Faces of black boys
Black men
Some just about to cross the bridge
Between boyhood and manhood
Just discovering their color
Their voices
Beginning to speak questions
Why are they killing us?
Why do they hate us so much?
Will they kill me, too?

One mother writes
This is my son James
He loves to cook
Loves to sing
Won first place in a marathon

A woman posts a photograph
Two boys
Hard to say which has the gentler eyes
The softer smile
They just lost their lunchroom supervisor
They miss Philando every day
The mother says
They keep asking why he was killed

Another mother says
These are my boys Sean and Tariq
One in college
The other on his way in two weeks
They are my heartbeat
I pray that the world is gentle to them

A woman writes
This is my nephew Javon
Killed by a police officer
Five years ago
No one’s ever written about him
To me, she says
His life mattered to her
And she’s left behind
To wonder why it didn’t matter to them, to us all

A young mother shares a photo of a boy
With a most radiant smile
She writes
This is my life’s greatest love
My miracle
I pray that Jesus builds a hedge of protection
Watches him
Keeps him safe from the hate of this world
Everyone agrees that
Jesus will protect
Everyone writes, indeed,

And I wish I, too, could turn to Jesus
I wish I could make myself believe that a man who died
Two thousand years ago
Could build a hedge to keep bullets from hitting my own son

Our sons need saving

I scroll quickly past the posts in which
Mothers are imploring with God and his son to do what must be done
Protect them
Shield them
Bless their lives with peace and prosperity
Give them a fair shot
Which for mothers of black sons
Means that they never get shot
On their way to their dreams
Or the store

Haven’t we always been told that if we trust in Jesus
Our sons will be saved
Why haven’t we learned to stop believing this myth
That salvation isn’t theirs in this lifetime
That we will have to watch them gunned down
Outlined on sidewalks
Hashtagged in status updates
Eventually forgotten
Before they are saved
By a God who waits until then
Who lets bullets enter their bodies
Then claims to take only the best of souls

I want to write
It’s not Jesus that will save our sons
It’s not in heaven that we should hope
They find the peace they lost at birth
Their brown skin a weapon so feared
That they will always be a target
No matter their medals
Their diplomas
Their merits
Their dreams and grace
What’s Jesus going to do to protect our sons

But I say nothing
For years I have waited to belong
To feel included
I don’t know what it’s like to be a black woman
I don’t know what it means
To be assumed to be someone
Before I’ve had a chance to speak
To act
To show my colors

I share no history with black mothers
None of the pain they’ve endured
Walking the earth in brown skin
But we stand united
Black and white mothers
Raising black sons
In a world that tells us
No place is safe for them
But heaven

I give grace for this safe haven
Scroll through posts of black boys
Black men
All full of promises and dreams
Asking to be allowed to live

This is my son Daniel
He is the kindest
Most compassionate boy
He is my heart
My soul mate
I write

And so we stand together
Mothers of black boys
United in fear
In hope
With the kind of devotion to their safety that
You can only feel when you approach a cub
While the lioness is nearby hunting

Don’t try
Don’t come near our sons
Unless you come bearing

Because whatever our race
Our beliefs
Our journeys
We are the mothers of black boys
And we have a message for you
About each one of our sons
A truth that can no longer
Belong to us alone
So, remember this about each black boy you see
Each black man you come across
He is a son, and

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