustomed to seeing a Black person’s name and the word “killed” in the same sentence — I thought an old mentor of mine, Sterling, was killed. I imagine “killed” as being really tall and they stand over top of the name to the point where you can’t really see who the person is anymore.

When people die in ways that we are comfortable with, we memorialize them. But when death happens in a way that makes people feel something unsettling, it’s a different story.

Six months ago, in a performance, I told my mom about the time when I had a run-in that seemed like an eternity with a confederate family pointing guns at me when I was a child.

When they say “scared to death,” that is what they mean. My mother didn’t cry at that gallery and I am still wondering how she does this…has she had practice? Did she have to prepare herself for this during and before labor? Is my mom the twin of Quinyetta McMillon? The mother of Alton Sterling’s child. I think so. Because big girls don’t cry… right?

Today three years ago, I was going to a friend’s really close to home. And my mom was freaking out. I couldn’t believe it. And I started laughing at her. I know better than to laugh at my mother. Sometimes, I can’t believe myself. But I laughed. I said, “what are you talking about?! I know these people,” and she yelled, “These people don’t know you here. They see you walk through that shortcut and you’ll get shot out here And you’ll be dead on the news.”

She was tearing.

A week later, George Zimmerman was acquitted for the murder of Trayvon Martin. My friend Isabel’s mom is an amazing woman who lost her husband almost eight years ago. She told me last month that it would have never ever dawned on her to talk to her three kids about interacting with police. She is white.

After we watched my dad die, my mother said to my siblings and me that our father set us up with everything that we needed before he left his body.

He prepared us for living. And she is preparing us for dying.

By Loving…
Openly.
Willingly.
Unapologetically.
Fully.
Without fear.
Without judgment.
With patience.
With forgiveness.
With hope.

By Loving…
herself.
her legacy
women.
her women.
her men.
ourselves.
our skin.
our noses.
our lips.
our hair.
our ancestry.
our trauma.
our history.
her brothers.
her father.
her children.
her whole. life.
And our future…

….Where my children will exist here as radical bodies, accessing and asserting their power.

Reclaiming what is theirs, loving whomever they wish to love, wearing whatever skin they wish to wear, feeling the feelings that weren’t reserved for me as a child. And unlearning a bloody narrative in order to write a new one, where they will be treated as gold. One day, I hope my insides match my mother’s. I want to look like her when I die. As vulnerable and honest as possible.

I want to die just like her.


Malcolm Peacock, Contributing Columnist

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