An alleged bad check (that proved to not be true). Sleeping at home. Jogging in a neighborhood. A hooded sweatshirt and Skittles. Allegedly resisting arrest (that proved to not be true). 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 black men’s and women’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 on May 29, 2020 with those same personal emotions as I see the Twin Cities (RIP George Floyd), St. Louis (RIP Breonna Taylor) and other areas ablaze and enraged at yet another senseless story of black life disregarded. I woke up on May 29, 2020 just like I have TOO MANY FREAKIN’ TIMES BEFORE demanding an answer to 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 founded by people who felt they were done wrong and had the gumption 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 the native’s land we couldn’t steal their legacy which is still rebuilding today. We are the America that plucked a people straight out of Africa and other parts of the world to build these (need to be) United States, sold them into slavery, denied them of rights, stripped them of dignity and, some 400 years later elected a leader with real African blood flowing through his Presidential veins and saw, as we still see, those very African (American) people continually rise up like a yeast-laden ball of dough. 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?
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. Will it take one race only to write this ugly wrong? 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 did, each week for years with high school students. It changed my life as much as it did theirs. I wanted 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 area where you are to help.
- Host constructive, open forum conversations about racism and involve lots of races. Don’t just talk about race to people who look like you or sound like you on social media. That’s 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.
- Open your mouth to help your “other” brothers and sisters. If you are of a race which does not know the utter fear of living with racism on a daily PLEASE call a thing a thing (racism is hate personified if you see it, hear it or know your pals operate in it say something). Do something powerful with your power.
- 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 on how we can cause change. Break down the systems that support racism.
- 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 still have value.
- Promote financial literacy and equity. 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” and use your knowledge and your dollars to tear down racially stifling economic systems.
- 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.
- VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!
- Give money to causes that bring about positive cause.
- Run for office and don’t abuse the power when you win.
- Help keep stories and people 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.
- Be slow to anger and stay safe. Again, get angry. I am FURIOUS. 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, don’t stop fighting the good fight and don’t give up hope that WE shall overcome. #FightThePower
I arose this morning to the nightmare that is Ferguson, Missouri, USA. The same horrific scenes, seemingly picked from the director’s cut of a high-budget, Sci-fi thriller that I went to bed with are still being repeated and replayed on the morning news and news feeds. Perspectives of varying natures are running as rampant as the looters, the frantic reporters and teargas dodgers, all of whom, have something to say about what happened… or didn’t happen. All the while, this is nestled under the backdrop of a family in mourning and a country in a deeply rooted, boiling over, smoldering, centuries old crisis-come-to-pass.
I wasn’t going to blog about the life or death of Mike Brown, or why black lives matter, why I believe all lives matter, or what I think is the “matter” with law enforcement, or how I feel about the foundation (or shoulders) on which this country was built until I read a Faceboook post which said “enough praying”. Huh? What? Who? Us? Never. And if ever…NOW!
So I pulled, and edited an excerpt from a post I wrote called “The Truth About Trayvon” expressing my feelings about Trayvon Martin, which unfortunately, still sums up my point of view regarding the tragic death of Mike Brown, and the madness which has sadly ensued.
I pray that we never forget that it’s God that has the final say so. I pray that the only fires we ignite are ones that bring about an end to senseless violence. I pray we all respect life as much as we expect others to respect it. I pray social media and mainstream media don’t cease covering stories like this until stories like this are no longer around to cover. I pray we champion another cause, and another cause and another cause like Mike Brown’s and bring it to the attention of those in authority. I pray we really learn how to bring about long-lasting, effective change. I pray we don’t become consumed with rage or fear, but use this as fuel to move this nation forward in the spirit of the civil rights activists who transformed our land’s landscape. I pray we stop the “snitches get stitches” or “loot where you live” rules. I pray we don’t turn a blind eye or deaf ear to any stories of mass murders, shooting sprees, school killings, kidnappings, black-on-black crime, white-on-white crime, brown-on-brown crime or any other color of crime for that matter. I pray we never stop fighting for justice and learn to celebrate the victories that have been accomplished, even as we fight for the victories that remain. I pray we no longer take one another for granted, that we hug a little longer, talk a little longer, truly become invested in each other’s lives as a reminder of how essential we are to one another. I pray we use our voice and our vote to stand up for EVERY single life lost, not contribute to lives being lost and not become desensitized or discouraged by the overwhelming amount of lives lost, or any injustice. I pray we don’t give up hope in the good that remains in most people. I pray we don’t operate in judgment or stereotypes, regardless of the color spectrum with which our hue rests. I pray we realize that there are people who look like us that don’t like us and people who don’t look like us who love us, regardless of our race, and not contribute to further building the wall of division and destruction. I pray we become more media savvy, more legally savvy, and more involved in order to do what we need to do to learn how to keep a story alive, and see a case to justice if needed. I pray we learn how to articulate our frustrations through effective open forums, workshops, mentoring, seminars, symposiums, community service, legislation and plain ol’ conversations with each other. I pray we talk about race, really talk about it, with hopes of greater understanding and that in those talks we realize not all people who aren’t like us are against us and get to know each other since we’ll all be here together for as long as we’re here. I pray we don’t forget about the families who have to live after death. I pray we don’t forget to pray for Mike Brown’s family, or Trayvon Martin’s family, or Keveland Wood’s family (my high school sweetheart who was shot in the head by another black teen in 1989), or the Williams family who helped raise me and lost a young man at the hands of the law, or my two best friend’s and their families who both lost their brothers, murdered at the hands of others who looked like them. I pray we remember all the families of others tragically killed at the hands of police or peers as they deal with life “afterwards”. I pray WE PRAY more than ever before, knowing also that faith without works is dead. And once we’re done praying I pray we get up, get out and at least let those men, boys, babies, women and girls who have lost their lives live through our actions, honorable enough to bring about a positive change in us all.
So to the notion of “enough praying” my response is “not ever, and certainly not now.” Rest in Peace Mike Brown. Live in Peace America.