This beautifully written and illustrated graphic novel that puts to words the horrors and emotional terror that bring about these fights for acknowledgement over police brutality on the black and brown body, making this piece a visual of the deaths behind the Black Lives Matter Movements.
Alfonso Jones is a student that eagerly awaits the day his father is released from prison for a crime he did not commit, is preparing for a modern rendition of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and slowly is gaining the courage to confess his feelings to a close friend. An errand to buy a new suit becomes fatal when an officer mistakes a clothes hangar in Alfonso’s hand for a gun and shoots him, taking the life of the young man. Now Alfonso is riding on a train through times alongside the spirits of men and women known for their tragic deaths at the hands of the police, as he bears witness to the after-affects of his death. Community, friends, and family rally together in an emotional and physical fight for justice, while accepting the terrible truth that Alfonso is gone and cannot get the chance to meet his father in person.
Black Lives Matter is an activist movement that aims brings to light the violence and systemic aggression of black people, but with media rarely displaying both sides of everything, it is often difficult to remember that there is more than what we are being shown. There are people driven by fear, loss, and anger behind this movement, and Tony Medina captures that in this story.
The title itself is extremely moving and forces you to relate, regardless of your race. You are witnessing the raw emotion of these individuals and is nearly impossible to not share the feeling of loss as we see friends and family fight for the wrongful shooting of their son and best friend. The train filled with spirits also is a literal visual of this system aggression traveling through time, repeated act with different people, all with people fighting to stop the violence. Alfonso has become a vessel for this terrible chain of deaths and seeing all these people in one location, puts an even scarier reality as we see just how many have lost their lives to violence through authority figures. It a disturbing yet powerful image, especially when Alfonso is seeing what his death has trigger in his community and even around the world.
Two of the most impacting character are the two women in Alfonso’s life: his mother, Cynthia, and Danetta. His mother being the transitions of her son throughout his entire lifetime and the being a representation of the mothers who lose their son to police brutality and what it is like to face a system that seems determined to protect the one behind the uniform. Danetta is the love interest of Alfonso in life and death, and represents the youths that are affected by the death of a peer and friend, and in her case, being a witness to the shooting.
Cynthia had to witness her husband get taken away for something he did not commit, and is once again thrust into a deep ocean of loss and despair over Alfonso’s death. She has been wronged by the system that is supposed to protect her twice and she doesn’t hold back in voicing her anger over the world and calling out the media for showing only what they wish to see, her crying over the loss of a son, when it is more than that, he wasn’t lost, he was taken, and that is something she will not accept.
Danetta is a witnes to her friend’s murder and it is never unremembered that this is a young woman in high school that is dealing with the loss and is still expected to cram for exams. There is a powerful scene depicted in this panel that shows a sobbing Danetta who is speaking to her classmates as they voice their opinions on if all police are to blame for the continued police brutality against black people. The teacher beautifully explains that not all police can be to blame, but there is absolutely a problem with policing and that was something that needed to be fought against fiercely. It is an extremely emotional tense moment as we see that these are children, not even entered into society as adults, already being thrust into a world of violence and fear.
This graphic novel is must-read for adults and young adults combined and puts into words and image the inside and outside of the Black Lives Matter movement.