I AM AN ALLY IN PROGRESS
By Aarianna Barnes
A click lights up the massive tv
And I’m joined with the
of shouting, posters bobbing up and
down—mobs of people dressed in black-
Faces covered, scarves draped around cold
The buzzer rings downstairs and in an instant
Everything stops. A news flash
A quiet jury, a solemnly read explanation.
8 pages. It must’ve been. Then 9. Then 10.
I climb out of my seat
Half anticipating the door bell
Half wanting to throw myself against
The grand jury.
It is August 9th, 2014. It is a slow day
For the life of a cop. A couple robberies
Radioed in. A couple hooligans hangin’
About. An urgent call from a corner
a suspiciously brusque—taller than
average (but maybe not) high school
Senior dashes across Coppercreek, Canfield Drive.
Ambitious Darren, probably (maybe) known
better as “Dean”—adjusts his mirror.
A static-y voice—a disgruntled convenience
store owner—a suspiciously brusque teenager who fits
the description. His pockets lined—Darren was
almost sure of it—with stolen Cigarillo’s
The doorbell does ring but there’s stillness
In its haunting echo through the apartment.
The walls are thin—I hear everyone
needing the same thing as me—a decision
we need a decision
There’s another page flip—more explanation
In legal terms I can’t quite grasp. My
Fingers slide against the cold door knob
And the delivery boy is urging me
To take my pan toasted pizza.
I hold up my hand. Gaze still glued
To the television screen
“please” I feel my lips murmur
Not sure if I’m talking to him
Or to the grand jury.
Darren Dean Wilson slowly exits his
Patrol car. The radio’s still talking at him—
He doesn’t talk back—doesn’t ask
Anyone what he should do.
But he calls the teen over. And the
teen won’t stop. Some words are exchanged.
A couple more words.
Words that no one will ever hear.
Words sworn by Dorian Johnson—then
Later dismissed as lies.
lies. All of it. We’re all lying. All of us.
And in an instant.
After all these words—all these lies—all these—
there’s the grueling sound of lightning striking.
A pressure cooker.
30 seconds pass—feet hit the pavement in an
60—tires skid across the asphalt in an
90 seconds—6 strikes—Michael Brown falls
“After their exhaustive review of the evidence,”
Emmett Till. Trayvon Martin. Dontre Hamilton.
“the grand jury deliberated over two days,”
Alfred Olango. Eric Garner. John Crawford III.
“making their final decision.”
George Richards-Meyers. Ezell Ford. Dante Parker.
Terrence Crutcher. Tanisha Anderson. Akai Gurley.
“no probable cause exists to file any charge”
Kajuan Raye. Tamir Rice. Rumain Brisbon.
“against officer Wilson.”
Jerame Reid. Tony Robinson. Philando Castile.
“The physical and scientific evidence”
Alton Sterling. Phillip White. Eric Harris.
“examined by the grand jury”
Walter Scott. Freddie Gray. Sandra Bland.
“tells the accurate and tragic story of—”
Michael Brown Jr.
what happened? My pizza
The open door—
the breeze rushing through the apartment
more clicks, plenty of pictures taken,
plenty of questions.
None of them the right one.
I cross my right hand over
My chest and dig slightly into my bra
for a crumpled 20.
I don’t eat.
The silence of this apartment and every apartment rings—
It rings so loud through my hollowed
I call my father from the living room, then peak my head
Into his room.
He’s just lying there—perfectly petrified.
“Dad,” I whisper
He doesn’t turn to look. But I know. I know he knows.
He knows I know, too. So he whispers back,
Just for good measure. “Don’t tell me.”
He’s not wondering why. He knows why.
We both know why.
Along the dry, cracked surface of perception is
A fertile layer of reality.
Is—what separates itself from what we see and what we know to
What we don’t know to be.
How it feels to be clued in, yet still so abundantly clueless.
The warmth of vision—
The façade of comfort
The warmth of vision dripping,
Dripping from impossibly dark eyes.
Who is next.
What will happen to me—to us
Don’t tell me. –don’t lie
None of us. Not one.
No one has the answers.
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”
Yadesa Bojia found a love for art as a child gazing at murals often found in Ethiopian Orthodox churches. He studied art at Seattle Pacific University and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Visual Communication as well as an Associate of Arts degree in Graphic Design from Seattle Central Community College. He rose to international acclaim when his design was selected for the Africa Union’s flag. Bojia has shown his work in exhibitions, completed commissioned works, and given public talks about the themes of his work, including human rights, minority rights, Africa, and justice. Bojia’s style as a painter draws on African impressionism. He is of the belief that artists have a very unique opportunity, as well as responsibility, to work for justice, equality and truth. His works can be found at
Jerise Fogel is the founder of Jerise Lettering and Artwork. Her works span Ketubahs, Papercuts, Calligraphy, Drawings, and Colors! She can be found on Instagram @jerise_papercut and through her Etsy shop, jerise.etsy.com.