The moment I took my first step that bright, Sunday morning, I thought about quitting. My husband would have guarded my secret, I know he would have. I could have easily come up with excuses for why I never crossed the finish line. Oh, I wound up having to take my neighbor to Church and the fire of God fell on us, I’d say. Seven demons came out, can you believe it?
But I couldn’t quit because I made the mistake of telling every single person I’ve ever known on Earth that I was running as part of a relay team in the New York City Triathlon. My Face Book wall has at least three posts from the last week foretelling of my accomplishment.
I took a deep breath and began a steep ascent up a hill. The heat was thick, and it was all around me, and it kept me feeling like there was no air underneath my shirt.
When I am not motivated to run, I always find a ‘rabbit’, a person who I can chase. A stocky blonde in a Canadian jersey was closest to me so I focused my eyes on her back. When she moved right, I moved right. When she shook out her hands, I shook out my hands. She noticed me about a half mile later, and slowed her pace so we could run next to one another. Without any words, we bonded. She seemed like a loyal person, willing to be in the trenches with me. And she seemed very proud to be from Canada.
After only two miles of running mostly uphill, I felt exhausted. It felt like I hadn’t trained, or practiced climbs, or anything. I felt fat, and out of shape. And worst, a bobby pin was stabbing me in the back of the head. My chest felt extremely tight, and my ankles did too. I was on the verge of tears, so I started talking myself off the ledge, pairing it with some deep breathing. The Canadian and I were the only ones on the road at this particular point. All eyes were on us, coming down the lane.
A deep breath and I told myself This is just a simple run, in a simple park. Enjoy it. Remember what Proverbs 4:12 says. That you’ll walk and not stumble, run and never be hindered. Run. Keep running. No pressure.
Like clockwork, people began waving their signs even higher, cheering louder. They were starting to be within arms length reach. Kids were giving us high-fives. “Go!” a crowd member called out. Yes, go Jasmine. Keep going, I thought.
“You can do it!” someone else yelled. You can do it. You can do this. Just a simple run. Absolutely no pressure. You—
“DO IT FOR TRAYVON MARTIN’S PARENTS!”
To my left stood a little old white woman, and she was the voice behind the command. She nodded vigorously and pointed directly at me.
Let’s pause right there – because this is when my soul left my body, just like VROOOSH, it left and hovered above me – and the next thoughts I had went something like this:
- Oh my God.
- I’m dying.
- I’m the only Black person as far as I can see, so I’m guessing it’s me that needs to do this.
- All of these people just heard her shout that at me, and if I stop running I will let down all of Black America.
- Is Oprah here?
- It’s too hot for this.
- How ‘bout YOU come over here and YOU do it for Trayvon Martin’s parents?
- WHY IN THE HOLY NAME OF GOD WHO SITS UP HIGH AND LOOKS DOWN LOW WOULD YOU SAY THAT? IS THAT A MOTIVATION SPEECH?
- I’m dying.
- I’m definitely dying.
When my soul collided with my body and spirit, I only had one choice. And that, was to represent.
So I put on a show. I sped up, started letting my arms swing really wide and really fast, like Usain Bolt does in the Olympics. Oh, how I ran…
…for two minutes. I kept this up until we were a good distance away from the crowd. My lungs were about to explode and I was sweating into my own mouth. I looked over at the Canadian, and she knew I was faking so I stopped in the middle of the racing lane and stood there panting, “Can…she…see…me?”
The Canadian turned around and did some in-place jogging backwards, searching for her in the crowd.
“Yeah, she’s still standing there. She’s watching you,” she said.
“I’m not…Jesse Jackson…I can’t…Martin…Luther King…”
“Well, you better run.”
So I did. For all of us. And I finished.
I finished. I felt such a sense of satisfaction. Followed by sadness.
Where do we go from here? How do we each – Black and White and Brown and Tan – carry on the memory of a young boy who was tragically killed without letting hate or fear envelop us?
I cannot answer that for you, only for myself. For me, it is by raising multiple little Black boys to be little Black leaders. By teaching them that fear is not something we will tolerate (II Timothy 1:7). By daily reinforcing that God is our strength, our hope, and our justice-maker. By believing that God’s Word applies to my race too when He said in Job 8 that though our beginnings were small, our latter days would be great.
I run. I pray. I love.
And I am Trayvon Martin.
To Jennifer: Thank you for echoing that it’s ok to be me. For listening, for praying. For inventing a Holy twerk. I admire you and love you so much. Go please no one but God!