I run with Amhaud - Sazi Bongwe
I wrote this piece on Sunday the 24th of May, in light of the tragic passing of Ahmaud Arbery. On the 25th of May, George Floyd was also murdered in broad daylight. At this point it became overwhelming for me. Reading about the passing of George Floyd, still raw with outrage and trauma of that of Ahmaud Arbery, made me experience how perpetual, systematic and pervasive racism and police brutality are right now. But this wasn’t a sudden realisation - in the words of Will Smith, “racism isn’t getting worse, it’s getting filmed.” This conversation never ends - as I’ve said many times before, we must be anti-racist.
“The air was oppressive even in the early morning hour, hot with the scorching promise of a noon of glaring blue sky and pitiless bronze sun.”
Margaret Mitchell, Gone With The Wind
In the midst of an everlasting frenzy and a continual state of uncertainty, running provides solace for so many. The birds chirp in glorious unison, the wind has a revitalised rush to it and the rose bushes have a distinctly new tinge to them. You muster up the vitality that sends you quick off the starting blocks, and in motion, you find rare stillness. With every step that thuds into the firm ground, it is as if the obstacles of a fluctuating world fall away. But all of a sudden, you are not running by virtue of motivation anymore. In an instant, you’re running away from something. All the flowers and all the road signs turn blood red. No matter how fast you go, there’s something that you’ll never be able to outrun : a bullet. For Ahmaud Arbery, the ‘early morning hour’ saw his life stopped in its tracks.
Cries of “I run with Amhaud” echoed in protest of his fatal shooting at the hands of two white men. My heart goes out to Amhaud, his family and his friends. I wish that I could offer more than my heart to undo these acts of senseless violence. I hold the sentiment that I run with Ahmaud in more ways than one, because at this point, I feel tired. I’m tired of sending my condolences to shaken families. I’m tired of reading about another black life lost at the hands of white supremacy. I’m tired of singing the same tune. I’m tired of injustice. I did not need to watch the heart-wrenching video of Amhaud being shot to know what transpired. As I watched those two white men pursue him in his jog, and as they tussled and struggled, I felt myself anticipate the sound of the gun shot. It has become unmistakably familiar to me. It’s a sound that I want so badly to unhear but one that I’ve never been able to. Just as it seems like I can no longer recall it, a new instance renues the ringing of the coil in my ear.
Injustices do not disappear in the wake of a global pandemic, they are merely exacerbated. When you ask prejudiced figures of authority and an inherently unjust justice system to choose between black and white, especially in a time of scarce resources and uncertain wage, there is no choice. This time of fragility means that, now more than ever, those who are worst positioned in society crumble under its weight. As a global community, there are things we can’t outrun; and this is one of them. We should regret that it takes the tragic loss of life to wake us up to the injustices that plague our society, but nevertheless we ought to take charge against them. Running with Ahmaud is a marathon and a continual race. The next time I decide to lace-up my shoes and embark on on a new course, the weight of the life of Ahmaud Arbery will be felt in every step I take. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Collins Khosa and the countless other victims of police brutality and targeted hate crime resonate through me, because I am devoted to ensuring that their stories never rest. We can never allow them to rest. It saddens me to think that Amhaud Arbery would have turned 26 on the 8th of May. May his soul rest in peace and may his family find strength and the will to carry on.
As a black man, my reason for standing up against injustices like Ahmaud’s death is not that it could just as easily be me who is killed in broad daylight. I am an activist because, fundamentally, black lives matter. I find it in myself to care because I’m of the belief that “every human life is worth the same, and worth saving.” The air is very much still oppressive, even in the early morning hour. Ahmaud Arbery deserved better. He deserved to embark on his run and return. Let this be a reminder that we still have a race to run, and systemic obstacles to face. But also a reminder that we must win this race, for each and every black life lost. Let this be a reminder that black lives deserve to be valued, cherished and protected - every last one of them.