Maya Angelou was my mentor. A kind, generous, wise, and gentle spirit, Dr. Angelou had a unique way of communicating the truth. When she passed in May 2014, I happened to be in Atlanta. The night before Dr. Angelou passed, I dreamt of Dr. King and speaking out about his message of hope at a rally. Today, in light of all that's happened, I can't help but wonder if what I thought was a vision of the past, was merely something yet to come....
Until racism is truly abolished, there can be no equality. Despite the risks of gathering together during the COVID-19 lockdown, nearly every American city has held robust protests, raising our collective voices against racism. That's why it was so disheartening to read a recent comment on Twitter by a Follower in another country, denouncing solidarity in the US. The tweet was from a white individual who is not American, has not and does not live in the States and has no ties here outside of a family vacation in the last several years to Universal Studios. Instead of lending another voice to the cause, this person chose to offer criticism to a population in deep pain rather than provide much needed support.
The UNITED States very clearly does not stand for racism. Is it still present? Yes, it is. But when we saw George Floyd's death play out live on video--the unnecessary brutality of it, the willful drive to cause harm, the look of satisfaction when it was clear Floyd was dead--it created an eruption of unity that flowed across all 50 states amidst nearly 330-million citizens, and now, the world.
America stands united against racism. We are strong in our conviction that #BlackLivesMatter. And, we will not stop until that conviction is reflected in not only the leadership of our country, but in agents of the law as well.
Let the world take notice:
We. Will. Not. Stop.
George Floyd isn't the only victim of racism in recent month. On 5 June, many of us will remember Breonna Taylor on her 27th birthday, gunned down in her own bed for absolutely no reason. The courageous EMT was one of our healthcare heroes, putting her own safety at risk to be on the front lines helping others in need. Ahmaud Arbery was only 25 years old when he was shot for no reason by two people in a pick up truck in Georgia in February. When I first read about what happened, shivers went down my spine.
We've seen this level of hatred before in the world and it led to millions upon millions (upon millions!) of deaths. Why? Because people remained silent. Today, and every day hereafter, Americans--joined by our brothers and sisters from around the globe--are saying, "No more!"
Dr. Angelou's poem, "Still, I Rise," was at the top of my syllabus for nearly 20 years during my tenure as a college professor. It is in her poetic prose that I now find a small measure of comfort:
"Out of the hate of history's shame
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide
Welling and swelling, I bring in the tide."
I miss you every day, Dr. Angelou. But your words are still here, a guide amidst the current chaos of this world. Thank you for leaving us all with a literary legacy of truth, light and hope:
Want to help win the fight against racism? Check out the links below:
To donate for Ahmaud Arbery:
To donate for justice for Breonna Taylor:
To donate for George Floyd:
Donate to #BlackLivesMatter :
Donate to Color of Change:
Post-script: "Breonna's Law" was passed on 11 June 2020, banning "no knock" warrants and requiring the use of body cameras by anyone using a search warrant. I'm PROUD to say I helped make that happen as one of the thousands of voices demanding effective legislative change, signing petitions, making calls and spreading the word. As satisfying as it is to see progress, there is more work to be done...we will not stop until racism is no longer hiding in the shadow of "historic" statues or long-past symbols of oppression that have no place in 21st century America.