January 12, 2021 by ConTextos

Follow My Lead

To stay connected with our Authors behind bars, we’ve sent them letters with writing prompts and invited them to publish pieces on our blog. This is a piece written by Chaz Thraikill, a friend of a ConTextos Alumni incarcerated in the IDOC prison system. This piece was written on 10/8/2020.

I wanted to voice my opinion on this platform months ago to show my sincere support and solidarity for everyone affected by this Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. With some humor about watching Tiger King, doing quarantine challenges, and giving tips on cooking ramen noodles–a million different ways to lighten the mood of this dark cloud claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Even being in a confined environment, lives are being lost because outside entities have brought this silent killer to our domain and forced our already strained living conditions to literally change overnight with an unforeseen and intense administrative lockdown. So as I wrote a semi-serious blog entry with witty quarantine humor, I procrastinated by proofreading, trying to find creative ways to shoutout and give the biggest gratitude to the awesome, fearless, tired, yet selfless first responders and essential workers that are sacrificing their own health, mental strength, and personal lives to keep their communities, cities, states, and collectively the nation afloat. I was punched in the stomach by the video of the modern day lynching of Ahumad Arbery (an unarmed and innocent Black man jogging). Like other things, this has been a new normal seeing unwarranted killings of innocent Blacks since I have been incarcerated, since 2011. I didn’t feel like it would affect me, or me vocalizing my opinion of the pandemic blog entry, because I didn’t yet know how deep things went in this isolated incident. It still weighed on my conscience.

Then the news divulged more information…my heart got heavier when I saw another unwarranted death of a beautiful Black queen Breonna Taylor (who was a first responder helping save the lives of countless individuals contracting this virus) days later. The shock was still fresh from Ahmaud Arbery when I discovered Breonna Taylor died in her sleep by a controversial “No Knock” warrant, now outlawed. This could’ve been my sister, mother, wife, or daughter. They never had a fighting chance to continue the greatness that their precious lives were designed for. A literal attack on Black lives.

So I started editing and drafting a 50% Covid-19 and 50% Black Lives Matter piece. As I finished, my procrastinating ways set in again but it doubled as unbeknownst intuition because as I watched the news for updates on the new wave of Coronavirus cases, the disproportionate disadvantages of African Americans, Latinx, and the Native Americans are faced with because of the virus and the violent ramifications the economy (stock markets and small and large business) have been hit with, another video surfaces of another unwarranted killing of an innocent Black man, George Floyd. Every killing lowering my morale to have faith in my fellow man, law enforcement, and the Justice System when I re-entered society since I am already behind the power curve from an excessive mistake I made as a teen…this killing not necessarily greater than the recent others but the fact George Floyd was mishandled and not equally treated as another human being, man, son, and father from the very beginning from the public servants paid for with his/our taxes, that swore to protect and serve him. For 8 and a half minutes, flashes of the hundred years of deeply rooted racism protruded and manifested itself before our very eyes. The casualness and arrogant cockiness the officer displayed as George Floyd begged and pleaded for his life…for a simple breath of air…then, ultimately for his “Mama”, is something WE should NEVER forget.

As the uproar began with historical protests and riots engulfing almost every major city around the world, more names and videos of unwarranted killing of unarmed innocent black men; Javier Ambler, David McAtlee, and Rayshard Brooks; were released. A myriad of emotions overwhelmed me because it could’ve been my brother, father, uncle, or son to lose their lives…or even more to lose my life by a rogue officer with a lack of discretion and training especially with my carefree and adventurous lifestyle in a beautiful yet cold city like Chicago. This time I am glued to the television not necessarily to see Day 17 of protests but to see what changes in the legislature the Senate and Justice System will administer to this system of racism lined in the fabric of almost every police force. Soon many videos surfacing excessive force on peaceful protests makes it hard to believe there are only a few bad apples in the bunch, seems as if the integrity of the whole bunch is tainted or otherwise contaminated, especially seeing an elderly White man aggressively pushed which ended in him having a cracked skull in intensive care. A nerve was struck as a human race that WE can no longer be silent. The world has seen the disgusting atrocities Black people have continued to endure and finally it feels promising this moment won’t be another vain outcry.

Before I sound like a hypocrite yelling Black Lives Matter, I do acknowledge my faults and one is being incarcerated for taking the life of another Black man whom had a promising future (yet in the heat of the moment, fearing for my life, and with other dynamics playing major factors…things dangerously escalated). I know NO amount of protest, blogging, mentoring, and advocating for change will suffice for my actions. Hopefully a lifetime of praying for forgiveness and a million positive deeds will help me receive mercy for my transgressions. And this is the same sobering humility I want my people and allies to have when pushing for change through peaceful protests and voting. Though I have a small platform all I can do is continue to evolve in my heart, morals, and ideologies. Staying woke and making sure y’all are too. With the same urgency that the MLB (Baseball), NBA (Basketball), and NFL (Football) are taking in opening safely, the players, coaches, and owners of all races and religions need to continue this discussion on their bigger and broader platforms for a profound change in this country’s cultural and social infrastructure, since our president…someone with the largest platform in the world won’t say what’s necessary. Really anyone with a voice can do their part: celebrities, musicians, athletes, socialites or whomever has a following. This topic will NEVER be redundant and I hope this blog entry ways *at least* one person to motivate change. I love my Black people and it feels good to know the rest of the world is starting to love us too. I pray the families and friends affected by the Coronavirus, police brutality, and economic peril caused by the pandemic find strength and support through continued patience and tangible assistance.

Thank you for taking the time to hear me out and hopefully that is shared enough to spark the change of those on the fence or on the bench not knowing what to say or do. It’s not enough to just listen, speak up and TAKE ACTION! Everyone has a voice, an experience to share or an idea for positive change in this narrative…so if you haven’t spoken up or protested, follow my lead. Continue social distancing when applicable, cover up and be safe.






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