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    Gun Meddlin’ Memories

    By Kin Folkz–

    Even most gun-toting NRA members agree that gun violence begets long-lasting damage. Gun trauma in America tears at the souls of the survivors and taunts the mindful among us. My spirit recoiled at the cackle of gunfire—zigzagging in cold conversation—one bold night in my youth. The acidic aftermath of that first introduction still pulls my mouth taut at the memory. I learned all too soon that guns most often speak for cowards and that justice does not accompany dark bodies filled with the somber eviscerating echo of inequity.

    The effects of generational intersectional oppression converged within me and emerged as Lupus SLE and Asperger’s. Both scrambled through my tiny body and rendered me mute until I was almost 5. The Elders used to say that I still had one foot in the Spirit world. Indeed, I recall my first years of life—in this lifetime—as ones filled with the ability to see spirits walking among us and as us. They manifested as weeping willows, ladybugs, midnight feathered crows, dappled boulders, scurrying mice and dark space.

    The still blackness of night enveloped me with such immense and infinite love that, to this day, I cherish its wisdom. I give my deepest bows of gratitude to my family for placing me in Nature as often as possible to ease into this world with grace and love. I spent hours being showered by falling leaves and recall delight in the wispy tickles of tall grass against my face. I enjoyed fishing with my Uncle Harvey who did not admonish me when I preferred to kiss live fish full-lipped and release them. Such natural reverence seeded a deeper gratitude for life within and around me.

    Nature held my favorite Uncle Joe in high esteem. Butterflies literally followed him. He was a teenaged 2-Spirit with panache—even patchwork denim was elevated to couture when he styled and wore it. It was Uncle Joe who bought me my very first pocketbook: a dark caramel-colored patent leather clutch with multiple folds where he tucked tiny treasures for me to find. Uncle Joe witnessed how even adults cast a cutting gaze at my physical setbacks. He would reach over, pick me up and carry me around in his arms like porcelain, or one of the injured stray animals he would nurse to wellness. I marveled at the authentic compassion he held for fragile creatures mistreated and discarded by humans.

    Uncle Joe would have been a wonderful health practitioner. Just as he was beginning his twenties, entering the world with a well-deserved college scholarship, and celebrating being a new father—my sweet-spirited Uncle Joe was cruelly torn from us by random gun violence.

    Sherrie was just 4 years older than me and had the sweetest voice I had ever heard. She spoke to me through song when I was a mute. She taught me to honor joy as a form of resistance. I recall lying with her on the grass—slathered in cocoa butter—which we called Black people’s sun tan lotion. Rather than using it to protect us from the sun’s UV rays, we used it to heighten and deepen the richness of our glistening mahogany skin.

    Sherrie’s barely bronzed light skin opened doors for her. Doors to opportunities that still remain closed for folks with my dark blue-Black Choctaw complexion. Cousin Sherrie refused to allow these oppressions to become my obsession. She was the first to share with me that the original Eve, mother of all living humans, was clothed in skin black like a moonless midnight. My Cousin Sherrie, a young mother of two, the source of my black beautiful truths, was shot and killed in her car on her way to church. I still ache at the mere mention of her name. I still weep in ragged breaths and with tightened fists.

    I sincerely believe that both Uncle Joe’s and Cousin Sherrie’s spirits shielded me from being murdered when I was a victim of near-fatal gun violence 8 years ago. Any good that I have done, via my deeds in this world, I owe largely to the example set by my gentle Uncle Joe and Cousin Sherrie. Neither of their cowardly killers was ever found. Even in my anger and pain, I still am compelled by the honorable way that they lived their shortened lives. I remain in the grace set in motion by these young compassion comrades—geniuses taken by unnatural force—by savage means.

    I turn toward Uncle Joe and Cousin Sherrie’s example, and pray that the folks who murdered my heroes eventually received mental health support. I meditate and imagine that others reached out to support their wellness. I wish that they had considered all of the lives that they would negatively impact by their deadly actions. I create a platform from the broken shards of hate that gun violence sought to box me within. I speak out to remove the sad silence that sought to sever me from the spirits that still guide and protect me. I usher people into a transformative awareness that moves reaction into pro-action when news of gun violence stalks the headlines.

    We have ample therapeutic tools to help everyone build skills that nurture peace and collective liberation. I offer my own strategies, skillset and knowledge toward that end. The barbarous gun violence that ushered my family into a cycle of vicious loss is repeated every minute in America. Millions of folks are affected. Marginalized folks are targeted. Community training centers that freely offer peaceful resolution skillshares, restorative justice services and tribunals are one way to break the gun violence cycle. Truth-telling is the beginning of healing and evolving. I share my truth as a wish for growth and healing for our species. I invite you. Please share yours.

    Kin Folkz is the Founder and Executive Director of Spectrum Queer Media (http://www.spectrumqueermedia.com/), an Oakland-based national LGBTQ rights advocacy organization.