Saturday, January 12, 2008

Brent, a brother ...

We are standing in a fabric section of a huge department store looking at huge bolts of fabric. We must have looked lost and confused. I had called a funeral home and asked where one buys black armbands. The woman I spoke to had no idea! Really! She suggested going to a fabric store, so we did. A middle aged black woman comes towards us and asks if we need help. I tell her that we are looking for black fabric, jet black. She casts an eye over the bolts of multicoloured material and said, "Jet black?" I nodded.

She told me that she didn't think that they had any plain black material. She had the demeanor of a talker so I wasn't surprised when she asked, "Why do you want black material?" I told her that we wanted to make two black armbands. Her hand shot out to me and touched me on the arm, "I'm so sorry." With her compassion was just a blink away. I told her that the black arm band was in both protest and memory. That wasn't enough.

So I told her.

About Brent Martin.

I knew more from searching on the web. I found one story about the beating of Brent Martin, about how he was picked out because he had an intellectual disability. That story reported that during the entire time he was beaten by the three boys, he never struck out. It reported, from testimony, that he kept trying to take their hands and shake them, in sign of friendship. He kept telling them that he loved them. He didn't beg for his life, he begged for affection, for friendship. And still they kept coming, this beating wasn't over in seconds, it took time, it travelled some distance. They had time to stop, to change their minds, but they didn't they kept coming. All because he was different. All because he had a disability. All because they hated him.

Her eyes grew hard. She asked some questions and I saw her flick a tear away from her eye. I explained that a few of us, quite a few I gather from reading your comments to this blog, were going to wear black armbands next week, in protest of his killing, in protest of violence against disability, in protest against the silence that greets the killing of our own, in protest of the commonality of Brent's experience. But mostly so that Brent doesn't die forgotten.

"Let me get a pen, don't go anywhere," she said and disappeared. When she came back she wrote down the name Brent Martin, she wrote down the address of this blog, then she said, "Come with me."

She walked quickly, anger pounding her steps to the floor. We were now in the men's department and she found a black tee shirt with a design on the front. She held it up and looked at me. "Just a minute, stay there," she said, quite comfortable with ordering me around, she had to have kids, I thought.

She came back with a receipt in her hand and handed it to me. "Come with me," she said and took us back to the fabric part of the shop. Deftly she cut three long black strips out of the back of the tee shirt. She handed one to Joe and one to me. "This is from me," she said, "wear it next week and tell everybody what you told me. I'm going to wear mine. One thing I learned from living this life is that we are all brothers. You don't hurt a brother." She's got tears in her eyes and she waves us away.

I try to say, "Thanks."

But she doesn't want thanks.

She wants a world, the same world that I do, "Where, 'you don't hurt a brother.'"


Anonymous said...

Its starting, I can feel it. I think a week of the black armband will make a difference but we need to continue. I've been thinking about how do we keep it going. I had one of those can't sleep nights. What do you think of a ribbon campaign. I remember wearing a yellow ribbon years ago that represented People First push to close the institutions in Ontario and here we are less than a year away from seeing that happen finally. What do you think of a ribbon campaign after the week?

LukeyOneSock said...

The local newspaper in the area has an online condolence book:

Could be nice to let the family know Brent is in our thoughts?

LukeyOneSock said...

Sorry. The link does not show in full on the comment but works if you copy and paste it in its entirety into your browser.

Anonymous said...

I can't stop thinking about Brent Martin since reading yesterday's post. I looked up his name on Google and I posted the news article that I found on my blog in my reference post yesterday.

I kept waking throughout the night, and I kept seeing Brent stagger back up after a round of punches and headbuttes, offering his hand in friendship. Over and over and over again. It's haunting.

I also look at my son and I wonder if I'll ever need to protect him from such hatred.

I think the woman from the store is a wonderful support to have in Brent's honor. She took action right away...Not too many do that anymore. I send her the biggest and tightest hugs.

Anonymous said...

There was some media coverage in Britain at the time of Brent's murder and his murderers conviction. I think the idea of a campaign of wearing an armband in protest against violence against disabled people is a good one.

Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

For people who have trouble copy/pasting the above link that "fallingdown" gives us above:

Brent's condolence book

theknapper said...

I'm sitting in a library reading this with tears in my eyes. I've been looking for wide black ribbon. I've lit a candle....I will share this story.

Belinda said...

Hey Everyone,
I went to a drug store and bought a black head band. It's the perfect width and can easily be made small enough to go around an arm.

With the rest of you in solidarity and mourning...Belinda

Kathryn said...

opaque black nylons - you can cut them in to a shorter strip and tie it around your arm. CVS sells them for not much. That is what I am going to do. David, thanks for alerting me to this. I have posted about it on my blog and linked to you and an article about Brent. If anyone is savvy enough to design a black ribbon jpg please let me know as I would like to put that in my sidebar.

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Anonymous said...

Great blog as for me. It would be great to read more about that topic.
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vickyy said...

Hi I'm Brents Neice Its Not 5year Since He Was Sadly, Brutaly & Cruelly Taken Away From Us, I Think The Black Arm Band Is a Great Idea & Thanks It Just Goes To Show That There Is Some Nice People Out There X

vickyy said...

Now 5 Year*