A hooded sweatshirt and Skittles. Shoplifting and swinging on a cop. Selling single cigarettes on the street. Those are the things”they say” played a part in the literal stopping of three black men’s hearts. I won’t delve much into he say, she say or they say, but will pose the question, “Regardless of what they say, what are you going to do?”
I went to sleep the night of December 3, 2014 bombarded by a plethora of personal emotions that were ushered in by a verdict of disrespect regarding the murder of Eric Garner. I woke up this morning with those same personal emotions demanding the question of “what are you going to do?”
This morning I woke up and remembered that this is still America, flaws and all, and if anything we all know a little something about doing what needs to be done when we feel we are wronged. Say what you want, but we are a country born of survivors, who in their own unique, often twisted, unconventional and sometimes unfortunate way have learned to rise above wrong to the best of our feeble human ability. We are a country built by people who felt they were done wrong and had the guts enough to leave their home to find another home. We’re the same country who sadly kicked the native people out of their true home, and while we stole their land we couldn’t steal their legacy which they are still proudly rebuilding today. We are the America that plucked a people out of Africa and other parts of the world to build these United States, sold them into slavery, denied them of rights, stripped them of dignity and still has a leader with real African blood flowing through his Presidential veins. Oh yes, we know how to rebound from wrong… uninvited, self-inflicted or otherwise.
So I ask today, as the sun has risen on another day of new protests around the country what are you going to do? After the venting, posting, praying, commenting on who’s not doing enough, blogging, voting, complaining, pleas for peace, protests, calls for action, displays of anger, crying, playing N.W.A. or Public Enemy, lamenting, cursing the very ground you walk on, wishing you lived in Sweden, or virtually shutting down what are you going to do?
You see, I’m not an activist in the traditional sense of the word, but I believe in taking action. In fact, I believe part of my purpose is to help bring hope and healing while others do their part to fight the good fight. I’m sort of like the “clean up woman” and I will wear that title with humility and pride. So, what are you going to do? Is violence the answer? I’m from the school of Ghandi and Dr. King believing that the answer is a resounding no. Will change happen overnight? No. Will the victory come with ease? No. But I’m convinced enough that together there is more we all can contribute toward the cause. Like what you might ask? Glad you did.
- Mentor others. That’s what I do, each Monday for an hour with high school students. It changes my life as much as it does theirs. I want them to see successful men and women, black and white who love them, believe in them and are there for them. Find someone in your town where you are to help.
- Host constructive, open forum conversations about race and involve lots of races. Don’t just talk about race to people who look like you. That’s a part of the problem. There’s too much preaching to the choir and not enough coming out of comfort. Follow the footsteps of the great Foot Soldiers and make this thing really be the united front it should be.
- If you are politically savvy, use your voice to educate those who are unaware of the facts. Write op-ed pieces, attend neighborhood meetings, talk at your barber and beauty shops. Share your knowledge and influence.
- Join organizations who have lasted longer than the latest headlines. There is still much value in some of the organizations of old which made a difference then, and with the help of people like us can return to their place of change-causing glory. The NAACP, SCLC, Urban League, and other organizations that I need to know more about might be waiting on us to be the change they, and this country need.
- Teach financial literacy workshops. If you know money talk money. Money is at the heart of so much of what is happening. Privilege or the lack their of, not having enough and fear of losing what one has has always been a cause for conflict. Share your wisdom on ways we can all live to “live the American dream”.
- If you are legally minded, share your knowledge of the law with those who don’t know it (and those who don’t want to know it). Go back to the hood, or go there for the first time if you haven’t had the pleasure, into schools, churches, mosques, synagogues or wherever and open up your mind and mouth to educate others.
- Give money to causes that bring about positive cause.
- Run for office and don’t abuse the power when you win.
- Help keep stories alive. If you know you know how to use words to captivate do so. Someone has to make sure the names and faces of the victims don’t fade as the days on the calendar do. Teach people how to be interviewed and how to represent themselves in a way that will get their point across to the masses, not become the latest meme.
- Be slow to anger and sin not. Again, get angry. I am. But don’t let one problem end up causing you ten years or taking you six feet under.
- And whatever you do, do the right thing, and don’t give up hope.