When Mamie Till decided on an open casket. When the photos of her son, Emmett, were published to bring awareness to all, the civil rights movement gained ground. The inhumanity of what had been done to Emmett coupled with the killers being acquitted spoke to our entire nation. Blacks and whites had to come to terms with our longstanding history of racism.
“You must continue to tell Emmett’s story until man’s consciousness is risen…” – Mamie Till
Sixty-five years later, a black man lying on the street unable to breathe, with a white police officer’s knee pressing down on his neck has ushered us into a new movement for racial justice. The 8:46 video of George Floyd’s suffering to unresponsiveness showed everyone that race hatred is alive and real. Inhumanity was captured once more for the world to see.
This past week, I proudly participated in my community’s March for Racial Healing. I was pleased to represent my non-profit organization (founded by my mother, Jackie) and honored to experience the historical moment with my 16-year-old niece and nephew.
This protest experience was a combination of a justice march and a prayer walk. Participants witnessed faith-based activism steeped in the commandment of love.
While powerful and inspiring, we must understand that in the work of racial healing, privilege is challenged and systemic racism is confronted. As much as I wish we could, we cannot pray it,
high-five fist-bump it, or hug it all away.
Yes, we need peaceful satisfaction and solidarity during stressful times, but what we need most is change and the promotion/implementation of the black agenda, which is action-driven and encourages all of us to work harder; pray harder, more specific prayers; get more involved; read more; write things we don’t know down and research; expand our vocabulary; be intentional in our life dealings and dialogues; and lead with value-recognition of black people and people of color.
Black people have always
played a role in unlocking
the promise of an America that has
not yet been realized, and if there
was ever a time to tap into that
— Alicia Garza, Principal, Black Futures Lab (via The Black Agenda)
I will be taking a breather from my extemporaneous “No Serenity” blog series and wanted to share some final thoughts. This is what I gleaned from marching with my home community:
We absolutely can be agents of change. McComb, Mississippi was known as “the bomb capitol of the world” during the ’60s and look at what we were able to come together and do. We can. However….
- We can’t allow what’s happening to feed our egos or harness rage.
- We can’t depend solely on our hearts. We must engage our minds and hands as there is much to re-think and much to be done.
- We can’t give up when we come across obstacles. We are rebuilding. Concurrently, we can’t become an obstacle to the rebuilding process. Listen and learn.
- We can’t run our companies from the handbooks or manuals we operated from yesterday. Yes, this takes work, and there are organizations that can provide resources and training. (Black Lives Matter, Race Forward, Southwest Mississippi Multiplex for Early Innovative Intervention Studies)
- We can’t teach our children from the same textbooks we used last year. (Black Lives Matter at School)
- We can’t vote for Trump.
- We can’t just sit and watch from social media offering opinions and complaints that reverse progress.
- We can’t play it safe or use our inside voices because we’re afraid of losing money, popularity, support, etc. If you’re in a position of leadership and you aren’t currently rethinking and restructuring, then you are a threat to the movement, to our future – period
- We can’t continue to be loyal to organizations/companies who refuse to publicly acknowledge persistent racism, George Floyd’s death, other deaths of unarmed blacks by police officers, or the Black Lives Matter movement which is catalyzing our future.
- We can’t use intracultural violence (or anything) as a deflation tool for “Black Lives Matter”. When black people do this, it shows just how oppressed we really are.
- We can’t always hear racial healing and think that it means “time for church”. What if supporting the black agenda and creating a discourse space for the community to come together and strategize was the new “come to Jesus moment”. What if the translation for “time to cross the bridge” meant time to do, un-do, and take down.
- We can’t not fully love ourselves and know that we, as beautiful black people, deserve support, equity, respect, justice, protection, and social health.
We deserve to live and be listened to.
Clinnesha is a writer, wife, mom, playwright, literary artist, humanities scholar, and social entrepreneur. Her work is at the intersection of black/feminist thought, arts, culture, and community.