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Walking While Black


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A deeply personal, heartfelt glimpse into the life and death of Anthonii Sanders, a victim of police brutality and racial prejudice

In her memoir, Walking While Black, Polly J. Runyon-Sanders aims to fulfill her late husband's dying wish and tells the story of the brutal, unprovoked tasing and beating by the police of a Native-American/African-American citizen.

Anthonii Sanders's name deserves to be mentioned on billboards and during marches, along with George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others, as a testament to systemic racism within the police. His death wasn't immediate and thus didn't make the news, but after the Incident, as the couple called it, Anthonii Sanders's and his wife's life changed drastically. For them, a hot August evening/night in 2009 became a watershed separating 'before' and 'after:' being a respected teacher, a musician, a husband, a son, a father, and a thinker vs. struggling emotionally, physically, and financially. Like black Americans before and after him, Anthonii Sanders wrestled for breathing while cops tazed him multiple times, stomped his fingers, tore his arms apart, and cursed him for allegedly beating his wife - and she has never confirmed these accusations. In the police officers' eyes and the eyes of ER doctors who treated his tazer wounds afterward, Anthonii Sanders was a junkie, a man with no medical insurance, a Black boy who got a White suburban girlfriend. Friday night's entertainment, they called him. What followed the Incident was a five-year-long survival on edge between doctors' appointments during the day and constant nightmares during the night.

The book's power lies partially in bringing the Incident to the limelight but partially in returning to life Anthonii Sanders's voice that was silenced by the beating. Vibrant, straightforward, heart-touching - these words describe his poetry and music included in the book. Walking While Black also offers an intimate, oftentimes chaotic, yet moving story of the relationship between two people, which ended in June 2014. That's what the readers could remember after finishing the book's last page; that love doesn't die with a loved one.

I can't stress enough how Walking While Black is a must-read. Suppose a reader cannot handle the emotional element of Anthonii's story. In this respect, the book, with its profoundly personal view of being a victim of police brutality, with an accurate description of PTSD symptoms, may traumatize and trigger some readers. The sensitive public can limit themselves to reading short appendixes with Anthonii's notes about the event and its consequences.

I obtained an advance review copy through Reedsy Discovery, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

Reviewed by

I've a Bachelor degree in Slavic languages and cultures, with the first specialty in Russian language and literature, the second the Bulgarian language. I've been interested in history and politics for more than 20 years. Occasional fiction is my respite from the unbearable heaviness of being.


About the author

Polly J. Runyon-Sanders spent 17 years with her husband, Anthonii. Following his death in 2014, it would take over 13 years to complete the promise she made to tell his story - through Walking While Black. She currently resides in the suburbs of Chicago with their dog, cat, and turtle. view profile

Published on April 15, 2023

60000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Biographies & Memoirs

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