'Queen & Slim': A Reminder of Freedom + Trauma

CW/TW: police brutality, violence, injustice, grief, post-slave trauma, collective mourning

It's the Black trauma and choice to live, that makes 'Queen & Slim' a reminder that we owe it to ourselves to keep breathing. Black trauma, in its purest form, is the thing that shows our scars and reopens the wounds we know all know too well, over and over again. It's the footage caught on tape and the stems of revolution that spread for the culture. It's the families mourning. It's the world forgetting. It's those we leave behind. It's hoping we'll be remembered, that our lives meant something. It's the love and grief in understanding. It's the breath we can never get back.

Queen and Slim remind me of the breath I'm still breathing. Queen and Slim, while fictional for cinematic sake, are alive and well in every single Black body. They are the stories of our ancestors. They are the quintessential narratives of Black freedom and trauma, and represent the lives of all who have fought and dreamed of surviving this endless struggle. From the first decision to the last, they show how our choice to resist is the only option, if we want to live.

Photo from film 'Queen & Slim' directed by Melina Matsoukas and written by Lena Waithe

I mean truly live. Two young Black strangers see the world for the very first time together, ironically, as they run for their lives. What bonds them is the understanding of distant grief, the potential mourning of another Black body, the refusal to be next. The beauty in having absolutely nothing left to lose, being free and vulnerable in one's existence when resisting, is a concept many of us may never experience.

From police brutality to the corporate agenda for prisons, the U.S. has only created a fabrication of freedom. We have seen what resisting looks like at the hands of this country, whether we resist or not. We've seen Alton Sterling, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Atatiana Jefferson, Philando Castile, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant III, Kendrick Johnson, and countless others who simply wanted to live. We know what it means to have our stories cut and altered for the comfortabilty and justification of white America. #SAYHISNAME #SAYHERNAME

Yes, we have the freedom and liberties outlined in The Constitution, but it is undoubtedly different (and more difficult) for Black people in this country to even state these rights granted to us, and be heard, without posing a threat to the powers that be.

...what other choice do they have?

This film is a look at the broken pieces of the Black experience coming together in resilience, because what other choice do they have? Black folks have long been told stories of survival. Our very existence is evidence of the fight of our ancestors. To live, whether through compliance or resistance.

The heart wrenching truth is that 'Queen & Slim' is the epitome of Black vulnerability in America, as well as the undeniable facade of freedom that we often live in. Black people have long been the targets of experimentations, slavery, Jim Crow, and police brutality, and our position as citizens within a country that would allow these injustices leaves us more than exposed. From a simple traffic stop to a trip to the store, we have to be that much more careful in everything we do. And even then, we have a choice of whether or not to make it to tomorrow, and whether or not our two-edged sword of fear will enslave us or set us free.

We have been left raw and vulnerable by a system that wants us to comply with terms that were never made with us in mind. Compliance, historically in the Black community, is comparable to chess, but with 'Queen & Slim' we're able to see how the narrative is controlled for and by us when we take action on our own terms. We are left to decide if we will let our fear and trauma rob us of our breath. We as a community must become vulnerable with one another, rely on the other, to fully experience life in a way that once been barricaded by fear.

We all knew how their story would end. Theatrics aside, the story of Queen and Slim is not new to the Black psyche. We've heard this tale a hundred times before, in slavery, in movements, in life. A story of resistance leading to an imminent death, sometimes used to scare us and at other times used as momentum for change.

So, while we still have this breath, while we are still graced to see the breath of our ancestors through us, we choose to live it. Not out of fear, but because it's all we've got left.



Listen to our episode on Black trauma through the eyes of a Black man, airing Sunday, Jan. 26

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