@MemphisMayFire, Keith Vidal, and the Effort to #SaySomething


I am sitting on my porch and listening to the sirens over near the hospital. I can see the 5th floor from here. Chances are good that if there are that many sirens, somebody is losing their mind somewhere about something.

A few minutes ago, I saw that another video of the young man with a schizophrenia diagnosis who got killed by police here in North Carolina was posted in the comments of the blog piece I hastily wrote the other day and sent to Mad in America with this message:


I hope this finds you well. The link isn’t in this yet. I just wrote it on my phone.

Could you please publish it, once the link is in?

I’m really quite okay with it being in the tempo of a meandering staccato, with some choppy transitions and disjointed leaps.

I actually like that it is.

That means it’s honest.

Let me know what you think.

Thanks – FRR

Later, I wrote back:

Thanks –

Some strong learning-how-to-do-advocacy and building-solidarity-in-remorse opportunities are coming about with this…something that feels like a collective agreement that this never should’ve happened.

I’m keeping track of what’s going on, trying to seed a local statement of coalition and community…it might be coming together, in 5 comments on Facebook and a couple of follow up emails…who knows what comes of plans, ideas?

That kid shouldn’t have died. He’s one more person – another whole family and town – that is added to my list of reasons to be brave as hell and to try to keep trying.

I feel a little appalled that someone had to die to really wake up my activist heart…especially when there are so many deaths (non-newsworthy?) everyday.

I have about a hundred pages of analysis and method jammed into my head right now. I may be able to pull out a disjointed essay on the mechanics of dumbass fear in the perpetuation of violent tragedies and the way that as much as cops killed that young man, “schizophrenia” killed that young man.

Death by schizophrenia, by proxy of cops.

I don’t know his story.

They are saying he was a “sweet kid.”

That just tears me up. I say that my own kids are “sweet.”

What would’ve happened differently if this young man did not receive the label he’d been given?

Did he really see things and hear things? Believe that there were plans? Did he feel the force of God within him, the probe of unseen eyes?

Who cares?

What could have been different?

Amazing that we spend so much of our lives trying to fix pain.

If you want to post this as an addendum to the initial post, feel free.

Maybe it can be like a mad letters reportback from the far edge of the big, sad mess?

You can post that part above, too…about the big, sad mess.

I need to go write some letters.

Thanks – FRR


Since then, I have posted a few messages and responded to a couple of emails. I’ve been trying to figure out how to get involved in the advocacy response to this most unfortunate scenario, in which a young man with a diagnosis of schizophrenia was shot and killed by the police that were called by his parents.

I think some meetings are being held somewhere, among people who are paid to be at meetings.

I asked about what the response was going to be among state-level and local advocates.

Some ideas were shared.

I got a few messages back, but no real momentum to move forward on anything so simple as a sign-on statement of condolence and a commitment to correctional actions in honor of that which cannot be corrected.

I really should watch that kid’s videos. He can’t play drums anymore.

It seems like people don’t much care.

We’re all just so busy.

On the drive home from work, I hardly thought about it at all.

I thought about a meeting that I had to go to and one I needed to cancel out of.

I looked at the clouds, how you could see the ridge of pressure, pushing up at the sky and how there seemed to be three skies, even four, all layered on top of one another, raggedly joined and shot through with light.

Today in a class, someone said, “Anger is about injustice and feeling like you can’t do anything to change the situation.”

In the parking lot, I muttered to myself: “Schizophrenia by proxy of cops,” and then I wondered if I’d get home in time to take the dog out and whether or not anyone would even bother to write the editor of the local paper.

Either I am so terribly out of some loop that I don’t know something is going on and there is an amazing uprising of coalitions and communities occurring and I just didn’t get the message…or most people don’t much care.

Is that true?

Did another young person die because the adults in their life didn’t know what to do? Did a kid with a mental health diagnosis get shot by a policeman in his own home and we aren’t…?


What do we do?

Who is “we”?

I’ll tell you one thing, if I am out of the loop – with all the effort I have made to get informed and get involved in advocacy – how are other people going to get in the loop? How is someone whose life might be more difficult and their opportunities more limited going to get involved in advocacy?

What even is advocacy?

Is it just going to meetings or is it making it possible for other people to get into those meetings?

Is it sending emails or making flyers? Is it clicking Like or shaking hands?

Here’s a joke: How many online petitions can be signed in one day by one person with no computer?

Seriously though, is it okay for police to kill people with mental health diagnoses?

Unless some decisive action is taken indicating that it is not okay for police to kill (more) people with mental health diagnoses, are we communicating that it is okay?

If we don’t do something, or if someone else doesn’t do something, are we saying that we can’t do it or that it’s not ours to do? That someone else should do it?


People in meetings?

Can I go to the meetings? Do I even know where they are? Was I invited?




Why wouldn’t people with mental health diagnoses and their families be out in the streets over things like this, over everything?

Are they?



Keith Vidal, playing drums to Memphis May Fire Alive in the Lights http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqWLkKBB3jQ


I watched the video of Keith Vidal playing drums to the song Alive in the Lights by Memphis May Fire.

“That young man got killed by a police officer,” I thought and – listening to the song – felt something hammer in my chest.

I looked up the lyrics to the song. They are well worth reading.

“Alive In The Lights”

From the beginning I knew I was different. I embraced it, but you didn’t. Your normal life, 9-5, it’s just not for me. I need to feel alive!

 I won’t fall like the rest of them, they’ve come & gone with the wind. I hear the doubt in the back of your mind but still I’ll see this through to the end.

 Maybe if you paid more attention, asked more questions & actually listened you would see this is not just a dream, but a path I’ve chosen that means everything to me.

 Don’t you see the minds that have changed? Do you see the lives that have been saved? Don’t you care to see the difference I’ve made?

 Listen closely, the highways call my name. Don’t you see this is my everything? It may not seem right to you & you might not approve but it’s real. This is the only thing that makes me feel.

 What more do I have to do to finally prove myself to you? What is it that you need to see to finally believe this is who I’m supposed to be?

 Most days I feel like your punching bag, but I will never let it hold me back. I just wish for once you knew how it felt to be brought down lower than everything else.

 Don’t you care to see the difference I’ve made? Listen closely, the highways call my name. Don’t you see this is my everything? It may not seem right to you & you might not approve but it’s real. This is the only thing that makes me feel. This is who I am! This is my life. I come alive in the lights! I come alive in the lights.

 What will be written on your tombstone? You sat behind a desk. You had no backbone. What will be written on your tombstone? You sold your soul, grew old alone. Would you prefer that I become a lifeless, hollow shell such as yourself? Would you prefer that I give up my dreams & lose all hope just like everyone else?

 Don’t you see the lives that have been saved? Listen closely, the highways call my name. Don’t you see this is my everything? It may not seem right to you & you might not approve but it’s real. This is the only thing that makes me feel. 


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That young man had dreams.

I decided I’d send a message to Memphis May Fire through Facebook and so I did, sharing the video and suggesting that perhaps they could say something about the fact that this kid got killed by the police, that maybe an entire audience, masses of people, would hold their fists in the air for him and for all the brilliant, defiant kids that are hurt by adults.

Figuring that nobody checks those Facebook messages, I tweeted the video to them @MemphisMayFire with #SaySomething.

<blockquote data-cards=”hidden” lang=”en”><p>This kid playing drums to <a href=”https://twitter.com/search?q=%23AliveintheLights&amp;src=hash”>#AliveintheLights</a&gt; got killed by a cop earlier this week. <a href=”http://t.co/zHdqDLjoac”>http://t.co/zHdqDLjoac</a&gt; … <a href=”https://twitter.com/MemphisMayFire”>@MemphisMayFire</a&gt; <a href=”https://twitter.com/search?q=%23SaySomething&amp;src=hash”>#SaySomething</a></p>&mdash; (…faith…) (@faithghost) <a href=”https://twitter.com/faithghost/statuses/421500620646805504″>January 10, 2014</a></blockquote>

<script async src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

(That’s supposed to be an embedded tweet. I like it better the way it is. It looks chaotic, but it actually conveys information.)

I don’t know if they will say something, but I sure wish someone would…and loudly.

In the meantime, the family has set up a gofundme account to pay for the funeral.

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