Brown Suffocated

In his short story, Denzel Sarkodie-Addo depicts how ‘just like black people have historically been disenfranchised and made to feel like we have lost a lot of our power amongst our own communities; so have the trees, which allows them to build a bond.

This short story is the second of three, chronicling a fantasised relationship between black people and trees. The collection transcends different time periods throughout history, magnifying events that were/are issues for black people.

Of course they had torches lit with fires, and their hands clung to his tattered clothes and parts of his flesh, as they dragged him across the field in my direction. The man they were dragging? His skin was brown like mine. But human skin is so soft, and his had bruises and cuts all over it. Tears ran down his swollen cheeks, down to the snot and the blood around his mouth, as his body continued to leave a dark trail through the grass. He had curly black hair, with leaves and turf in it, unlike my green bushy head of hair. Either they had taken him with no shoes, or they had come off while he was being dragged, either way, he wore nothing on his feet except blood stains. The jeering crowd’s faces were menacingly glowing with orange light from the fire, as spit formulated from their mouths and their eyes widened with joy. I’d never seen this particular group of people before, but over the last 20 years I had come to know this face very well. The face of anger, and frustration. A face of vindication, and power. And there was no doubt in my mind why they coming my way. The boy was going to be lynched on me. He wouldn’t be the first, and wouldn’t be the last.

They lifted him up and threw him against me.

‘Y-y-you want me to beg or somm hmm?’ His lips quivered as he lowered and raised his head. His eyes glazed in the fire. ‘My boy’s gon know his daddy, feared nothin in this lifetime. He gon-‘

One of crowd members booted the man across the face making him drop, and blood from his mouth touched the grass by my roots. This made the crowd jeer again, and wave their torches. The man that had kicked him stepped forward, and lifted him up to his knees. ‘Your boy ain’t gon know nuttin bout you, boy. We gon’ shovel a nice spot for you, boy! You gon tellem bout fear from the grave?’ He tightened his grip on his shirt collars, as he said this. ‘Lot of your people believe in spirits and incantations, so if you do manage it, tell your boy to fear two things. The white man, and God.’ He spat on the black man, and threw him back to the ground as two other men emerged from the crowd with a long rope in their hands.

Now, I had seen folks do so many things with rope. I’d seen men pull their vehicles with ropes up the street when they’d needed towing or they had run out of gas. I’d seen the land owners bring in their horses with ropes on the fields. I’d even had dad’s attach tire swings on me for their kids on some of my thicker branches. But a noose was the most peculiar way I ever did see humans use a piece of rope for. They threw the free side of the rope over one of my branches, and let it hang until one of the two men went onto that side to grab it. They put the loose noose around the man’s neck, then tightened it a little bit so that it would be tucked just underneath his chin. It sickened me to know that I knew this routine so well, but as I said before, he hadn’t been the first, and he wouldn’t be the last. Again the crowd jeered, and shuffled with anticipation, as the men hammered a small key shaped piece of metal into my roots.

The man was on his knees, as he blubbered a prayer through his engorged bloody lips. They always did this, and I always found it remarkable. We both knew that this had happened so many times, to so many other people, but they always still prayed. Prayed for what, exactly? Forgiveness? Divine intervention? Their lives spared? I could never tell.  But if I had lips, I would pray with them. Because if it was forgiveness they were praying for, I would pray for it too for the crimes we trees had committed. I could feel the vibrations in my roots from the other trees in the field whenever a lynching happened. None of us wanted to be a part of this, but we had no choice but to aid this evil. But regardless, we too needed forgiveness. If it was for divine intervention, we would pray for the power of the trees to be restored. Long gone were the days of Doggerland, in which we had the power of instant movements. Now it takes us decades just to stretch or rotate, but we still have the ability to live for centuries. And this is what we would pray for if we could. For that to stop. If whoever these humans prayed to could hear our vibrations as well, we would pray for our long life spans to end. We wanted the skies to stop crying, and the ground across the whole field to become barren, so we had no water to drink. We wanted the sun to disappear, the world to be consumed in darkness so that we had to energy to survive. Because we knew that death was better that living through bondage. However, either our vibrations meant nothing, or they fell to deaf ears, because we were never given our prayers…

The two men tightened their grip on the rope and pulled, as the man’s body began to rise closer to my branch. As the rope tightened around his neck, the burning of the rope against my branch increased too. The man kicked and flailed out his legs, as my branches quivered, and the jeering of the crowd had subsided into a low roar. The man tried to pry his neck free from the ropes but it was pointless. I tried to will by branches into falling off but it was useless. They continued to yank the rope, until they tied the end of it around the key shaped piece of metal in the ground. The man’s body stopped rising. His legs stopped flailing. His arms stopped prying. And nothing, came from his mouth.

And as his body swung in front of my face, the same question that I always wondered, consumed me all over again.

What was his name?

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