We The People
By Kika Howze, Derick Beresford, Brian Martinez & Faith Lee
Photography by Mel D. Cole
Here we go again. In a world stripped of distractions, some things are clearer than ever. Around the world you can feel our discomfort, we are outraged, awake, and we are tired of waiting. As far as I can remember, there’s always been a chalk line drawn in the concrete of our communities. I was raised to be a freedom fighter, singing “which side are you on, children, which side are you on”.
I begin each day thinking of Christopher Mitchell. I think of baby girl Aiyana Jones. I think of Amadou Diallo. I think of Rekia Boyd. I think of Trayvon Martin. I think of Mike Brown and Freddie Gray. I think of Breonna Taylor who’s killers still stalk the streets cloaked in soiled uniforms. I see their faces when I blink, as I look into the eyes of my sisters and brothers who are so damn brilliant it’s painful. To look into the brightness of an uncertain future. I see black and brown mothers who cradled their belly’s imagining hallmark occasions, dreaming of future changemakers, and leaders. How do I turn to my own mother and confidently assure her that I’ll make it home safe? That even when I make all of the right decisions in life, staying focused, making it out of the hood, landing my dream job, and on a day like any other I could get pulled over for a failed traffic signal like Sandra Bland and just like that my fate rests in the hands of someone who’s intent is to steal my life.
This week I took a moment to close my eyes and put my ear to the ground. Replacing the sound of my rapid heartbeat – with the heavy stomp of my people marching alongside the angels that now cover us. We’ve lost our patience, it’s a bitter cycle that is far beyond an isolated incident. This is a part of the global struggle for human dignity and freedom. You look in my direction and want to point to me as your enemy, thinking that your life would be easier, that you would feel better about yourself if you could steal my joy. But I won’t allow it. You will not demonize us, or minimize our movement, this is a flame that can’t be snuffed out by oppression. You tried it; time and again we prove that we are a resilient people who can’t be subdued regardless of the weapons formed against us. You slept on us, now it’s time to wake up and acknowledge the next generation of revolutionaries. My liberation isn’t yours to touch, and it can’t wait. Which side are you on?
Get offline and strategize in your communities, educate yourself, and fortify yourself energetically. Wrapping my arms around our young people, black men, and black women who are hurting. I will do all that I can to protect myself and the sanctity of this moment.
All parents have superpowers when it comes to their children. During the course of this global pandemic I’ve discovered that one of mine is putting my son Dash to sleep. Seems pretty simple but all parents know that putting a fussing baby to sleep is an art. It’s become one of my bright spots during these chaotic times—a calming way for us to bond that wouldn’t have been possible if I was in an office.
Even as we’ve adjusted to our new realities caused by COVID-19, the old normal has unfortunately remained. Black people are STILL dying at the hands of police without repercussions. And I know that not even my newfound superpowers can protect Dash from this reality.
It’s all overwhelming. I’m enraged. My eyes well up with fury at the thought of my son, brothers, or family being in that situation. My heart breaks for the families torn up by these very scenarios. I feel the pain of those protesting, hoping to effect some change. I also understand the helplessness and desperation of the Black people looting.
I encourage everyone to feel every emotion: That means there’s empathy. I never want to be comfortable seeing someone needlessly die. That’s what #BlackLivesMatter is about. What I fear, instead, was my initial reaction: Numbness. It may feel like the only way to cope but it’s the most dangerous. This cannot be normalized. Every instance like this deserves a visceral reaction. Murderers, especially those caught on film, should go to jail. Period.
The coronavirus has already changed so much. With America sheltering in place, everyone, for once, is forced to address this reality and reckon with this demand for change. There’s no escaping this. Any ignorance now is intentional. This isn’t a Black problem. It’s a systemic issue. My only hope is that everyone understands what we as the Black community have known all along. And maybe that’ll be the spark needed to ignite REAL change.
Protecting Black lives from police shouldn’t be a superpower parents have to develop.
Here we are again. Another act of police bruta… Actually, no wait. It’s murder. Another act of murder by someone sworn to protect and serve the people.
I’m here to express some words from the heart to the police officers of this country.
I have friends that are officers and this is always a sensitive subject. But, typically, the conversations never escalate or get to a point where our friendships come into question because we stand on opposite sides of the issue. That was the case until George Floyd happened. I might’ve lost some friends in the process of voicing my frustrations about the issues we still face daily in this country, but I said what I said.
You don’t have to be Black, all you have to be is a human being with a beating heart to know that what happened to George Floyd is wrong and unacceptable. Not one, not two, but three officers holding down a handcuffed man face-first into the street with one officer placing his knee on Floyd’s neck asphyxiating him for almost 9 minutes. NINE MINUTES! I didn’t even have to paint that picture for you because you saw it. We all saw it, from all angles. These protests, demonstrations, and riots all started because that act happened on a Monday and no one was arrested and charged until Friday evening.
Across the country, officers have been saying that This is not the way to protest, We only get painted in a negative light and nobody recognizes the good we do, I shouldn’t go out and fear for my life because of what some officer did in Minnesota. To those officers, I got some bars for you.
What is the way exactly? You tell me how people must express this specific anger towards their people getting killed and there being no consequences? At most, officer, you get a couple years and termination. Sometimes you get sent home or demoted to do paperwork “until things cool down.” Imagine what an officer is capable of who goes out into the world knowing that if he shoots and kills a civilian, he’ll just have to sit behind a desk and get on paper duty.
You feel like you can get away with anything. You DO get away with anything and it shows in your behavior. We’ve seen it! Regarding “the way” to protest, you can reconstruct a police station, you can refill the aisles at Target, and you can buy some new police cars. But what you can’t do is bring back George Floyd and all of the many other lives that have been lost at the hands of the police. There is no brand guideline or manual on how protests are supposed to “work.” There is, however, a manual and training, supposedly, on how to properly arrest and detain a civilian and I’m almost certain (and really hope) that the picture I painted above about the arrest of Big Floyd isn’t included.
You can’t take this personally; people aren’t necessarily angry at you specifically. People are angry that law enforcement as a whole does nothing to protect us. People are angry that the same people who are sworn to protect and serve are killing us. People are angry that there are no consequences to your terrible actions. PEOPLE. ARE. JUST. FUCKING. ANGRY.
Look into why people feel the way that they feel about these issues and, instead of coming from a place of defense or antagonism, come from a place of understanding. People just want to be heard. Listen to us and our frustrations and then do something about it. Hold your peers accountable.
Every time you put that uniform on you are choosing to put it all on the line. That is a scary thought and I commend and respect you for choosing to do so. Now, imagine living with that same fear except you aren’t a cop or have an occupation that requires you to fear for your life: that’s what being Black in America is and that’s what people are angry about. Please understand that.
Listen to the people and hold your peers accountable who do things to paint you in a negative light. Being silent because you are a good cop doesn’t make you part of the solution, it makes you part of the problem. Be part of the solution. Be the solution.
“OMG, are you her nanny?” An oblivious white woman once asked my mother, unaware of our loving, bi-racial household. It was an ignorant comment and not the last I would ever hear. Throughout my life, I would also hear my mother tell my father, brother, sister, and I to say our prayers and be careful every time we left the house. She would always say that to us and the reason why is, now, so obvious and painful.
I am tired. WE are tired. WE are still hurting. WE are still suffering. And, today, WE are still fighting for our rights. Like a daughter to a mother, WE want to be loved. And like any individual to a society, WE want to be accepted. WE want America to stop killing us. WE want America to LISTEN to us. WE want you, our brothers and sisters of other races, to acknowledge us. WE need you to stand with us, louder together, so that WE make sure they hear what we have to say.
George, Breonna, Ahmaud, and so many more of our black brothers and sisters who’ve died because of bigotry and police brutality: WE are fighting for you. WE are fighting for our ancestors and WE are fighting for our future. STEP UP. ONE LOVE. ︎