Deep inside her, in a place she could neither point to nor name, something shattered into nearly as many pieces as the pane of glass that, the day before, was the front of her shop.
The word black was still visible on the glass that remained. So was business. But owned, that word that should have mattered, that should have shielded from the brick, had disappeared with the glass it failed to protect.
Shaniqua was on her knees. She did not remember kneeling down. Normally she kept glass shards at least a broom’s length away. But a mind in shock didn’t process things the same way as a mind on any other Saturday.
Laverne called for her friend from outside the shop. People were moving, in mass, and unlike past marches, Laverne was not going to let herself end up stuck in the back, arriving so late that all of the speakers had long since spoke, so far in the back that the media had gone, people no longer lined the streets showing their support, and the only people hearing the chants were those doing the chanting.
Shaniqua was coming, but not in these shoes, she said. She wouldn’t make it more than a few blocks before all she would be able to protest was the throbbing of her feet.
They did, eventually, go, but not until Shaniqua painted in bold, black letters that this business was black-owned. Smart, Laverne said. Besides, she wished someone would throw something through the glass of her best friend’s store. When Shaniqua later told her that someone did, this turned out to be an empty threat, but Shaniqua loved her best friend anyway for the depth of which she felt this gut punch herself.
It’s not just glass, Laverne would say, and it wasn’t, not when there was no foot traffic and banks only gave out loans to companies who couldn’t count their employees using their hands (Shaniqua could count her own on the number of fingers needed to flash a peace sign, and they were part-time).
Shaniqua chose to march for a simple reason. Her life mattered. So did Laverne’s. Most of the time people didn’t seem to realize, but now they were shouting it at the top of their lungs, writing it on signs, and tearing down statues of the people who had dared to say they owned the man and woman who gave birth to her great grandparents. It mattered not that no one could track down who this man and woman were anymore. Actually, that made it matter more.
Opening her own store was a dream realized for Shaniqua, who didn’t own a single credential saying that she knew fashion or was authorized to be its steward.
She studied nails and hair as a vocation in high school. She learned how to manage a business in community college. She never got a bachelor’s or had her work retweeted by a celebrity. She had given a presentation at an event held by a non-profit, impressed the right people, and won a grant to start her own business.
She started with an online storefront and worked out of her home. But her home was barely big enough for living, and that was only if you lived alone. She did not.
Getting her own space wasn’t just an opportunity for professional growth, it had become a professional requirement, if she wanted to keep both her profession and her roommates.
She loved decorating that store front, almost as much as she loved styling, selling, and sometimes, occasionally, designing clothes.
Things didn’t go as hoped that night. All kinds of people showed up to protest, of different age groups and from different backgrounds, of different colors and religions, with different politics and different expectations.
Some marched with a message. Some marched with anger. Some marched in solidarity. Some marched out of need.
Some marched with tools. When they set their sights on a monument, they slung ropes and began to hack away with sledge hammers. A crowd organically formed around the monument. Here, the cops set up a barricade and watched. People stood nearby with signs. Journalists took pictures.
Elsewhere, marches ran up against walls of police, as armored as soldiers, with heavy vehicles and heavy guns. Here, the police saw in the protesters an enemy, and the protesters saw in the police the same.
The two sides clashed. There was tear gas and coughing and blurred, pained eyes. There were thrown bottles and shards of glass. There were shots fired, but, in the aftermath, no shooters. The police claimed the bullets came from the protesters. The protesters were certain they came from cops. Without bloodied bodies, no one could say for sure. This, in the end, was not a bad thing.
Shaniqua caught glimpses of both protests, but she did not merge with either. Once things became too intense, and the sky too dark, she made her way back home.
That next morning she saw the glass.
She made her way inside, she knelt on the floor, she cried.
When the tears stopped, she made her way back outside and surveyed the damage.
My brother threw the brick.
Behind her stood a woman who was also black. Maybe a teenager. It was hard to tell sometimes. She was nervous. Her hands went into her pockets, then out again.
I saw him throw it, and I called him out on it, but he got mad at me for getting mad. Anyway, I just couldn’t let it go. I’ve been coming by all morning, hoping I’d see who owned the place.
She swallowed, made even more nervous by the oppressive silence. Then she spoke again. I’m here because I thought you should know.
So it wasn’t outside agitators, as the media liked to call them. Not this time. At least Shaniqua had that closure, though it didn’t make much difference.
The real question, which still lingered, unanswered, seemingly unanswerable, was what to do from here.