By Chanel McFollins, Staff Writer
A couple of years ago, with the uncanny amounts of unarmed shootings and the use of excessive force on Black bodies, I was asked to participate in the Black Obituary Project, which gained national coverage. The point was to give ourselves a voice because, in truth, we never know who is next. I have a very imminent fear whenever I see law enforcement (no, it isn’t because I’m doing something unlawful). Police brutality and the overall criminalization of Black bodies has known no age, sex or gender bias, and we have seen that Black bodies fall at a disproportionate rate than any other group when dealing with law enforcement.
When the victims are people of color, somehow media outlets find every negative thing that person has ever done to paint them as someone who deserved to die without due process. Writing our own obituaries would not give them that opportunity.
For this reason, I participated in the Black Obituary Project without hesitation. Should my life be taken too soon by excessive force, I will speak my truth before my image is twisted before the world. It is (revised) as follows:
Chanel Nichole Corliss McFollins, 24, was unarmed when shot and killed in conflict with local police officers. McFollins, a gracious and meticulous woman, was also a very anxious and perplexing person. She exhibited a profound passion for Black and African culture, and for women’s equality in every aspect of life. As a teenager, McFollins was blind to how deep her affections were, or what they meant, but she fostered them and inspired her peers along the way. She spent time traveling every summer; first in America and later to Europe to historically Black cities and colleges, old slave churches and plantations, beaches where indigenous people made their lives, the grave sites and stomping grounds of Richard Wright and Josephine Baker in France, and so much more. She loved knowledge, she loved learning, and she loved people from every corner of this earth.
McFollins’ studies and travels brought her to a place of pure love and appreciation for herself and her people, but she also carried an endless sense of guilt. She obtained a Bachelors degree from ASU and was pursuing a Masters degree at Thunderbird School of Global Management. She had so much privilege. Sometimes it was hard to enjoy access to better parts of life when she knew more people in the world were suffering than were not. When she knew that some of her own people were trying to make ends meet, daily. Why did she deserve this life?
She identified with Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, “Where was your antennas, where was the influence/You speak of?”, when her younger siblings sometimes became victim to societal pressures. How could she not feel guilty? McFollins wanted to be part of change in the community but occasionally struggled to even make difference in her own backyard. She had recently accepted that life is a journey, not a race.
Chanel McFollins was once a woman upon this Earth, yet she is no longer.
I want to make one thing clear: there are laws in America. Every citizen is supposed to have rights.
One of which is “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury…” Every man, woman, and child who is murdered before seeing their day in court are victims of a very flawed justice system. Every police officer who has not been convicted guilty for this terror is a criminal.
If you would like to learn more about the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement, you can find a review here: https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2018/07/31/631897758/a-look-back-at-trayvon-martins-death-and-the-movement-it-inspired