(Ahmaud Arbery) I Don’t Want to Know Your Name

By Dr. Peaches Henry

Ahmaud Arbery, I don’t want to know your name,
Because knowing your name means your mother is grieving your unjustifiable death.
Knowing your name means you are an unarmed Black man who died at the hands of a white man—
A white man who thinks that he has the right to police your body
Whether or not he is a cop,
Whether or not, if he is a cop, you have committed a crime,
Whether you were simply living your best life,
Snacking on Skittles and iced tea,
Playing your music loudly while pumping gas,
Sitting on your couch eating ice cream,
Sleeping in your own bed,
Settling into a daily run,
Living while Black.

Ahmaud Arbery, I don’t want to know your name.
Because knowing your name means I must add you to that heartbreaking, breath-stopping, stomach-wrenching, always growing, never-ending catalog of murdered Black men, women, and children.
That did not begin with Emmitt Till nor end with Trayvon Martin or Eric Garner or Michael Brown or Tamir Rice or Freddie Gray or Sandra Bland or Philando Castillo or Alton Sterling or Bootham Jean or Breonna Taylor or George Floyd or countless more.
Yet knowing your name means to honor your life.
To say your name is the first step in the journey toward justice for you.
Knowing your name means to protest anti-Black violence,
To scream “Black Lives Matter” in the futile hope that the loss of your life matters.

Ahmaud Arbery, I don’t want to know your name.
Because knowing your name turns my mind to my own twenty-five-year-old son.
Like you, each day he goes for a jog in a predominately white neighborhood.
His neighborhood.
So Ahmaud Arbery, to know your name terrifies me
And causes me to double over in a silent wail of agony every morning,
And to breathe again only when the door opens to reveal my Black Eagle Scout, dean’s list, not-safe-at-home law student.

Ahmaud Arbery, I don’t want to know your name.
But I will learn your name.
I will memorialize you by ritually reciting your name in perpetuity.
I will remember it, because like Emmitt, Trayvon, Eric, Michael, Tamir, Freddie, Sandra, Philando, Alton, Bootham, Breonna, and George you deserved to live in obscurity unknown to me
Not killed by a white man’s bullet or knee on your neck.
I will stand with your mother, uphold your memory, and fight for justice,
Because my son jogs too.


Peaches Henry is an English professor at McLennan Community College. She is currently teaching online and sheltering in place with her eight-month old black Labrador puppy and her son who has returned home from law school.

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15 Comments

  1. Jerrie Callan on June 9, 2020 at 11:17 am

    Powerful words! A few years ago when Peaches’ son was getting ready to leave for college, she said to a group of friends (myself included) that she worried about him being on the highway because he is a large black man and she always worried about his safety. My reaction was visceral and haunting and over the years I have returned to that moment so many times. Just the thought that any mother has to add such fear to the normal worries of motherhood is proof enough of the existence of racism in our society. Waco is fortunate to have Peaches Henry, and I hope Waco as a community can respond positively to her words!

  2. April Langley on June 9, 2020 at 11:18 am

    I hear and understand your powerful words Dr. Henry.

  3. Angela Montalba on June 9, 2020 at 2:27 pm

    OMG, this is powerful and heartbreaking and raw. Yes, the nation is in turmoil, but nothing matched the sting of hearing the pain
    and terror of a black mom who never knows if she will see her son again. Whether jogging or walking or just sitting on a bench in
    the park the pathos of your words stirs wrenching pain in my soul. I honor your work even as it breaks my heart to know how often
    it’s the truth of black and brown moms so many times more than others.

    I hear you and it hurts, and it is sad that it is too often repeated and true.
    Well done bard.
    Montalba, DFW

  4. Ramona Curtis on June 9, 2020 at 8:23 pm

    Powerful! I love this. Thank you for your service!

  5. Bradley Ford on June 10, 2020 at 11:08 am

    Thank you Dr. Henry for these words.

    “To say your name is the first step in the journey toward justice for you.”

  6. Marie K Allen on June 10, 2020 at 2:09 pm

    Thank you, Dr. Peaches for your unfailing upholding of truth, courage, and compassion. You are light in the darkness.

  7. Linda Jann Lewis on June 10, 2020 at 8:17 pm

    I am grateful for Dr. Peaches Henry ‘s leadership in our community. I called my son this morning and told him that in these dangerous times, I need to just hear his voice to know that he is alive. Black mothers share her perspectives. Dr. Peaches, “WE FEEL YOU”

  8. Gwendolyn McNuckles on June 12, 2020 at 6:31 am

    Thank you Dr. Peaches for your words which articulate life as a Black person. As the summer rolls around I fear traveling on vacation not for the virus though formidable but because the state of the country is unstable and tenuous and we are not safe though we also are proud to be an American and this too is the land I love. As my great nephew, an 18 itty bitty years old, prepared to go to North Carolina to college in a couple of months I truly pray and worry big time.

  9. Ashley Burgess Weist on June 12, 2020 at 9:07 am

    Dr. Henry, your words stitch together the visceral emotions our broken nation is struggling with. I want to scream your powerful words from a mountain-top. I would be honored to have your permission to post your poem on my FB page with the hope that your words will reach many more eyes and many more eyes will be opened to SEE the existence of racism all around us. My heart is with you and I stand firmly by YOUR side.

    • Dr. Peaches Henry on August 2, 2020 at 8:23 am

      Ashley, you are welcome to post my poem. I have been recovering from eye surgery, so my screen time has been limited this summer. Please accept my apology for just now responding to your request.

  10. Mary Goolsby on June 12, 2020 at 9:36 am

    Dr. Peaches, I hope we have finally, finally reached a new understanding of what you and millions of Black mothers feel everyday as they watch their children leave the home. Empathy is an important skill going forward. Let’s continue listening and believing Black Americans when they tell us that their experiences as Americans is not the same as ours.

  11. Mary Goolsby on June 12, 2020 at 9:38 am

    [Add to last comment]
    And work to recognize our roles in making our society more just for everyone and act.

  12. Patty Field on June 13, 2020 at 7:34 am

    Thank you for reminding me that no matter how strongly I feel about injustice towards black and brown people, as a white mother, ,I need to know and remember the names of each of these victims. And to remember the privilege I have of not worrying about my own children this way.

  13. Laura Bedwell on June 14, 2020 at 7:13 am

    This is beautifully written, Dr. Henry. We must do better—we must BE better.

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