The city had fatigued the soul, and we didn’t even know it. The mileage from here to there. The distance from car to car. The traffic from heart to heart is immeasurable.
There was no screeching stop. Just a gradual slow down on four, five, six lanes of the 405. And every time we tried to reach each other, we were delayed, stopped by the car glass with windows rolled up. The city grew, became more populated. The crowds stumbled onto the boulevards, onto the freeways, into the fast lanes, and carpools. The tires burned rubber. We tried to reach out, but we were blocked by car glass, steel, and aluminum.
The city was brutal beyond a doubt. Beyond reason. The school secretary, mom of four boys killed while driving her small Volkswagen to work. The identical twin struck by a car while riding his bike to school with his brother. The Awaida family, trick-or-treating in Long Beach, mom, dad, 3-year-old son, killed when the car jumped the curb. We tried lighting a candle downtown at Our Lady of The Angels but couldn’t seem to drive ourselves there. The City that we came to inhabit expanded into a County of 4,751 square miles that we had to traverse. It was infinite. So was our love.
We came to L.A. to work. Everyone came to work.
Except the Natives.
And that’s all we got. Work. We tried to find happiness in fleeting moments.
Black Folk stay diverse from the time of their arrival on American shores. Whether they studied in Italy or they have roots in Eritrea. Whether they came from Louisiana, Kentucky, or Tennessee bringing the South to Central Avenue. These things will be eternal. You will see. Because of the memories and the children. Protect the children. At all costs.
The city was deadly beyond reason. And Hollywood didn’t help us understand. We could see it in the faces of the homeless. Their tiredness from lugging their homes around, pushing their homes around. Why were they discarded?
Hollywood did not help us comprehend.
The elementary school teacher, Ms. Crawford, was shot and killed while sitting in her car in the evening. Yetunde Price, the sister of Venus and Serena Williams was murdered in a drive-by shooting. The school employee, Donte Williams, killed while sitting in his car with his girlfriend. The shooting death of 15-year-old, LaMmarrion Upchurch, a dancer with Tommy the Clown, on Manchester Avenue. Shot point blank. Life ends. Shot point blank multiple times. Breathing stops.
The ambulance is late. The security guard is distraught. The family is depressed. We’re finished here. Los Angeles took so much out of us and gave us so little in return. In the end, Kobe tired of the injuries. And Nipsey grew weary of the snitches.
Some men just want to be a dad to their sons and daughters. Las hijas. La Mambacita. To coach them the correct way and offer shelter. We see you in the offices, factories, kitchens. At the shops. On the basketball court. Off the court. In the music studio. That evening at Staples winning the Championship. That night at Staples at the BET’s. The Championship Parade that shut the City down. The funeral procession that shut the City down.
We will remember. Memory is eternal.
-Poetic non-fiction by Audrey Shipp