Wednesday, September 21, 2011


       "What are you waiting for me to tell you? What good will it do? What if I say that this isn't a funeral, that it's a holiday celebration, that if you stick around the band will end up playing 'Damit-the-Hell the Fun's All Over'? Or do you expect to see some magic, the dead rise up and walk again? Go home, he's as dead as he'll ever die. That's the end in the beginning and there's no encore. There'll be no miracles and there's no one here to preach a sermon. Go home, forget him. Go home and don't think about him. He's dead and you've got all you can do to think about you.
       I've told you to go home, but you keep standing there. Don't you know it's hot out here tonight? So what if you wait for what little I can tell you? Can I say in twenty minutes what was building twenty years and ended in twenty seconds? What are you waiting for, when all I can tell you is his name? And when I tell you, what will you know that you didn't know already, except, perhaps, his name?
       All right, you do the listening in the moonlight and I'll try to tell you in the moonlight. Then you go home and forget it. Forget it. His name was Troy Davis and they killed him. His name was Davis and he was tall and some folks thought him handsome. His name was Davis and his face was black and his hair was short. He's dead, uninterested. Can you see him? Think of your brother or your cousin John.


His lips were thick with an upward curve at the corners. He often smiled. He had good eyes and a pair of fast hands, and he had a heart. He thought about things and he felt deeply. I won't call him noble because what's such a word to do with one of us? His name was Davis, Troy Davis, and, like any man, he was born to a woman to live awhile and fall and die. So that's his tale to the minute. His name was Davis and for a while he lived among us, and those who knew him loved him and he died. So why are you waiting? You've heard it all. Why wait for more, when all I can do is repeat it?
       Very well, so I'll tell you. So he died; and those who loved him are gathered to mourn him, and those who didn't know him are mourning him also. It's as simple as that and as short as that. His name was Davis and he was black and they killed him. Isn't that enough to tell? Isn't it all you need to know? Isn't that enough to appease your thirst for drama and send you home to sleep it off? Go take a drink and forget it. Or read it in The Daily News. His name was Davis and they killed him.
       Aren't you tired of such stories? Aren't you sick of the blood? Then why listen, why don't you go? It's hot out here. There's the odor of embalming fluids. The beer is cold in the taverns, the saxophones will be mellow at the Savoy; plenty good-laughing-lies will be told in the barber shops and beauty parlors; and they'll be sermons in two hundred churches tomorrow, and plenty of laughs at the movies. Here you have only the same old story. The story's too short and too simple.
       Troy Davis is one with the ages. But what's that to do with you in this heat under this moon? Now he's part of history, and he has received his true freedom. Next he'll be in a box with the bolts tightened down. He'll be in the box and we'll be in there with him. It's dark in that box and it's crowded. It has a cracked ceiling and a clogged-up toilet in the hall. It has rats and roaches, and it's far, far too expensive a dwelling. The air is bad and it'll be cold this winter. Troy Davis will be crowded and he'll need his room. 'Tell them to get out of the box,' that's what he would say if you could hear him.
       So there you have it. Troy Davis will soon be cold bones in the ground. And don't be fooled, for these bones shall not rise again. You and I will still be in the box. I don't know if Troy Davis had a soul. I don't know if you have a soul. I only know that you are men and women of flesh and blood; and that blood will spill and flesh will grow cold. When he was alive he was our hope, hope for the law and hope for justice. But why worry over a hope that's dead? So there's only one thing left to tell and I've already told it. His name was Troy Davis, he believed in Brotherhood, he got our hopes up and he died."

                                                                                    --text (somewhat altered) from Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man (1952)

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