tonight we heard potus deliver yet another state of the union speech. riveting stuff. really. he made a lot of points about the growth of the economy and laid out how important access to education and employment are to the success of all americans living the dream. the dream. this has been the week of dreams.
for martin luther king jr. weekend. i flew to selma, alabama to cover the paramount selma memorial weekend event. the cast and crew behind the amazing movie selma were in the city to commemorate the tragic and triumphant events of the selma march to montgomery. ava devarney, oprah winfrey, david oyelowo, common, john legend, dede gardner, and jeremy kleiner were on hand to spend time with the people of selma – screening the movie and recreating the march to the edmund pettus bridge. it was overwhelming to be in this historic city during the 50th anniversary of one of the worst displays of racial hatred and greatest displays of democratic triumph in our history. i am still overwhelmed.
as i made my way onto edmund pettus bridge, i cried because i saw the footage of people who looked like me be beaten down and attacked for daring to stand up for their constitutional rights. it was overwhelming. there isn’t a better word to describe what i felt. and then later i went to the civil rights memorial museum where i saw the monument to those who lost their lives in the struggle for my right to vote. reading their stories, seeing their faces, and hearing their voices changed me in ways i can’t describe. life changing experience. period.
i saw black people who defied the dehumanizing laws to say i am a man, i am a woman, with dignity and i deserve to be treated as such. i saw white people who marched hand and hand with black people because they believed that truth to their core. i saw the hateful reminders of the strength of the demon of white supremacy and its grip on the hearts of many who called america home. and i thought about what we are facing today. we are still saying #blacklivesmatter #iamaman #aintiawoman
if you’ve actually read or studied dr. king’s speeches, you know he talked about more than the content of our character. he talked about repealing the actual laws that allowed inequality in education, jobs, housing, and policing that governed black lives. he talked about the hypocrisy of the religious community to preach jesus separate from the practice of his actual teachings. he talked about the need for black people to stand and organize and march. he talked about a future where we wouldn’t have to march because they lost their lives fighting for a better future for us.
today. we are still saying #blacklivesmatter. today we are still marching. and it makes me weep. we find ourselves again at a crossroads. and what we do with this time will determine who we are tomorrow. as i’ve participated in marches and demonstrations and rallies and speeches and talks and roundtables over the last six months, i’ve been encouraged by what i am seeing. but i’m also saddened by some things. one of which came up during tonight’s state of the union address.
potus mentioned the attack on the paper in paris while remaining silent about the attack on the babies, women, and villages of nigeria. as a black man, he was – for whatever reason – unwilling or unable to say those black lives matter just as much as the white lives lost in paris. those villages and cities in nigeria matter just as much as the property destroyed in paris. those 2,000 black bodies burned during the boko haram attack in nigeria should have elicited the same level of global response as those 12 lives lost in paris. i was disappointed because this very day six years ago, i stood in the freezing cold on the washington mall to witness his historic inauguration. we elected a black president for the first time in our 200 years of existence. we made history. but today we still exist in a world that tells us black lives don’t matter.
then i thought about the virtual movement to hijack #blacklivesmatter by declaring #alllivesmatter because in a racist society to declare that blackness is beautiful and valuable is equivalent to threatening the security of whiteness. to say to our white brothers and sisters, stand with me, join me, has been translated by the small-minded to say black lives are the only lives that matter.
our reality has been and continues to be the exact opposite. in our world, black and brown lives seem to be the only ones that don’t matter. so when i see my white brothers and sisters, my arab brothers and sisters, my asian brothers and sisters, my native brothers and sisters, and my latino brothers and sisters standing unified to change the narrative, i am again overwhelmed. we cannot change the history of our nation. it is not our story to rewrite. but we have within us the power to write a better ending to our story. the last chapter doesn’t have to look the first chapter in our story.
so to those who loudly declare that i must make you feel comfortable with the movement in order for you to join in the call for justice i say to you, you should join the cause not because i am willing to make you feel comfortable, rather you should stand up because when you take an honest look around you, you acknowledge the laws in our nation are designed to make black and brown people feel uncomfortable. it is us who can’t breath. and if black lives don’t matter to you, then no lives matter.
What an amazing experience, Risha! I am so happy that you had the opportunity to spend your MLK weekend in such a powerful way and place. Great pics too! Being on that bridge…I think I would have lost it…especially after seeing Selma and having those images of violence freshly minted in my mind. The road to justice continues…