Last night when I tried to sleep, I couldn’t. I couldn’t stop crying, which makes sleep difficult. When I finally drifted off to sleep I was jolted awake by what I thought were gunshots. I was literally gasping for air trying to escape. Every time this happens I get mad. We cry, we hold vigils, and we go home and vow that we will be better, work harder. But we never see real change. Yes, there are people who are doing this work on a daily basis trying to make a difference.
But if we only raise our voices when the horrific happens, we give our oppressors an opportunity to ignore our needs and silence our voices.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. never allowed his voice to be silenced. Arguably the greatest orator, leader, and visionary of all time, he participated in protests, sit-ins, and other organized movements to fight for the vision of the future. Dr. King solidified his place in history simply by being present, speaking up AND out against social injustices, and articulating his vision for what he believed America could become.
“I am happy to join you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Though he is one of the prominent figures of the Civil Rights Era, he did not do this work alone. Leaders such as Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Huey P Newton, and Ella Baker all contributed to impacting social change towards a more equal and equitable society.
However, we are no longer in the Civil Rights Movement. A half century later, we live a new reality.
A reality in which:
A reality where:
A reality that encourages us to develop a new:
Perspective (Just Another Black Body)
Imagine standing in shoes
Covered with hue
As the street is painted maroon
As the still body lie on its back
Faded to black
Another black body meeting its maker
Like a permanent marker
Staining the ground
Lights flashing before the family’s eyes
Colors reminiscent of a flag
That cares not for the black body
Yet protects the innocent hero
The boy in blue
Who had no other choice
But to use the chamber as an excuse
The children who lost their foundation cry
The mother she tries
To keep it all together inside
Their worst nightmare come around
As they witness the black body that they loved
Suffer the same fate as Mike Brown
– Jon Bright, thatguywhowrote.wordpress.com
*This poem was created and dedicated to Alton Sterling who was recently killed by police officers on July 5th in Baton Rouge Louisiana. Executed in cold blood and all caught on camera. He did not deserve to have his life taken that day. The pain that his family is going through right now is something that I never want to experience but something that can happen to any of us at any time. I pray for the family and I hope that we can one day beat/overcome the atrocities that the police/justice system imposes on people of color.
You get to be angry. You get to be mad, frustrated, and sad. You get to scream or cry if you feel the need. Under no circumstances are we required to pretend that our “Black Magic” protects us from the hurt we face on a daily basis. Even the strongest people struggle when cops are engaging in genocide. Killing our children for sport, playing a game called fear. You get to be angry. But when we’re done being angry, we need action. We can’t keep saying what we need without working for what we need. We are stronger together, but are we standing together? We can use our collective power to strengthen our communities. Are we voting? Getting involved with the legislative process? We deserve better and it’s past time we demand it. Not when the trauma happens, but long after the cameras are gone. We need better schools, better police practices. We just need better. There are lots of ways to get involved in our fight for freedom. Grieve. Heal. Practice self-care. But when we are done grieving, we have work to do.
We need to turn our anger into action.
In 2016, it certainly feels like history is repeating itself. And fortunately or unfortunately, we cannot bring back the Civil Rights Leaders who devoted their lives to making a difference – to being the difference. This is OUR time.
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the one’s we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” President Barack Obama
This statement from President Obama is our call to action. Who are going to be the Civil Rights Leaders of our generation? Who is going to inspire a vision we will follow? Who is going to organize and mobilize local communities to push for change? Who is going to lead with integrity because it is the right thing to do?
Why not me? Why not you? Why not us?
We can’t lose hope. We won’t lose hope.
We commit to serving as leaders in this movement rooted in creating social change. However, we cannot do it alone. Time, energy, and a genuine investment in our vision are required to truly free ourselves from the hope of yesterday and practice faith in the future of tomorrow.
Where do we go from here?
We don’t have all the answers. In fact, we need your help. We need each other. Your creativity, strength, strategy, courage, inspiration, passion, authenticity, optimism, and patience are extremely important to changing the direction of the future.
“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final say in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, stronger than evil triumphant.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
We too believe the unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final say in reality.
However, today is not our final say in reality.
We must keep marching. Marching for the 123 African-Americans who have been killed by the police this year. Marching for the Civil Rights Leaders who fought “to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” Marching for our ancestors who fought for us to be free despite the incongruence of how society protects our life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.
Our words say Black Lives Matter. Our hearts say Black Lives Matter. But what do our actions say?
We need our laws to reflect that our lives matter. We need our politicians to believe that black lives matter. But most importantly, we need our culture to reflect that black lives matter. We can no longer accept the passiveness that allows our oppression to grow. We need to fight against the idea that we are equal, when every 28 hours we see how false that is. It’s time. Perhaps it’s always been time. But if we are willing to work together, perhaps this can be the last time.
Stay woke. Soon, we will join together to redefine the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
“Free at last, Free at last, Great God a-mighty, we are free at last.”
Together, we shall overcome.
Tim Bryson and Karli Wells