Image courtesy of Neema.


Open Letter to
Elijah McClain

By Aarianna Barnes

Dear Elijah McClain,

I too sometimes feel like an introvert. I don’t understand your death. I am hurt and pained by the fact that you were targeted by police, man-handled, and injected with horse tranquilizer.

When I see your sweet smile flash across screen, I feel disturbed. I wanted you to live in a world where your life mattered enough that when you got stopped by the police, they would have just listened to your words and not automatically treated you with extensive force. Ski mask or not, I’ve seen white men kill people by the boat-load and be apprehended gently.

There are too many Black boys who are murdered after leaving convenience stores. Is it the grocery shopping we should stop? Should we as Black people stop going out at night?

What is it that we need to do as a collective to stop being murdered?

In terms of basic human rights, I would like us to live. But, more than that, if I might boldy request: I would like us to thrive.

Elijah, your death shouldn’t have happened. You should be with your family right now, laughing and waiting on the world to open up again. Instead, you had to lay in a bed, brain dead. Your body filled with foreign liquids and bruises. All because of the color of your skin.

To say I’m sad is an understatement. To say I’m tired would be a half statement. My soul aches knowing your torture… knowing that you could still be alive today had systems of racism not worked so well to your detriment…

We love you Elijah. I am sorry the world never to experience you longer.


My name is Aarianna Barnes, and I am a graphic designer at W. W. Norton & Company. I am also the CEO of Collective Culture Magazine (@ccmag_). When I’m not plugging away at my job or my magazine, I like to spend my time exercising and looking after my family.

CC Mag aims to be the first diversity & wellness digital magazine that provides resources to uplift and improve the physical, spiritual, emotional, & financial health of people of color. When we reflect on how precious life is, and how easily it is snatched from so many Black people, we begin to realize that this mission of “making things better” is bigger than all of us. And it rests on our shoulders to be the change here, and now, as urgently and as diligently as possible.

“I AM… spirit lead and anointed”


Neema | Illustrator, Brand Consultant
Growing up in a multicultural household, I was challenged with identifying with only one culture. As a nation of immigrants, a majority of our families have had the opportunity to mold our worlds to make it our own, drifting from the conventionality of our homelands while still maintaining key elements of our heritage. My work borrows from the mixed realities of my childhood and, in turn, takes on a new wondrous identity of its own.

From the perspective of a first-generation American, anti-racism means more than just the simple tolerance of “other” people. Anti-racism is the active and ongoing effort to diminish our learned racial bias both on an individual and societal level while restructuring our systems to remove the very biases that it taught us. I AM creating for our future.