The shooting deaths of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and five police officers in Dallas, has inspired producer-director Salim Akil to write an open letter to his 12-year-old son.
In a guest column for the July 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter, Akil expressed his “paranoia” as a black father evoked by his memories of the 2014 shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was killed by Cleveland police for playing with a toy gun.
“The realization that you have a black body conjures up images of 12-year-old Tamir Rice’s murder in my mind,” Akil wrote. “Catastrophic thoughts begin to invade my five senses. My heart beats faster. I try to catch myself, try to remind myself that no, you are here with me. I’m watching you. You are real and for the moment… alive.”
He added that his paranoia is a by product of being a black man in America and “every black man” he knows suffers from the same experience. The “Being Mary Jane” producer wrote to his son that he’s entitled “to every good thing this country has to offer.”
You are the American dream, son. You were made black on purpose. God did that, so I want you to dance in the end zone, dunk the ball with beautiful creativity, become a police officer or a fireman, celebrate when you pass the bar exam, finish your medical residency, ride with your top down and play your music loud, wear your pants low on your hips or tie your neck up with a Windsor knot, find a woman like Diamond Reynolds and marry her quick. What I’m asking you to do, son, is after the tears dry, live. Live life “by any means necessary”!
Akil’s open letter adds to the list of black celebrity parents, including Halle Berry and Sean “Diddy” Combs, who have shared their concern for their children’s safety in America.
Read more of Salim Akil’s open letter here.