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Ta-Nehisi Coates Book Release, Between the World and Me, Video by The Atlantic
Ta-Nehisi Coates Book Release, Between the World and Me, Video by The Atlantic

I shrieked and wailed when I found out that Prince Carmen Jones, Jr., my lovely friend – who I knew, who visited me and my sister and brought along his lovely baby daughter not two months before – I shrieked and wailed and pounded the wall and lost my breath and fell to the ground when I found out he’d been killed. I knew exactly who had been ripped out of the world.

And, without dignity, my sweet sister and I sat beside one another, sobbing and shaking at his memorial service in Rankin Chapel. We were an embarrassment in that building where everyone else was stoic. But we couldn’t help it; nothing like that was anything we ever really knew, expected. I’ve never felt less American than in that moment. I knew that everyone else in that room knew something, felt something that that an Anglo-Caribbean Canadian Black woman like me could never know. Generations of knowing. Generations of knowing. Generations of knowing.

I remember every word of what was said in the Chapel that day. In particular, I remember Prince’s best friend’s description of Prince’s bullet-ridden body in the hospital.

And now I know, too.