Black Lives Matter, 2 weeks ago, I doubt most of you were saying it or posting it on your social media. And even though now businesses, politicians, and other people are suddenly saying it finally, I plan to see who really means it. These 3 words aren’t a trendy phrase for me. And mattering is a starting point, not a conclusion.
I can still remember when things shifted for me.
There he stood, standing outside a convenience store, selling CD’s, minding his own business. I had seen men like Alton Sterling plenty of times working to make an honest dollar.
As word had gotten out about local vendors getting robbed, he decided to arm and protect himself. He was then bothered by someone persistently asking for money. He showed his gun to attempt to get the person away, and the person called the police. And even though the store owner whose store he sold CD’s in front of vouched that Alton was not the one causing problems, that investigation never got to happen, because he was tackled by two officers and told to get on the ground, even though he was on the ground, at their hands. And as they wrestled with him to get his arms, one yelled “he has a gun” pulled back from wrestling, and shot him to death from point blank range. No conversation. No investigation. Just dead.
The next day, I remember watching his teenage son cry so hard for his daddy, as his mom stood at the microphone talking.
At that point, I got really motivated. That was my, I have had enough of being JUST emotional moment. I actually held my anger to an extent because it was at that moment that I recognized we were stuck in a cycle and I had to respond differently.
For Alton Sterling, being black and simply having a gun meant that taking his life was justified even though he was not harming anyone. But white men can walk around the streets of Raleigh and all through America, open-carrying, protesting, going to Subway, and harassing black families with no problems.
So, while this recent string of events was a catalyst for some, they are simply the next logs on a fire that was already burning for me.
So what do we do? We talk and you misdirect. We show a video and you justify. For me, direction action became a better use of my time and energy. So, I protest.
I protest because it is a form of resistance that causes an immediate disruption. It doesn’t require negotiations and compromise.
It is the opportunity where I feel collective mobilization begins. It is a language where you don’t have to get everything right or have every “I” dotted or “t” crossed but people hear the message loud and clear and they pay attention.
Protesting allows for me to dig deep and challenge myself on the things that I say I stand for because regardless of how righteous I feel my cause is, there is someone who doesn’t. So that means possibly walking into danger or becoming a target.
I protest for those who said they couldn’t breathe, for those whose bodies were burned and hanged, for the Black babies that have yet to be born, so that they may know liberation.
Protesting helps me to release the so emotion so I can settle into the long haul of strategizing.
Strategizing around pursuing real community safety along with investment in housing, jobs, transportation, re-entry, and community and mental health.
But first I protest. Because that’s what gets your attention.