We are still in the movement for Black Lives. In this year of 2020, the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor added flames to a fire that has been raging for over 400 years. Many of us have been attempting to figure out what we can do during this time to ensure that we are rightfully and equally treated as human beings in this country. For a lot of us, we've taken to social media to vent, rant, and share our views. This is not enough and has created less of needed dialogue but more division amongst us.
Honestly, black people have never collectively been on the same page in this country.
Nat Turner's Rebellion is a monumental moment in history but not even 100 slaves joined his movement. There were also several slaves who didn't agree with Harriet Tubman's Underground Railroad. Martin Luther King, Jr. pushed for a peaceful integration of black and white lives while Malcolm X pushed for a separate system for blacks only. There were many who thought the Southern Christian Leadership Conference did not meet the needs of blacks and therefore instead created the Black Panther Party. W. E. B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington differed in their views as well, with Dubois supporting a civil rights, political, and literary educational agenda and Washington advocating for hard work and vocational skills + an economic independence agenda. Marcus Garvey pushed for us to move back to Africa, specifically the country of Liberia, and create a separate but equal independent state there. May we never forget the National Black Political Convention held in Gary, Indiana on March 10-12, 1972 where approximately TEN THOUSAND blacks gathered to create a black agenda. Many of the men there refused to recognize black women, such as Shirley Chisholm, as leaders in the movement, and there was a lot of discord on HOW we as a collective should move forward for us, considering the numerous ideologies present at the convention. (It is important to note that a black agenda was indeed created and finalized at the convention.)
Back then and today, many think that politics, i.e. voting and running for office is the answer, while others believe that economic freedom is the key. Yet and still others tout protesting and rioting while some believe that a completely new system is necessary. Not all blacks embrace black women, black members of the LGBTQIA community, or even non-black people as key groups in this movement. (Yes we've seen the commentary on how some blacks believe that Black Lives Matter was created to push a LGBTQ agenda.) And even more, the role of the church and Christianity has been critiqued and criticized heavily with a lot of blacks transitioning to ancestral forms of worship while committed Christians are dedicated to their belief that God and the Word within the Bible reigns supreme in the midst of it all.
The common thread in these differing views and ideologies is that we all have the same goals for black lives (save a few). The distinction is our various methodologies of what it will take to reach that goal.
Here's the thing: Black lives -- our bodies/hands, minds, insight, education, books, music, degrees, street sense, hustler mentality, humor, and sooo much more -- ARE ALL NEEDED IN SOME CAPACITY WITHIN THIS MOVEMENT. We each individually can't do it all but together we can work to reach our goal. And yes, allies are beneficial as well, but they are not the movement, we are.
I don't have the answer and I don't think no one person does either. We simply know that black lives have been oppressed for far too long. With that, stop waiting on the next Martin, Malcolm, Shirley, or Rosa and step up. Do your part.
HERE'S WHAT I SUGGEST YOU DO IN THIS MOVEMENT:
Disclaimer: These are my thoughts and views. Since 2014, I have attempted to dedicate nearly all areas of my life to this movement.
- Join the movement in the fight for black lives. It's easy to believe that all blacks automatically choose to do so but the reality is that we all don't.
- Find your role and do what you can do for black lives within that role. You can start by learning the history of blacks in that particular space and even in this overall movement. You have to learn where you come from to understand where it is that you must go. Maybe you're a writer, maybe you're an organizer and protestor, or maybe you're a political candidate, a preacher, a therapist, a lawyer, a doctor, an actor/actress, a teacher, a news reporter, a digital creator, an economist, a rapper, a chef, or just a full time activist. Whatever you choose, you do what you must do to push the equality of black lives in that role and thus, in this movement. For example, we may not like police officers but we still expect the black ones to be for us.
- Don't move halfheartedly within your role. Find what it is you can do and consistently sharpen your knowledge and skillset in it. Read books, blogs, and articles. Watch videos. Talk to others in the movement. Learn your skill and know your facts. The movement is too critical for you to spread misinformation instead of knowledge.
You don't have to carry the entire movement of black lives on your back but you can carry a piece just like the rest of us. We're in this together. Blacks in your space with you, before you, or coming behind you are counting on you. No matter what you choose to do we expect you to take up black space and acknowledge your blackness. Even if it's in the smallest of ways. We expect you to not steal from, kill, or destroy us in the midst of your work. Granted, we may not always agree with your methods but we want to have confidence in saying, "he/she cares about black lives."
One thing's for sure: the discord on social media is not working. We can't just be social media commentators on the movement without being DOERS within.
Dialogue is always needed and encouraged but what do we do after these discussions? Make another post, triggering yet another showdown in the comments? Become a troll to our own people? How about instead, take that same energy and use it towards your role? Maybe you go to your supervisor the next day and ask (or demand) that your position support black lives more. (Recognize that an employer's response may be retaliatory and hence this action item is not for everyone.) Maybe you create another social media page just to educate your people. You could start or join an organization for a specific cause. Maybe you as a writer decide to write an article about black lives. Maybe you go vote. Maybe you decide to run for office. Maybe you go look up your ancestral lineage, or write a song with lyrics dedicated to black lives, or read about the stock market and teach other blacks about generational wealth instead of generational curses. But if you choose to join this movement (because again, not everyone will) ask yourself: as a black person, what am I doing for black lives?
And again, no, we may not all and always agree. But at least you'll be able to say: "I know you mean well and I know you are trying. I AM TOO." Because the very least we can do is try, right?
This post is not intended for blacks who don't see the value in their own blackness by choosing to support and promote anyone, anything, or any action that is absolutely not for us. We give grace and love to those we disagree with but we have no tolerance for those who refuse to see that we are all oppressed. Our blackness is not by choice and will always unite us, so it is important to check your privilege in whatever space you occupy that causes you to think you are not one of us.