My path to becoming comfortable in my own skin and advocating for my rights
I, just like much of the world, was disgusted when I witnessed the murder of George Floyd; however, I was far from surprised.
You may have thought, “I’m shocked, How could something like this happen?” The racism that took Floyd’s life has called this country home from its inception. I am not new to addressing it at all.
Nearly four years ago, Alton Sterling was murdered by the police and I took to Instagram to address my fear associated with the killing. At the time, I was 16 and was aware that my blackness would often make my life more difficult, but I had not yet considered the threat it posed to non-black people in our society. My people and I were shaken to the core, but I did not witness such an outcry from the world like the one I’m seeing now.
At 20, I feel more in control and more informed than I was before.
Much of that can be attributed to my increased knowledge of black culture and history. As a child, I often saw my lineage as a reminder of the suffering and loss my people have endured. However, I now take pride in the great triumphs that led to my birth.
My maternal great grandparents fled Jim Crow Alabama to seek a better life in the northern metropolitan area, Chicago.
Quite the journey, I know.
Their story was just one of many within the mass movement of African Americans out of the South known as the Great Migration. I find it inspiring that I'm a descendant from ancestors that overcame American slavery, but also Cape Verdeans who came to the states voluntarily on Portuguese whaling ships.
At 15, I’d probably say the best way to empower myself in times like this would be to consume black art and music.
When stricken with the grief from the loss of another black body, I’d play Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” as loud as I could or watch Donald Glover’s stand up comedy show.
But, now I find refuge in James Balwin, Angela Davis, and several other black writers. I find that the works of Baldwin and Davis not only remind me of the great contributions of black people in this country, but also gave me the knowledge and confidence to advocate for my rights.
A couple of months ago, I walked the sidewalks of my neighborhood looking to escape the confines of my home following weeks of quarantine.
It is on this walk that I listened to an audio recording of Davis’ Freedom is a Constant Struggle.
Yes, all 5 hours of the book. It’s that captivating.
Davis emphasizes the importance of intersectionality in activism today and addresses how many of the world’s current liberation movements are inseparable. She makes extensive comparisons between the protests in Ferguson and the Palestinian freedom movement. It is in her call to action that I was made aware that it was not only necessary for me to fight for the freedom of my people, but for all who are oppressed.
At almost 21, I stand tall without a tremble in my voice and can say, “It brings me great joy to be a member of the black community.”
I know that strife and struggle are not all there is to my people’s story. Now, I find immense beauty in that struggle because it only highlights the enduring nature of the Black American spirit. It is this undying spirit and my parents’ constant emphasis on learning the history of my people that I can credit for my obsession with social justice.
Kendrick Lamar’s bars about police brutality or soul food may never resonate with you the way they do with me, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use your voice to fight for justice.
If you wish to be an effective ally, I ask you to read works like Davis’ Freedom is a Constant Struggle, speak publicly about racial injustice, and to listen to people of color when they speak about their struggles.