I am Tunde Johnson

How watching The Obituary of Tunde Johnson awakened repressed feelings

Actors Steven Silver and Spencer Neville as “Tunde Johnson” and “Soren O’Connor” from Out Magazine

Nothing prepares you for the triggers of life — things that have been repressed and only dug up when the nights are cold, and a biting tongue and eager ears want you to confess.

I had not been feeling well late last week and into this current one, and one of the ways I gifted myself peace was to watch The Obituary of Tunde Johnson. What I did not prepare for was how intense the movie was, what it would stir up within me, and how hard I worked to bury some memories I thought would never be exhumed.

Tunde Johnson is a gay Nigerian-American teenager who is in a secret relationship with his school’s white lacrosse champion Soren. Soren is closeted and officially dating popular girl Marley, Tunde’s best friend since childhood. The day of Soren’s birthday, when the two boys have planned to come out to their families, Tunde is stopped and fatally shot by a police officer. Following his death, he wakes up the previous morning and becomes trapped in a time loop, forced to relive the day of his murder, which keeps happening in different ways no matter how hard he tries to change it. — Wikipedia

As I watched Steven Silver, the actor who played Babatunde Adesola Johnson, in the movie, I gasped. I inhaled and exhaled broken hearts, defeated conversations, and intense pain. I know what it feels like to keep a secret because the person you love cannot (will not) announce they love you, too.

However, my experience was slightly different.


I am Tunde Johnson

She was like no one I had ever met — a Scorpio with a vast vocabulary, dimples so deep they appeared when she breathed, and a soft and welcoming voice. Words connected us. They were our saving grace, and in them, we toyed with more than just language.

In my 20s, I never thought I would ever fall for a woman who was almost engaged, then engaged, then married, and who became a mother.

We let words on a screen pull us in, caress us, and provide comfort and care when no one else was around. I skipped college classes to communicate with her. I took trips to where she was to see her. We hid in the shadows to be close — skin to skin — to love without thinking of consequences.

But there are always consequences.

Fighting to remain in her life as a demoted figment of a sentient being, I clung to the title of “best friend,” and amongst the loss and shame and hurt of dealing with a drug addict for a mother, the intensity of the workload for classes, and a woman I would never be first to, I began drinking.

I lost myself because I only wanted to find myself with her.

And in the end, I had to realize there was no US. There never could be. She had safety in someone else — she always would have. And I would go back to the shadows alone.

We would not be that happy couple, smiling during dramatic throwback arguments, and married by 30 years of age.

I had to swallow my pride. I had to move on. It took sixteen years before I recognized my worth — sixteen years.

Tunde could recognize this sooner than that.


As a Black bisexual woman, Tunde’s story speaks to me

I know I am not alone in this. After Tunde is stopped (for what, had not been disclosed, but one can quickly gather it is racial profiling — the hideous culprit) by two White police officers when he is on his way to Soren’s birthday party. Watching it as it played out, I immediately knew what would come next.

A gunshot. A fatally wounded Black man. Dead. Why? He was reaching for his cell phone.

The fear of being pulled over by police officers for many of us who are Black and trying to live is real. I am always eyeing my rearview mirror. I tense up when I pass by a squad car. I say quick, breath prayers and move past them as carefully as I can.

I could feel every gunshot as they flew toward his torso. I teared up, watching him fall to the ground.

And every single day, Tunde relives his death, but in a way that many young Black people have died years prior to the inception of this film.

The Obituary of Tunde Johnson, Trailer.

One moment that stands out for me is when he meets Soren’s father, Alfred O’Connor, who is a television host centered on his ill-informed beliefs and says to him, “You have a television show,” and he shakes his head. This comment comes after they have discussed Alfred stating his words and expressions can label him as a racist or a bigot, and he seems to not have a voice in the world.

Ironic, right? He’s a television host with his own show. His voice is louder than many of ours.

The Obituary of Tunde Johnson creeps in, strips itself naked, and rains down on all of us the pain of what it feels like to live while Black and queer in the United States of America.

It puts on screen the sort of looping coverage Black communities go through regularly, watching unarmed Black folks die at the hands of police on the news or social media time after time. — Mikelle Street, Out Magazine, February, 2021


I thought I had moved on. I really did.

And I imagine, some of you, should you opt to watch this movie, will find bits and pieces of your life tangled up in it as well. I thought I had buried enough of that part of my life away that I would not allow the tears to fall.

Sure, I have written many poems for this woman — she was, and I will bet, still is amazing. But, those are fleeting moments — visiting for a few minutes here and there, and then they find their hiding place once again.

But watching this movie and leaning into the depths of Tunde’s reaction after every death silenced me. I sat with my heart in my hands, my mouth agape, and my soul on pause.

We die many deaths while living and we are expected to bounce back from these deaths continually.

Some of us are walking, unhealed calluses of ourselves, never to recover, yet they advise us to shape up or ship out. The proverbial ship will set sail without us.

Maybe I needed this, though. Maybe I had to be reminded of my past, from something that is present, and probably will be a part of my future in order to fully heal.


To be Black (and queer) and alive in America is a death sentence

Babatunde Adesola Johnson knows this, and with every death, he died, he had been given a chance to remain alive in the end.

To think of those who did not survive, will not survive, and have yet to become a statistic, my prayer is that we defy the odds.

I am Tunde Johnson. Are you?


Originally published in An Injustice via Medium.

Dead in Akron

An Audio Lamentation for Jayland Walker

Photo by bimo mentara on Unsplash
Dead in Akron by Tremaine L. Loadholt

90 shots fired?
90? 90? Are we sure?
Could be a little more
Could be a little less.
Who’s counting? When it’s
us, who’s counting?

You can’t be Black and young
and afraid of authorities in
America, it’s ammunition
for their ammunition, and
you will never win against
their numbers.

The system was designed to
hunt us like deer
draw our slain bodies from
the scene, and mount us
above their mantels;
prizes for their buddies
to gawk at.

There are checks being
cut for the officials
who can sell the most
bullshit in the darkest times
and the 1% has scrambled to
collect their due.

While we continue to
drop like flies, letters
lacking empathy are issued
to grieving families and lawyers
prepare themselves to seek
the highest monetary amount
possible as though money
resurrects the dead.

What do you do when
you’ve become numb to
the constant pain that settles
in your bones?
It’s there, you know it’s there
but now … it lingers
like a reminder, one you
claim as a task to get
rid of, yet …

You never will.


©2022 Tremaine L. Loadholt Originally published in soliloque via Medium.

“After a car chase, Walker got out of his car and a foot chase took place, police said. Officers believed Walker was reaching towards his waist and they ‘felt that Mr. Walker had turned and was motioning and moving into a firing position,’ Mylett said.

Walker, however, was not armed, Mylett said Sunday.” — Samantha Beecher & Dakin Andone, CNN News

What Am I Supposed to Feel? NaPoWriMo#28

Some of the plants in my best friend’s plant therapy room. Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt

What Am I Supposed To Feel?

I feel nothing.
I’m supposed to feel
something . . .
Something is supposed to
hit me, shake me,
break me into
some semblance of
acceptance — 
isn’t it?

But
there’s nothing there.
I want to be happy.
I want to feel relieved.
I want to celebrate like
the majority of this
world but I know
this is far from over.
The damage is done
and really, how do
we undo it?

Where can we start?
What needs to take place?
So many movements.
So many lives lost
and this one victory
tap-dances on our hearts
and it feels . . . 
other-worldly — as if
the programming of its
occurrence hasn’t reached
the highest ratings and
we’re still waiting for
the go-ahead to
breathe.

I still have unearthed
breaths tucked in from
unjustified killings
stabbing me in
my gut — I can’t find
an endpoint.
There is no safe
zone.

And people laugh
and clap their hands
loudly and join along
in the grand hoopla
of it all while I
shelter-in-place with my
damaged spirit.

Tell me, what am I
supposed to feel?
I carry this verdict
with me, bury it in
my faulty vision, blink
away the madness of it
all, then settle on
the unclear view.

“It’s a start,” someone
says and I can’t help
but hear my trapped voice
rebut, “It’s your start.
I’m finished.”


Justice delayed is justice denied. — William E. Gladstone


Originally published on Medium.

On: The Lives of African-Americans & People of Color

Photo by Ezekixl Akinnewu via Pexels

You don’t understand the anger b/c you are not the target. Your life isn’t on the line every time you come in contact with those purposed to “protect” & “serve”. Don’t question our anger. It’s warranted & has been bottled up for eons. An explosion of epic proportions is brewing.

Stand with us or sit down.