But Where Is Safe?

A Brooklyn Mother Reflects On Living In New York During The Curfews

By Tedecia Wint

Over the last week, I have been wrestling with one question over and over again, why am I here? The “here” I’m referring to is the United States of America, a country I moved to a decade ago.

The first time I visited New York I was nineteen years old. The enormous skyscrapers struck me as menacing and I was hit by a wave of collective loneliness like nothing I had ever felt before. But I knew instantly that I was going to live here someday – the city’s energy is undeniable. It took eight years, but finally I packed my bags and kept my promise to myself. It was and has been one of the best decisions I ever made. But as yet another video circulates of a precious soul in a black body being extinguished, and protests erupt around me, I have been questioning that choice. Mostly it’s because I’m a mother myself now, and in my son’s sweet smile I see George Floyd. As I write this my son is asleep at my breast and I imagine baby George in his mother’s arms – the same mother he would cry for at the end with no one caring to hear – sweetly sleeping, unaware of the harm that awaits him. I see Ahmaud Arbery, I see Breonna Taylor, and every black body that has been brutalized by an oppressive system that sees their lives as worthless, meaningless and free to end. And when I see that I want to run, to pack our bags and take my son far away…but where is safe? That’s where I run into the weeds. Where exactly will I take him?  Where is the safe space for the full growth and expression of black masculinity? … I don’t know. I feel trapped and the questioning starts again. That has been my state of mind, as the pressure lever is being pushed to maximum and circling helicopters have replaced bird songs in my once quiet neighborhood.

This morning I received a message from my Uncle, “Come to Scotland,” he says. “They have accepted me here…” And I think about it… 

We live in a beautiful brownstone; a building that has been owned by the same black families for over a hundred years, in Crown Heights – a predominantly Caribbean and Hasidic neighborhood before gentrification. I love it. I love that, just a few blocks away, I can buy myself a slice of breadfruit roasted streetside by a Rasta, or grab a cortado made to supreme perfection, at my favorite coffee shop. But above all, I love it, because in our building our mostly black neighbors don’t look at my son with anything but tenderness. They delight in watching him grow. All around us are black people living full and expansive lives. Our friends and neighbors are architects, authors, magazine editors, eccentric vintage dealers, world travelers; they have degrees and PhDs from places like Stanford, Princeton and Spelman. In my small Mum group (all black) there is a Google exec and a director at a large energy company. When we walk down the street, a cast of black folk old and young coo over him, and tell him how handsome he is. In their eyes I can see his promise, like a flame they carry with the utmost care. And I know I could never take this away from him.

When I was eight, I was moved from my home in Jamaica – for me a literal paradise – and taken to Cambridge in England; a stunning college town that required, amongst other things, that I erase all aspects of myself to…not, “fit in”…it was constantly made clear in both subtle and not so subtle ways, that I would never be accepted as truly “English.” But if I played nice I might be tolerated. I have spent my entire adult life building back the parts of myself belittled and devalued through that process when I was a child. America has been a huge part of that healing process. And I realize now as I write this, that here is where I must stay, because it is worth fighting for, for myself and my son and for all of us, that old American proclamation, “that all men are created equal.”

Tedecia Wint

Tedecia Wint

Culture Contributor

Tedecia Kenyatha Wint was born in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica. At the age of eight she moved to Cambridge, England, where she spent her formative years before leaving to study performing arts at London’s Metropolitan University. In 2009 she moved to New York City to continue her training in film and television acting.

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