Sleep was non-existent that night. I thought they were under my bed. I thought they would come back. I had trouble walking through the house, my body shivered, my movements became inactive. I became vulnerable, my mind was spinning in circles. I did not understand what was going on, I was only eight years old. They flipped the couches upside down, broke my mother’s bed, and stole my uncle’s jar of coins. No, we were not robbed of any material things, but of our privacy. The cops destroyed our home. Yes, I said the cops.
Ten years ago, and I remember the day so vividly. Who knew that on my walk home from the bus stop, I would see cops swarming around in our back yard? The running of my sister, the yelling of my grandmother, and the eyes of people staring put me into this turmoil. Everything was moving at such a fast pace, I couldn’t think clearly. As we turned the corner there were more - a S.W.A.T team, a group of detectives, and enough cop cars to occupy the whole street. We were not allowed to take two steps near our front door. I watched as the cops ushered three of my cousins out of the house very aggressively. I stood as still as can be, my heart dropped, there were guns pointed everywhere. I thought I was dreaming.
The cops had kicked our front door in, held my cousins at gun point, and went on a rampage throughout the house. We sat outside for hours just waiting for them to give us permission to go inside. Family members came running down the street, only for them all to be stopped and harassed. My family was in close association with a drug dealer who the cops were looking for. They had been watching our house for weeks as the dealer came in and out. No, he was not leaving any narcotics there but simply coming to see his children. He made us a target unconsciously and destroyed all of us. One of my male cousins, being his close friend, was forcefully attacked by the police in broad day light. I never thought I would have to witness something so harsh at such a young age.
Eventually, things begin to die down. The cops had left and took my cousin with them. He was free of narcotics, but because he was associated with the actual suspect he was taken away from us. As night rolled in, there was complete silence. I would try to figure out what everyone was thinking and feeling. I know for me I was terrified.
Now here I am, still having to constantly relive that day due to all of the nightmares, racial profiling, as well as police brutality that is still happening. The reoccurring cycle for black people. Although this was something that happened years ago, I still become frightened at the sight of police. I am also not alone in this fear.
Voices screaming “black lives matter”, never meant anything to the cops. Eric Garner screaming “I can’t breathe”, went unheard. The struggle of always having to be on guard walking down the street. This has become the world we live in. Black bodies have always been endangered. The privacy of our lives, our homes, our cars have become public. Which makes me wonder if we ever had privacy to begin with?
Growing up I have always known the surrounding strip of convenient stores nearby to be called Cecil B. Moore avenue , until I begin an internship at the Community Futures Lab. What I have known to call this strip my whole life was formerly called Columbia avenue, and there is so much more history as to why the name changed. In 1964, Odessa Bradford was forcefully removed from her car on what we now call Cecil B. by policemen. This incited big riots to breakout along the strip in which they called the Columbia Avenue riots.
Growing up we are taught to perceive the surrounding world we live in as peaceful. But as times move on it, becomes up to us to be self-educated with the facts. I think that for some point in my life I had become so naïve to actual believe that those times of police men hurting us blacks had surpassed. In reality they don’t; sometimes situations go unheard and unnoticed until one person says something or begins to protest and riot.
From being at Community Futures Lab and reading on significant events that happened, I begin to ask myself multiple questions such as: why didn’t I know more about what was going on? , was I choosing not to be educated with the facts? , or simply was the facts too horrifying for me to stay woke? Just from being in the space of the Lab I learned that my answers for my question will not just come to me as moved about my days without actually doing any work. I also learned to stay woke, and never let anyone rob me the opportunity of spreading what I learned to others as well as never letting anyone do the work for me.
Bio: Deja H., born and raised in , North Philly, is a student at Bennington College.
Photos (2) and (3) Courtesy of Temple University Digital Collections