“I have free tickets for you. Can you meet me at the country club? Brother Crump will be speaking on police brutality and signing his new book titled Open Season: Legalized genocide of colored people.”
“I’ll let you know,” I responded.
I wasn’t much for country clubs. I had only been to one country club before, and it felt awkward to sit amidst all white people while Black and brown faces served us. My friend Tremaine, who works at a country club, told me that he is overjoyed when Black patrons enter. It is comforting to him to see familiar faces. Although I longed to hear from the electrifying Attorney Benjamin Crump, I faced ambivalence.
I first learned of his work when he served as the attorney for the Trayvon Martin case. Crump later represented the families of Michael Brown of Ferguson and now George Floyd of Minnesota, to name a few. Like many, I still carry the memory of Trayvon’s wounded body with me. The recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Tony McDade are haunting. I often contemplate the fear that must have overtaken them. After considering their terror, my mind immediately transitions to my 5-year old Black son: innocent to me, yet potential prey to others.
When Trayvon was murdered, I was working as a Spanish professor on a college campus surrounded by young people. I memorialized him all over my office with signage and printouts. When they announced the verdict that acquitted Zimmerman, I was away from my North Carolina residence visiting family in Montreal, Canada. While there, a young white woman, in collaboration with many people of color, had organized a protest in the center of Montreal. Being away from my homeland, it warmed my heart to see our neighbors to the north joining with us in resistance. The organizers petitioned white protestors to yield the floor to people of color. I watched as white people respectfully followed the instructions, approaching the microphone only after the people of color had concluded. The hard white concrete steps beneath my body mirrored the hardening of my soul towards a system that repeatedly told me, “Your life does not matter.” The Montreal organizers held a sign that is forever etched in my psyche; it simply read, “The whole system is guilty.” Although I wanted to believe the best, the system was showing me the very worse that our nation had to offer.
In Montreal, I listened to many Black mothers explicate their fears, anger and confusion over the senseless murder of Trayvon Martin. Some of these women were no doubt descendants of the enslaved who sought refuge in a northern sanctuary. Others were immigrants, refugees and second and third generation immigrants. They were modern-day freedom seekers. Whether they spoke in French or English, the soul of the Black mother was anguishing.
I decided to attend the country club event after all. Invited. Summoned. I went. This event was in no way reminiscent of the former country club gala I had attended. My husband and I were not the lone Black faces in the room. Here, the entire guest list was Black and the employees were diverse. The staff was so excited to hear from Attorney Crump. We were all attending this family reunion together. The Black workers slowed their strides and fought back tears as the attorney gave heart-wrenching statistics of police brutality. White workers all but gave us the power sign. They knew that he spoke the truth. A world beyond their reach, but not beyond their comprehension.
My husband and I asked Attorney Crump to dedicate his book to our four-year-old son, Giovanni. He smiled, took the pen, and lovingly stroked my baby’s name. As much as we enjoyed hearing the wisdom and front-line work of Benjamin Crump to combat police brutality, I pray that one day his work will end.
Krishauna Hines-Gaither, Ph.D.