East Flatbush Journal: On living life and Breonna Taylor


Pops and I are puttering in and out of the house at this point, past our front steps that are still missing railings. 

We hang out and watch old Pixar movies we’d likely enjoy with the kids. Other days we pass by each other like planets in orbit.

Sometimes we don’t talk much. 

Sometimes we sing in tandem to fill the house with noise.

Sometimes we debate the protest of the day that I’m writing about.

“Engine, engine number 9, coming down the transit line– no wait, its…Walkin down the street. Ugawa. Black power. Destroy, White boy. I said it. I meant it and I’m here to represent it,” said Pops, trying to remember a Black panther chant auntie taught him when he was little. 

He’s finally stopped wearing his staple summer basketball shorts and has switched to his one pair of sweats and old army boots instead. In his head, I imagine he thinks of the world, much like the spook who sat by the door, in vastly complicated dynamics operating over our heads that we have little control over.

We don’t really have to argue that Black women are important and should be protected since he’s the gruffest, accidental feminist with nothing but brown-skinned daughters, you’ll ever meet.

My sisters’ mother found a house in Trenton and was able to move them out of the shelter, halfway house they were living in. Last I heard the house had three floors and an unreasonable amount of spiders, but at least they’ll have their own rooms for once. They call him all the time about school and keep in touch that way, and when they have nightmares they call in the middle of the night to make sure he’s still there. 

He’s still there, as much of a staple in the house as the guys around the corner who’ve set up crates in front of the liquor store, the Black neighbors cursing each other out, the white neighbors being extra nosy and friendly, the rando that riffles through our recycling at night, the mail people, or the eyes that dart back and forth over masks.  

We talk about cop shows and drug dealers that I’m not really moved to watch or pay attention to. He animatedly acts out the story about the new neighbors being possible body snatchers or feds out to rat on us. Not sure how he got there, but I’m thoroughly entertained nonetheless.

Pops says that in neighborhoods like ours or Breonna’s you’re not that far from crime or criminals, so everyone’s seen as guilty. They shot Breonna, in all her dreams of being a person of standing, because she wasn’t out of it. 

We live on a nicer block than most. I consider myself a pretty straight arrow, but that doesn’t go for my people, my neighbors, or some of my family. 

Years ago, my roommate was in our apartment alone when two white detectives walked through the front doors, into the atrium, and knocked on the inner hallway door, opening it, before she could even respond properly because she was sleeping.

They were looking for someone they said.

The door was open, they said.

In this case, there weren’t guns involved, just what was likely a misunderstanding, but she was shaken either way for a week afterward.

We fixated on locking the doors and chains after that. It’s easier to think that your home is safe if you do. It’s easier to laugh at these thoughts than obsess over the idea of being murdered in your home if cops show up to the wrong door again.