An Open Letter to Mayor Andrew Gillum
Black Men, and the Media That Scrutinizes Both:
March 26, 2020
Mayor Gillum, for the sake of your health -- and the well-being of our community -- we pen this letter from the hearts of Black men who are actively working to dispel the myths of what Black liberation, particularly for men, can be. Each of the undersigned individuals work tirelessly to redesign our surroundings so that Black men can feel wholly welcomed in various spaces, including educational spaces, political arenas, religious and spiritual temples, neighborhoods, and many other spaces occupied by Black men of any background. We do not represent any particular organization or institution. Instead, we represent Black liberation, a freedom seldomly experienced by Black men, and refuse to allow any system to swallow you whole.
Your life is precious. You have shown us the dedication and perseverance it takes to successfully lead a city, while simultaneously vying for higher political offices and taking care of a beautiful family that carries your last name. They carry your legacy and we need you here, whole and healthy, for their sake. You are not and will not be doing this alone. You have a community that supports you, no matter what. Lean on us. Call on us as your backbone and we will do everything within our power to uplift you, move you forward, or just sit and exist in the moment. This won't just rest with you alone.
Fellow Black men, allow this letter to be a reminder that we, too, must be allowed the space to explore, mess up, reevaluate ourselves and become anew. Unfortunately, the world often decides our fate based upon our trials, while white men are regularly afforded myriad opportunities and space to "fail." Failure often backed by a system that protects them and incentivizes this dangerous cycle. We have the power to change that.
The most important part to remember is that we are all on some pathway of exploration, self-exploration, and self-actualization, and we must hold each other with grace and accountability. Accountability, based in love and community, is necessary as a mental health tool, a communal weapon and armor, to remain sane in a world that daily targets us.
We must check on each other. We must support each other. We must love each other. However, in order to do so, we must become comfortable with the uncomfortable. We must share our individual and collective fears and vulnerabilities, so that day-by-day, and truth-by-truth, we might become stronger together. Beyond freeing ourselves, we have the opportunity to demonstrate to the children that come next, the liberatory power of expressing yourself emotionally, wholly, so that they too can grow and lead beside you. The intersectional practices of love, support, and community are always, already consensual; we can only be loved and supported -- communally -- as much as we allow.
The nation is rife with political battles, ongoing military disputes, and the mounting effects of a public health pandemic -- yet here we are. We are here holding you and your family in love and light; because even as the world tumbles, as a mother of freedom once said, "we must love and protect one another." We are simultaneously willing to support you in whatever journey you determine is best for you. We will also support R. Jai Howard in whatever she determines is best for herself.
While we acknowledge that what is happening to Andrew Gillum in the media is exhausting, it is not unprecedented in how it treats Black men with less popularity and fewer resources. We should not be shocked that you, the media, would fetishize a Black life for clickbait, likes, and shares -- for anything. Black life, in moments of pain and terror, has long been delectable to the American palette. Since the inception of this country, Black men have been devalued, disposed of life and rights, and strictly scrutinized with the highest levels of disdain. This is how the system was designed, but we have long been breakers of chains, lanes and algorithms. We know pain, death and survival and in this moment, we dare to thrive anew. We will endure this alongside our Brother and welcome him to our project of planning and birthing a world where Black life and joy are integral, in all its manifestations.
We understand that the media has a responsibility to share the latest news with the communities that they serve; however, it must not do so in such a salacious way and the terrorizing of Black life must not be the primary entrée. Sharing photos of Mayor Gillum's naked body, especially in such a vulnerable state, is inexcusable and triggering to a community that has seen our own bodies fetishized and/or slain across the nation, from the lynching tree to Main Street. Quite frankly, we are sick of seeing Black bodies become a call-to-fame and the subject of your headlines. Our bodies belong to us and only we can decide what happens to our bodies. We choose not to display their pain across the nation.
We invite you to share more positive, holistic news stories and outlets as your headlines. We want to see Black men smiling, loving whomever they choose to love, taking care of their family, helping lead the community in change efforts -- anything besides rote pornography of pain and suffering.
This is a charge for you to do something different -- to do something that does not hurt us for once.