When the Ferguson uprising occurred, I was with a close friend, helplessly poring over social media. We wondered how to make change happen and undo the hopelessness built up over generations of state-sanctioned violence. I wanted to continue the ancestral tradition of rebelling and resisting, so I started marching, releasing emotion through disruption and shared experience.
When there was no indictment in the Eric Garner case, I watched the video of his last breaths, leaving a scar on my soul that will probably never heal. But I wanted to bear witness to the attacks on Black bodies in this country.
Countless other names have followed, including Baltimore’s own Freddie Gray.
I, like many others, was moved to mourn, clean, organize and act in the wake of the Uprising. But the Uprising is far from over. We each have roles to play in the work ahead, work that will not end until we all understand and own our country’s full history of genocide, slavery and the exploitation of oppressed people—a history that often is hidden behind a false narrative of liberty and justice.
First, we must continue to use social media to share stories of criminalized Blackness, examples, sadly, that continue to surface.
People of color must take good care of their hearts and minds, as we are blasted with images of violence against us. It’s a lesson I continue to learn.
White folks must actively listen to people of color, consciously take a step back, and bravely talk to other white folks about racial justice, systems of white supremacy, and anti-Blackness.
And all of us must all commit to dismantling our roles in upholding that destructive system, while actively incorporating a racial justice lens into our work, whatever that may be.
Second, we must be intersectional as we build a movement for change. That means challenging narrow concepts of organizing that leave out innovation and challenging narrow perceptions of Blackness that leave out so many of us.
For example, we must move beyond the expectation that straight men of color will be the only ones to save our communities, ignoring the Black women who are part of the fabric of our neighborhoods and continue to thrive despite sexism and patriarchy all around them.
We cannot forget the many gay, bisexual, and queer Black folks who are doing so much of the work—some in the forefront, some in the background—and that the #BlackLivesMatter movement was created by three queer women of color. We cannot continue to ignore Black transgender people, especially transwomen, who exist alongside us and fall victim to police brutality at staggering rates.
Lastly, we all must act. And there are many, many things to do.
- Volunteer authentically.
- Develop policy.
- Hold spaces for healing.
- Create art.
Each of these pieces of work must be part of the whole effort, individual strands in a tapestry of real liberation and justice.
Our lives depend on it.