I received the news that you have returned to prison for another two months and then will be placed under house arrest for two more years. The media is reporting that you agreed to a plea deal, but I have a feeling you would state it differently. What I do know is that for you there are motivations that go beyond the capacity of the American media to understand. What I also know is that I will never be able to fully comprehend the measure of madness you have been made to endure. And I can only imagine the silent toll this has taken on your children. What is clear is your desire to have your life back, for you, for them. Nothing more matters.
One cannot properly account for the calculated craziness of this system that would make known its determination to see you locked away for the rest of your natural life despite the fact that you killed no one. To put any faith in such a system would be foolish and be rendered a victim to the illusion of justice for which it stands. And despite how the media and many others have attempted to portray you, you are no one’s victim. Although victimized by your former husband and then again by the State of Florida, you are no one’s victim. The clarity, conscience, courage and conviction I witnessed that first day I sat and talked with you show you to be a tall sunflower in a field of women who have been strengthened by the beauty of your boldness. And there is no way to properly measure the meaning of that truth.
In the wake of the grand jury’s non-indictment of Darren Wilson in the killing of Michael Brown, so many more are now opening their eyes to the corruption of this system. And as important a development that may be, what I know is that you have been living through that horror for years now.
The fact is that this judicial system does not give us any real options. We are left to find our own way through its injustices using our determination to be free as our only compass. Yours is fine-tuned and fixed by the one you call Savior, the one that knew well what it means to be betrayed and assaulted and wrongly accused. You have not only navigated your way through, you have done so without having your spirit poisoned in the process.
I am fully aware that my value as an ally is wholly dependent on my ability to call men to account and cause us to change, even as I continue to change, myself. For our collective freedom is only to be found in the ending of this cycle of abuse that Black and Brown women disproportionately face in this society. It is only through radical faith in the building a community of resistance that we will break this cycle of oppression. I am but one bricklayer building with so many others, some I will never know. Even after your case has reached its conclusion, there will be many other women who will still find themselves doubly assaulted and wrongly convicted for defending themselves. The work continues. This is a life commitment that has been strengthened immeasurably by knowing you and bearing witness to the will of your determination and the courage of your love.
Marissa, the first time you were sent to prison, your family and friends were with you. But this time, as you are marched back into the barred walls of state-sanctioned confinement, the millions of your supporters go with you and we vow to keep vigil until you are free. And on that day, I will sing this poem by Lucille Clifton in celebration of you:
won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.
In gracious solidarity,