by Valerie Morales

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photo courtesy of Nappy

In the anxious weeks before election day, when COVID was an oppressive enemy on the prowl, and professional football was a diversion, black voters stood in line for hours, emboldened by in-state early voting. The recipients of voter suppression endured all kinds of peculiar weather and circumstance. My cousin brought food for her two hours wait. Some had chairs and the Eddie Glaude book about James Baldwin. Or, Isabel Wilkerson’s “Caste.” Others had ears plugged and were jamming to WAP on Spotify. A few put in pizza orders for in-line delivery.

Those who couldn’t miss two hours of work sat at their kitchen table after the baby was asleep and the laundry was done, and the dishes washed, and unfolded their mail ballot in the bleeding light of a tiring day. They checked Kamala Harris and dropped it in the mailbox on the way to the office, hoping it got to where it was supposed to go. Some black voters got text messages that their votes would be counted. Others prayed. Many knocked on doors or made phone calls and asked “did you vote.” Churches made it a priority and so did neighborhood rib shacks. Before handing you your order of rib tips with the extra sauce they wanted to know when you were going to vote, and where. …


by Valerie Morales

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It was a terse scene on a tinny Georgia night. A loud roar of cheers set the raucous but absurd mood on a piece of land known as the old Troutman field. Sam Hose, the son of a slave, was being executed. His ears first. Then, fingers and genitals were cut off while knife blades stuck in a twist hoping to dice up his heart and guts.

The black skin of Sam Hose’s face was ripped off and then he was nailed to a tree, covered in kerosene, and well, you can imagine the idiosyncratic rest. His veins ruptured in the heat. …


by Valerie Morales

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Kent County, Michigan. 52% Biden. 46% Trump. Months before election day, Grand Rapids, Michigan had a Black Lives Matter protest and thousands showed up at Rosa Parks Circle. Yes, the home of Gerald Ford has a Rosa Parks Circle. The crowd marched until they reached GRPD headquarters, then they chanted “Black Lives Matter.” “George Floyd.” “Say His Name.” “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.” As the night wore on, what was once peaceful turned into a riot. But what stuck with me was the beginning, not the end.

In 1984, Grand Rapids and the entire state of Michigan gave Ronald Reagan a near 60% approval. Regan’s re-election was a breeze. George Bush Sr. won in 1988. And in a losing cause in 1992. Bob Dole won Kent County with 54% of the vote in 1996. And so on and so on, a Republican here and a Republican there, until Barack Obama in 2008 who beat John McCain in Kent County by 1,573 votes. It was a short-lived Democratic joy. …


by Valerie Morales

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Two years ago when Stacey Abrams lost the governor’s race by only 54,000 votes it was an impressive showing for a woman of color in a state that still clings to Jim Crow values. But, it was hard to celebrate how eerily close she came because of the contemptible tactics used to stop her. The system built to paralyze people of color played its part perfectly in her defeat and for many, myself included, it was hard to accept.

The victims of voter suppression struggle with its depravity and consequences. That it’s been around for over a century isn’t a consolation prize either. At times like this, I think of Fannie Lou Hamer who was nearly beaten to death in jail because she had the audacity to register Mississippi voters. I think of Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Scwherner who were murdered and buried in an earthen dam. …


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by Valerie Morales

Years before Breonna T., and years before Sandra B., and years before Rekia B., and years before my beloved Martha M., I took a Criminal Justice class. It was an upper-division elective and unbeknownst to me the section I signed up for was taught by an extraordinarily gifted lecturer who was also a prosecutor in the criminal division. Prof Hewes prosecuted accused murderers and rapists which gave him relevance and stardom on campus; he was not an academic snob whose life work was research. Prof Hewes affected the balance of the world.

Two days a week Prof Hewes had Room A256 spellbound with his dramatic oeuvre. He was loud and enthusiastic and a storyteller. He frequently disabused us of our poorly thought out notions such as the criminal justice system is built on fairness. It is not, he argued repetitively. It is not about accountability either. The criminal justice system is about evidence and what you can prove. …


On November 4th, Trump Will Play The Victim. But Only In These States

by Valerie Morales

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photo by Tiffany Tertipes

Donald Trump’s slash and burn campaign against the United States Post Office, while unprecedented, has achieved its goal of toxicity and confusion. Around the country anxiety, and unease about mail-in voting have shifted the very benefit that democracy affords. Vaingloriously, Trump is trying to corrode the very thing men have died for: freedom. The contempt Trump has for American citizens is shaped into a three-act play of his own making: Charlottesville, Caged Babies At The Border, Stealing the Election.

Of the latter. No one can predictably assure us that our vote will count. I know of a Michigan primary ballot that was labeled “spoiled” because it was received the day after the primary. Every state has its own rules about when mail-in votes can be received. Some ballots are counted on election day only. Others, like Illinois, count votes 14 days after election day if postmarked on or before election day. It spells disaster for a certain contingency- you know who you are- that is comfortable letting others think for them. They will be disenfranchised on election day, as Trump intends with his strategy of collusion and malfeasance. …


by Valerie Morales

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photo by George Kamau Jr

Maternal death is an American horror story and a public health crisis that affects black women disproportionately. But why black women die after giving birth or die right before giving birth, is a complicated helix of causations. Obesity and hypertension, pre-existing conditions, and social trauma are risk factors that demagnetize white women and lure pregnant black women into graves.

Lifestyle and health challenges account for an estimated 40% of black women’s deaths. However, an estimated 60% of pregnant mortality is linked to racism causes as black women’s complaints, concerns, and fears are often ignored, dismissed, and erased.

According to the CDC’s Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System, during a 9 year period (2007–2016) black mothers died at 3.2 times the rate of white women. …


by Valerie Morales

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Photo by Mateus Souza

Dred Scott lived in the state of Missouri but was not free. Because slaves were property, he was not an American citizen. With vigor in some circles and religious indignation in others, Dred Scott instantly became a cause. He was a shining example of why. Why the original sin had to be erased. Why there needed to be a war in the first place. Why the old assumption of the moral South was a fable and a farce.

The Dred Scott question was simplistic in its yearning: If you won’t fight to stop slavery then what, my God, is worth fighting for? …


by Valerie Morales

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photo by olu famule

The protesting hordes, regardless of what city they are in, and regardless of the specific details of the slain, carry with them ghosts. The ones who have been stolen from them, and the ones who are forever gone. Self-defeating as it may seem to outsiders, the need to act communally after tragic loss is nobly human. In a very clear way, protests are agnostic and haunting milieus. They are always about misplaced aggression, and more fluidly, a history of violence.

A 100 years ago, there was a large group of protestors who marched obediently in a parade down Fifth Avenue. They were protesting racial violence and in the aggregate, they were an impressive group of black people dressed in fine clothes. The women wore white and the men wore black and neither spoke, not to each other, not to the crowd that had gathered to watch. Their silence was a shattering echo that aligned with their sorrow and their footsteps. You are killing us. Please. Stop.


by Valerie Morales

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photo by Marquise Kamanke @mkamanke

When I first saw the video of Ann Cooper acting a racist fool in Central Park, I thought about an encounter I had in a grocery store. I had just arrived in New Orleans for a murder trial and my kindergartner was hungry so we detoured to a local market. It was a welcomed distraction. Jury selection was the following morning and I didn’t want to think about being in a courtroom facing Martha’s killer. And so there we were going up and down the food aisles, me and a precocious five year old. I hadn’t wanted to bring him to the trial but the prosecutor insisted. “The jury needs to know what was taken from you. …

About

The Talented Tenth Review

Writing: Race and Gender, Politics, Healthcare, Environmental Abuse, Domestic Violence

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