Of the more than 50 poems and half a dozen short stories published in my first book, I Made My Boy Out of Poetry, at least one story, “I Can Hear Juba Moan,” and a dozen poems throughout the book deal with people battling against social injustices. It is a recurring theme in Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance and The Wisdom of W.E.B. Du Bois because the historic and biographical nature of the lives chronicled in those pages (or in the Audibleaudiobook).
The struggle to correct racial and other forms of social injustices while refining practices of democracy for all Americans is among the most important themes to define the collective legacy of people of African descent in America as a whole. As with the case of the 25-year-old black man Ahmaud Arbery, killed in Brunswick, Georgia, by the white father Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis McMichael, 34, that legacy has often come with a painful price.
The concept of justice tends to have little to no meaning for a life already erased by murder. That is a primary reason so many in recent times have rushed to protest the shooting deaths of African-American victims––like Botham Jean in Dallas, Texas, two years ago, and emergency response shero Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, two months ago––before all the facts are known. Whatever the facts turn out to be, for African Americans attempting to balance the weight of centuries of such lethal biases, it rarely feels like justice has been honored or served.
As of this moment in mid-May, no one questions whether or not the McMichaels killed Arbery on February 23, 2020, while, according to his parents and what has been seen on video, the 25-year-old was out jogging. The world knows they killed him because the McMichaels claim they did so in an attempt to stop him to question him for a crime they believed he might have committed. Their stated intent, fully armed as they were and with acquaintance William Bryan recording the video, was to make a citizen’s arrest.
Bryan’s video shows Arbery running unarmed and attempting to go around a truck parked by the McMichaels in the middle of the road. A second surveillance shows Arbery minutes before entering an open house under construction, taking a quick look around, and then leaving. So far, nothing has been made public which indicates cause for the McMichaels to have blocked Arbery’s path on a public road and forced him into a fatal confrontation.
Additional videos have shown different people who were not black entering and exiting the same house under construction without anyone following or killing them. Yet reports have started circulating the shooters are likely to claim self-defense when the case goes to court. Because Georgia (along with Arkansas, South Carolina and Wyoming) is 1 of 4 states without a hate-crime law, state officials cannot charge them with violating one.
Art of Social Justice: Landscape for a Smiling Jogger
Contemporary award-winning author of classically-styled works in history, poetry, creative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and journalism.