Commentary: Healing in the Wake of the Verdict

Commentary: Healing in the Wake of the Verdict

Coping with the outcome of the George Zimmerman trial.

Published July 17, 2013

“How does it feel to be a problem? To have your very body and the bodies of your children to be assume to be criminal, violent, malignant." — W.E.B Du Bois

None of us will ever forget where we were when George Zimmerman’s verdict was handed down.

I had just gotten back from seeing This is The End with my friend and my phone had died and been off for hours. When I got home, I hopped into bed and charged my phone waiting for it to come back on so I could play Candy Crush. As the phone came on, news notifications for CNN and the New York Times popped up on the screen.

“George Zimmerman found not guilty….”

I jumped up and screamed “F--k!” I feverishly took to my Facebook feed to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind. Unfortunately, I wasn’t.

For the first time in years, I cried myself to sleep.

Sunday was a hard day for me. Yes, seeing the images of rallies around the country and hearing advocates speak out against this injustice did make me feel somewhat better. But nonetheless, I didn’t get out of bed until 4 p.m. I spent most of the day online switching from the news, my Facebook feed and Hulu (to get my mind off the verdict when things got too emotional). Monday was a little better — I woke up at 11 a.m.

But like many of you, my heart is still utterly broken.

Broken because Travyon Martin’s family will not seek the justice they deserve. Broken because it’s clear that our very existence is perceived as criminal and our lives are not deemed worthy. Broken that our fickle justice system is an utter joke. Broken that in the era of a Black president and the hope that came with it, we have catapulted backwards instead of forward as he promised.

And while the national discourse about Trayvon Martin has been centered on the attack against Black boys in America, it’s important for us to realize that his tragic death transcends gender. Yes, our Black boys are in serious danger, but let's never lose sight that Black women and Black LGBT folks are not exempt from this type of injustice or other type of attacks. Think Marissa Alexander and Cece McDonald.

We are all unsafe, we are all vulnerable to injustice and we all can be shot for doing nothing more than being who we are.

Sadly, we cannot wave a wand and erase oppression or even change the verdict, but what we do have immediate control over is how we heal.

— Admit that you are hurting: A good friend of mine told me that in order to move forward, you have to admit that you are in pain. Talk to a friend, your family members and other people in your community about how you are feeling. You are not “weak” for feeling broken.

— Give yourself a break from media and social media: Technology has made it very easy to be constantly glued into what is going on. That can be a blessing (Twitter shutting down Jury B37’s book deal) and a curse (becoming completely obsessed by the news coverage). Know when to sign off and step away to get some perspective.

— Use your anger for something productive: In no way, should you pretend that this didn’t happen. This is not the time for complacency, but make sure to use that anger and do something meaningful with it. Attend a rally, write a blog post about your feelings, create a support group in your community, join an social justice organization, etc.

— Appreciate the people in your life: One important lesson I have learned from Travyon’s death is that life is very short. This verdict has been a wake-up call to be a better daughter, friend and person. Not just for myself, but for Trayvon. So hug your loved ones tighter and say the things you need to say to them now. 

— Work out: I woke up on Tuesday and went for a run because the pent up anger was too much to bear — and it worked. Exercise releases endorphins, which makes you feel better. Also, try meditating, which brings stress levels down.

In the end, healing is one thing, forgetting is another. We should never forget the death of Travyon Martin, the acquittal of George Zimmerman and the oppression and violence that we face everyday. But we should also never forget that equality under the law will never come by being inactive. How will you use your grief and anger to create real change? 

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: REUTERS/Steve Nesius)

Written by Kellee Terrell


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