PTSD: Persistent Traumatic Stress Disorder


We are in a constant state of PTSD, not post, post implies that whatever caused the trauma is over, implies the nightmares and flashbacks will eventually subside. Black people in the United States of America suffer from Persistent Traumatic Stress Disorder – because there is literally no time to recover from one shocking, traumatic event before another one occurs. We can’t watch the videos anymore, can’t breathe, can’t wish the reality away, can’t explain to anyone who doesn’t already understand, and most of all we can’t make it stop alone! And we are not alone, after 15 years in Iraq and Afghanistan, over two million veterans of the war on terror are walking our streets, and many of them have become police officers or school resource officers or prison guards, who now view American citizens as their enemy, especially Black Citizens because of how this country was founded.

The origin of police officers vs. a local Sheriff stems first from pursuing fugitive slaves and then enforcement of Jim Crow Laws; there’s a flimsy pretense that things are different now, but the underlying motivation has never changed, in the eyes of the law Blacks are not seen as people and therefore are not worthy of protection. Until there is a collective acknowledgement of this sub-human status, no amount of training will solve the problem of murder at the hands of police with impunity — after all we see examples everyday of people (mass murders, rapists, thieves) brought into custody and given a fair trial — while Blacks die in the street for selling loose cigarettes or CDs, for sitting in a car reading a book or asking a question. It has always been incredibly scary, sad, and infuriating, but seems to have a renewed fervor during the Obama years, because good old boys are so frustrated by his existence and their inability to extinguish his swagger. Now with over 2 million Americans in prison and an untold number on probation and more mass shootings than days of the year and rampant poverty, the persistent anxiety pervades our daily lives like a cancer.

A bunch of us were facilitating poetry writing at Berkeley High when Columbine happened, we threw out our lesson plan and let the students process what they were feeling. Running an open mic at LA Pena the night this one happened. Dreaming of a different world when that one happened. We’ve lost count, from Aurora to Sandy Hook to Charleston to Orlando, from Trayvon Martin to Mike Brown, from Kathryn Johnston to Sandra Bland, to the very skin I’m in as a Black, Lesbian, Woman living in the United States of America; I often wonder which identity puts me more at risk – as if I could separate them.

I weep for the lives lost, I weep for the ones left behind, I weep for the fear that these incidents leave behind, I weep for the racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia and poverty of spirit that leads to them. What I believe is most important in times like these is to gather together in love and solidarity, to express our grief and channel our outrage into activism that cultivates the future we want to see bloom, just as our brothers and sisters at Standing Rock are doing, All Nations Rise it will take lots of collective and individual nurturing. One of my beloveds, Adrienne Maree Brown recently posted, “things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered. we must hold each other tight and continue to pull back the veil.” I totally agree, and I want to be part of a community that takes and demands consistent, constructive action: until state sanctioned murder with impunity ends in this country, until we have dismantled the school to prison pipeline, the Prison Industrial Complex and the militarization of police, until 1 in 3 women aren’t raped and beaten regularly, until our Persistent Traumatic Stress Disorder actually becomes post, until we can actually heal. We need art, music, dance, counselors and critical thinking back in schools. We need to find a way to see one another beyond stereotypes and labels, to choose love over media driven fear, to know we only rise by uplifting each other, before we destroy one other and this planet.


I honestly don’t know what broke my heart more, the images of Alton Sterling’s oldest son sobbing uncontrollably during a press conference, or Diamond Reynolds’ 4-year-old daughter comforting her mother in the back of a police car. “It’s okay Mama, I’m here with you.” In the back of a police car, in the moments after they watched Philando Castile murdered right in front of them, a 4-year-old girl should not have to comfort her own mother. A 4-year-old shouldn’t have to be a “strong black woman.” We who are never, ever seen as innocent or valuable or given sanctuary, who are forever taught we can handle anything, the down chick, the mamas who bury their babies, only to get up and make breakfast for everyone else. We who organize and compromise and agonize, without recognition, we need someone, like that baby needed someone, to hold us close and let us cry.

We all need to log off once in awhile and connect to the earth. I call on all of us to do whatever we need to do to take care of one another, don’t isolate through the moments of despair and don’t imagine being on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram means you are connecting with someone, it isn’t the same. Find someone to talk to and cry with and dream with offline, face to face.

To our white allies, we want to know if you can you listen to the reality we face everyday without pretending it away or acting like it has nothing to do with you? Can you be a perceiver? Can you as a white ally share these stories on your timeline, in your conversations with friends, family and co-workers? Can you say enough is enough, I stand with you, I see you, I believe you, I’m tired for you and I will call out racism, I will acknowledge that I have benefited from the system of white supremacy even if it’s unintentionally; because we will never effectively change this country until you do! Dr King, called on us to join together in the struggle, that’s why the March on Washington worked, the crowd was multi racial, multi ethnic, multi religious, multi determined, and multi organized – well I say it’s time for a new March on Washington, a new solidarity, a call to acknowledge and heal our collective PTSD by ending war both abroad and in our streets, a renewed call for an end to public lynching’s – the noose has been replaced by the bullet, slavery has been replaced by mass incarceration and it’s enough!

#WriteThisSecond #EnoughisEnough #ItsTimeForSolutions #WeAreTheOnesWeHaveBeenWaitingFor


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