Rock managed half a smile when he said Sean pulled the “ultimate Ruck”, by passing on quietly in his sleep. There wasn’t much laughing after that night though. I withdrew from my usually talkative twitter feed, mourning the loss of Sean’s physical, and worrying about people in my life whose health I care about. I called family and friends, asking pointed questions about their health (questions we sometimes politely avoid). I posted infrequently on social media and attended events honoring Sean.
AT THE MURAL PAINTING
Steele, Mic Handz, Kenny Montgomery, TEK, Skyzoo, Bernadette, her friends–I remember all the sad faces and the long hug I gave Bernadette and the glimmer of hope as we watched Meres One painting the mural. Illa Ghee (a friend featured prominently on Songs In The Key Of Price) walked up, took a seat and pressed the point of a sharpie marker to the base of a tall candle.
He wrote a message and placed the candle near the in-progress mural. I bought a candle and did the same. I sat with Bernadette discussing tribute shirts for her family to wear at the funeral. That’s when I saw Torae.
He approached the mural in slow motion, pain in his eyes. He stopped short at the curb. He couldn’t go any further. “Oh god.” he choked. I stood and hugged him. It’s all I could think of to do. “Thank you sis” he said, “I needed that. We all could use a hug.” We sure could. And we all gave them out. All week. At every event. But today I’m just telling you about the first Mural and the Wake in Brooklyn.
WHAT SURPRISED ME AT THE MURAL
was the community board member who approached everyone, shaking their hands and introducing herself. When she got to me she asked my name and address. I told her, and she admonished me. “You haven’t been to the community meetings around here. You need to come.” I nodded and promised to come. “I’m going to stay out here today, because I see ya’ll are in mourning and I don’t want your gathering to have any issues with law enforcement, but I’ll need your help. Help me keep folks abreast of what we need to do to keep things smooth out here and I promise, everything will be fine.” I looked over her shoulder as friends poured some out for the homie and posed with the bottle.
“Okay,” I said, nodding. “I’ll help keep things going smoothly. Just tell me what you need.” She told me it was important to clear the double-parked cars to one side, because the street is a bus route, and more important: a fire truck route. As if on cue, I heard a fire truck approaching from down the block. We snapped to it, asking everyone to re-park, all to one side and clear the lane. The fire truck was able to fit by without incident. Police rolled by at various intervals all day. If they stopped, she immediately approached them and respectfully asked that the mourners be left alone and all questions be directed to her so that she could be of assistance. Women are so important to the balance in our communities. I am ever-reminded.
Each time – the officers would thank her, say things were okay, drive off, and she’d return to her perch across the street to continue watching the mural. A few folks told truckers they needed to “beep their horn for Sean Price” if they want to get by. Laughter and support. That’s how it went down.
Until late afternoon, when the graffiti artist flagged down a police cruiser. “No!” I said. “Everything’s fine, there’s no need to flag them. What are you doing?” “I just need something,” he yelled back as he jogged over to their car. I watched as he poked his head into the car. Then, the officers exited their vehicle and approached us all.
Across the street, the community board member sprang up and approached the officers. She introduced herself calmly and asked that she be the point of contact. “Oh no ma’am, we’re just here to help, one officer said.” Seeing the look of concern my face, Meres One whispered, “I locked my key in my truck. There’s a can of spray paint in there that I need to finish up the mural.”
I watched as one officer took a tool to the car, attempting to get the door open. The other officer chatted with the mourners. It took time, but finally the door popped open and the crowd of mourners did something I’d never expect. They cheered, whistled and applauded. As the officers tried to bow out, mourners stopped both officers to take pictures next to them.
I stood incredulous as the community leader whispered in my ear “So you plan to get involved at a community level?” I nodded. “I expect to see you at the board meetings, okay?” I nodded again. “Yes ma’am” I said. Later, I found out from Cynical, that another set of police also spent time with Bern at the mural after the wake. Offering comfort in a way none of us had seen before. I’ll definitely be attending community meetings. Thank you Sean Price, for bringing us all together that day.
THAT SAME WEEK, AT THE WAKE
I sat in the back of the room with O.Gee, while way up front, Sean looked like he was sleeping. People walked the line to the casket. TeLisa D., Jazz, Roc Marci, Boogie Blind, Lord Finesse.
I remained in the back. But it was Sadat whose reaction made me want to leave the room. His lady led him upfront, but his feet turned to cinder blocks a few paces from the casket. His face fell to his hands, overwhelmed by seeing his weekend fishing partner at final rest. He backed up toward a wall, leaned on it and cried as his lady rubbed his back. He tried once, twice more before finally making it up there. He said goodbye to his friend, shaking his head and hurrying out the door in another wave of grief.
O.Gee tapped me. “Let’s go outside.” On the way out, I bumped into Skyzoo. I intended to step around him but he froze in the doorway. Following his line of vision with my eyes, I realized he’d caught a far glimpse of Sean in his casket from the open door of the room behind me. He was choking up. I hugged him hard. “It’s gonna be ok.” He nodded, and we let each other go. Him stepping in. Me stepping out. The fresh air felt good, but on the sidewalk, A.G. looked distraught. I told him we are all gonna be alright. (Say it ’til you believe it right)? Then someone tapped me. It was Breakbeat Lou. He’d lost so much weight, it took me a moment to recognize him.
“Lou…how’d you lose all this weight?” He pointed at our friend. “O.Gee encouraged me to start walking. I stuck with it , dropped a lot of weight, and I can walk miles now.” I was incredulous. “What made you stick with it?” He pulled me aside, and lowered his voice. “I went in for health issues and flat-lined on the table,” he shook his head. “I decided to do something different.” I stared at him a moment, my heart was pounding at the thought of him flat-lining. He’s a father and a husband. I couldn’t find words so I just hugged him. It’s all I had in my arsenal besides tears.
happened the next night. It was beautiful to see all the children laughing and playing. A tacit reminder that all things do continue. A reminder to enjoy our gifts, and each other. I was delighted to see Bern’s family had flipped TTK’s design and had the whole family wearing it on shirts.
Bernadette and Rock spoke outside. Uni looked dapper in a suit. Steele made me get a plate. Everyone was hugging and telling stories. But it was Sadat and Cynical’s words that stuck with me. As Dot was leaving, he put a hand on my wrist. “Sis… the doctor told me I gotta stop smoking cigarettes if I wanna live.” I stood silent in the dark, feeling dizzy for a second.
“Is it really that bad?” I asked. He nodded back. “Yes. But I wanna live. I gotta go home though. My friends are about to have a cigarette. I can’t stick around. It’s too much. I might stay home for a while. I’m definitely getting a bike, too. Help clear my mind.”
He was speaking a mile a minute as he hugged me and said, “Thank you for always encouraging me. I’m gonna quit, I can do it.” He turned and left. Stunned, I blinked back tears and headed back to the repast. I thought of my brother. The only other 6’1″, tall Sean I care about. The one who lent his curious younger sister his Heltah Skeltah album years ago – and didn’t get mad at me when I left it on my bed and our mom threw it out (due to its “devilish” cover). The one who skipped lunch with me all week so we could divert our lunch money to re-buying that damn Heltah Skeltah album. That Sean. He’s struggling with bad eating habits. It’s threatening his health again. He’s trying to change it. Was everyone’s new health awareness the fucking silver lining? Because as welcome as these epiphanies are, this shit hurts.
Cynical was leaning up outside the door, with a loosie behind her ear. She saw my eyes land on the cigarette as I returned. “I know, I know,” she said, guiltily touching the filter as I approached. “It’s just for now. Then I’m back off them. Me, Jarobi, Sadat.” She paused. “Did he tell you?” I nodded. “He has to quit if he’s gonna make it,” Cynical said, straight-faced. “I know,” I said. “You all can do it. I know it.” Cynical and I stayed out there talking about life for what seemed like a long time. She’s a special woman who I’m lucky to know and she’s next on my “how’s your health” list.
I left the repast thinking about a ping I received from Dallas Penn online recently. Recovering from a serious diabetic infection that almost cost him his foot, he remembered my words of encouragement about his health from a few years ago. I won’t share those words here. It’s just..I guess what we all say to each other matters.
Dallas is now slimmer, off his sneaker-crutches, healing and eating better, with the amazing support of his beautiful wife. In the past, I used social media to share healthy eating habits with friends. But I’d veered from that. Obsessing over videos of police violence. Replaying clips as though it did anything besides eat away at my spirit. Painful media images had me stuck and losing focus. On the way home, I recommitted to less violent news and more of what I enjoy. Spreading opportunities, being a good friend sharing a little healthy knowledge and doing what I can locally to promote wellness and unity, and dope ass rap in my community.
LOVE IS ALL AROUND US
When I checked back in on the Sean Price crowdfund. The figure had jumped a quite a few grand. I was so joyful. I was also curious. It didn’t long for me to private message dream hampton like “Sis… did you have something to do with this?” Let’s just say, it’s like I said: women are integral to the balance of all things we see. I thanked dream, and wiped the tears from my eyes so they wouldn’t fuck up my keyboard.
I learned a lot about myself and others during the immediate days after the Ascension of Jesus Price Supastar. I’m gonna put all that knowledge to work. Peace and love. See you in the streets, Internets. We gone be alright.
(“da god chevron”)
Photos: courtesy of Raafi and Go TTK Go.