Photo by Matt McCaughan

Photo by Matt McCaughan

On July 6th, 2016, my oldest son Ellis turned 6. Months prior, my wife and I talked about what we might do to ensure his day was special. We knew it would be a hectic time of year, Ellis would have just wrapped up his first year of school, I would be coming off of a long run of spring tour dates and we would all be preparing for the arrival of our second child, Amos, who was due to join us at the end of May.

What we didn’t know, was that when Amos arrived, our world would be flipped upside down. His lungs were underdeveloped and within hours of being in the world, he was transported by ambulance to the NICU of a larger hospital where he was given a breathing tube and placed on a respirator, his tiny body shaking with every breath he took.

There are so many universal experiences to the human journey and cosmically delicate circumstances that allow us to witness life unfolding. We love, we grow, we believe, we fight. Every parent’s worst nightmare is losing their child. Watching my newborn son fight so hard to keep his life cracked open a new level of understanding for me about the fragility of life and the power of empathy for the human experience.

That July morning, my wife and I got up before the kids. We put Ellis’ presents in the family room and had a plate of pancakes ready when he woke up. We spent the day together and marveled at what the road ahead might look like for our new family of four. That evening after we read our boys books and rocked them to sleep, I sat back, feeling grateful for the love that surrounded our family.

Then I checked my feed.

“I don’t want you to get shooted” cried a shaking child’s voice from the back seat of a cop car. A 4-year old girl, trying to console her mother, both of whom had just witnessed Philando Castile’s murder at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. The same day my son had his golden birthday, got a red bicycle and had pancakes for breakfast, Philando Castile was violently taken from this world, in front of his family, at the hands of a man who was sworn to protect them. As our family was celebrating bringing Amos home, happy and healthy, families all across America had deepening fears for their own children's safety. That crack that I felt watching my own child struggle to find his breath splintered deeper with every headline I scrolled passed. Philando was someone who cared for children, known for buying lunches for kids at his school when they didn't have the cash to cover it. His mother, Valerie called Philando her, “miracle child” because she had been told she would never be able to have children. Philando was a bright light with a full life ahead of him and it was taken away by a senseless act of violence. 

A few days later, my bandmate Brevan came over to meet Amos for the first time. After the kids were asleep, we sat on my porch and drank a few beers.  He fell silent for a moment, and stared into the distance. “Man, this country…” he trailed off. He didn’t have to say any more. The video of Philando’s shooting was all over social media.  The anger and despair in Brevan’s eyes is something I’ll never forget. I felt a divide so clearly that day. Brevan and I exist in the same space, but live in different worlds. As universal as some of our experiences are, being black in America is one I will never know.

We all have fears and as parents, we project them as worries for our children. I fear the water.  I fear not paying attention for a fatal moment while we’re at the lake or playing at the pool. To combat this, I take my kids to swimming lessons, buy them floaties, set boundaries around water, empower them with the tools and resources to keep themselves safe. As they gain confidence, my worries slowly subside.

Black people exist in a world where unchecked injustice leaves them with a constant target on their bodies. Parents of black children must carefully prepare their kids for interactions with police. Mothers teach their sons that what they say around cops, or how they subtley shift their body language, could be the difference between life and death. They can do just about everything to prepare them and still there’s never a guarantee, no life preserver for living in a country that sanctions violence against black people.

These are worries that my family will never know. 

We exist in the same space, but the systematic injustice of our country has us living in different worlds.

Empathy begins when white people share, as if these were the bodies of their own children, in the fight for protecting black families from the disproportionate violence that they face in their everyday experience. It begins when we recognize the role we play in and the benefits we receive from systems of white supremacy. It begins when we are all held accountable for the lives lost. It begins with breaking silence and using whatever platform or tools we have to dismantle these systems, brick by brick.

Soon after these dual realities collided so obviously in front of me, I started to write, Another Mother's Son. First the music, then a few sentiments. I reached out to my friend, Kane Smego, who has an incredible gift when it comes to putting into words what someone feels in their soul. I told Kane my story. I told him what I felt, what I feared and how I wanted my own evolving empathy to shake people from their complacency to what is happening all around us. We set to work and you can listen to the results below. The final piece of the recording for this track was the choir. We recorded the vocals at the historic Hayti Heritage Center in Durham, on MLK Day. Another cosmic collision of profound power that I will be grateful for bearing witness to for the rest of my days. 

 

ANOTHER MOTHER'S SON

by PHIL COOK & KANE SMEGO

Did You Know?

That The Moment I First Held You In My Arms

I Held You Close And Felt Your Beating Heart

Like A Hummingbird’s Wings

 

Did You Know, Son?

There’s A Prayer That I Offer To The Moon

Watching Sleep Slowly Wrap You In Its Womb

LIke A Hummingbird’s Wings

 

Heaven Keep Him Safe

May He Always Find His Way

 

He Didn’t Make It

He Didn’t Make It Home, It’s Like She Always Feared

Will We Whitewash Our Fences With Her Tears

LIke We Always Do?

 

Will We Find It?

Will We Find Another Way To Empathize?

Will We Open Up and See It Eye To Eye

Or Will We All Run Away?

 

And Another One Is Gone

Another Mother’s Son Is Gone Away

 

Police Man Let His Pistol Free

Poet Ran To Write A Eulogy

Po’ Mama, All Her Cries Are Drowned By Sirens

Rifle Man Calls It Liberty

Preacher Trusts The Trinity

But only Mama, she holds All That Silence

 

You Can Find It

You Can Find It Anywhere Their Laughter Lives

Ain’t It Sacred As A Prayer On Your Lips

Say No More, say no more

 

Another One Is Gone
Another Mother’s Son Is Gone Away

 

Police Man Let His Pistol Free

Poet Ran To Write A Eulogy

Po’ Mama, All Her Cries are Drowned by Sirens

Rifle Man Calls It Liberty

Preacher Trusts The Trinity

But Only Mama,  She Holds All That

SILENCE!    

SILENCE!

SILENCE!

SILENCE!

 

No More Silence! (Everybody)

No More Silence! (Everybody)

 

No More Fathers! (Everybody)

No More Mothers! (Everybody)

No More Daughters! (Everybody)

No More Sons! (Everybody)

No More Sisters! (Everybody)

No More Brothers! (Everybody)

No More Daughters! (Everybody)

No More Sons! (Everybody)

 

Anymore!  (No More Bodies)

Anymore! (No More Bodies)

Never Anymore! (No More Bodies)

No More Bodies

No More Bodies

No More Bodies

No More Bodies

No More Bodies

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