Waking up this morning I’m sure you experienced a lot of emotions – anger, sickness, frustration, sadness, disbelief, utter belief, confusion, love. I know I woke up wanting to believe that last night didn’t happen and that all of this has been just a horrible nightmare. But as we know, the reality of what occurred months ago and last night in Ferguson is indeed real and ridiculous.
One thing I’m absolutely, without a doubt sure of is this – what the devil means for evil, God uses for good. Regardless of the outcome of yesterday’s farce of a legal system, Michael Brown did not die in vain. He died to wake us up from our comfortable coma. He died (as did too many before him) to push us over the edge and come together as a community to take action on problems that have run rampant for too long.
All across the country many of you have aimlessly wondered what your purpose was in life and through this tragedy you have found a path. For this I am thankful because we need you. We need Black people who love Black people to care for Black people and fight for Black people. While I’m thankful for allies of all races and ethnicities whose support is also needed, we must support each other first.
Sadly, we must also admit that America has never loved her bastard children – a race of people born from the capturers and the enslaved. She has never given her love freely to us. We have worked for it. We have fought for it. We have pretended for it. We have died for it. We have lived for it. We have earned her love because this is our home too. There would be no America without Black people and we cannot turn our backs on the country that our ancestors built. So I implore you to not turn to violence or tear down our communities. Why should we give racists and pacifists the pleasure of thinking we’re barbaric when in reality we’re brilliant?
So the real question following last night’s decision and decades of injustice is what do we do now?
First, let’s not forget how we feel today. Don’t dull the pain with superficial things to take your mind off of the realities that surround you. You and I both know that Black people have been unjustly persecuted, manipulated, disrespected, hated and murdered for years. And no matter if you’ve personally felt this way in your own life or not, today you feel the pain of your people so allow these emotions to stay in your soul’s memory.
Second, don’t make this an issue just about Ferguson. Ferguson was a catalyst not a conclusion. If you don’t actually live in Ferguson you’re able to be passionate about the injustice of Michael Brown’s murder from a distance while the same embers that sparked this situation in Ferguson are burning in your own backyard. Now, I’m not saying to be unsupportive of the activists in Missouri – I’ll get back to that in a moment but make the commitment to address the same issues that reverberate in Ferguson at home in a forceful manner.
Look, it’s real in these streets – so you posting a picture holding a sign about injustice in Ferguson won’t cut it. Sending tweets expressing your outrage is ok but it’s not going to save Black lives. Commit yourself today to choose chose civil rights over comfort and niceties over conformity in your own life.
Trust and believe, Black people are being disproportionately, negatively impacted by some issue in your community right now. Whether it’s police brutality, racial profiling, over-funding of prisons and under-funding of public schools, community redlining, food deserts in your neighborhood, lack of public health facilities, crooked politicians in office, prosecutors who clearly are biased against black and brown people and should be removed (blatantly referring to Bob McCulloch who should be disbarred immediately) no diversity in senior staff positions at your job - whatever - do something about it.
Now is the time for us to use our money and our time to better the position of Black people in this country – or stop complaining. In no way do I proclaim to be an expert but for starters, here are just a few thoughts on actions that you can take in the coming days:
1. Donate money to the Ferguson Action and Hands Up United coalitions currently doing awesome work in Ferguson – more info can be found on their website: http://www.handsupunited.org/#donate-1-section (they have a good list of protests occurring around the country too).
2. Don’t rush to travel to Ferguson unless your presence will result in a real accomplishment. Symbolism can be expensive. Assess if it’s more impactful for you to spend $500 on a flight to Ferguson or donate that money to the advocates working on the ground. Now, your presence might be needed but try to connect with an organization on the ground first to make sure your week in the city is useful.
3. If there is a Black child, teen, young adult or adult with a temper in your life that you love, teach them how to interact with the police and practice how they should react regularly. Unfortunately, we have to assume the worse when it comes to our interactions with law enforcement so our loved ones need to know what to do in various situations. Here are few points by the ACLU that you can use: https://www.aclu.org/drug-law-reform-immigrants-rights-racial-justice/know-your-rights-what-do-if-you
4. If you already belong to an organization in your community that is working towards a just society for Black people that’s great – step it up. Form stronger coalitions, measure your work and communicate your successes, hold elected officials accountable for their rhetoric, recruit new members and give them meaningful roles to play, reduce your reliance on corporate dollars or money that comes from outside our communities. Now is the time for us to go from protests to policy changes and we need your expertise to lead the way.
5. If you don’t belong to an organized group of concerned citizens, research the ones that are doing real work and join the organization best suited for you – or start your own organization. You don’t need to elect officers, just have one goal in mind, create a plan of action and stay committed until you win.
6. Research how the police function in your community. Is there a civilian review board in place? Do they have regular meetings/forums with community members? Do their cars have dash cameras? Do they have body cameras? Does the police force reflect the demographic of the community? What is the training curriculum for their officers? How many discrimination/police brutality cases have been filed against them? Are they open to siting down on a regular basis to determine ways to better interact with the community?
7. Get to know your elected officials – many of whom were just elected a few weeks ago. What platform did they use to get elected? What is their background and can they be an ally for your organization? What solutions are they offering to deal with the pressing issues affecting Black people in your community?
8. Lastly, really consider the talents, skills, connections, resources and will you have to lend to this fight. Everyone was blessed to do something that will bring good to others and there is no better time than now to join the movement towards equality and respect for all people in our country.
In conclusion, I leave you with these words from Nat King Cole and Roy Wilkins in 1956 – a year after Emmitt Till was martyred, ushering in a new wave of Black people spurred into action to fight for their civil and human rights:
Nate King Cole: "I can't understand it…I have not taken part in any protests. Nor have I joined an organization fighting segregation. Why should they attack me? I'd just like to forget about the whole thing."
Roy Wilkins: "You have not been a crusader or engaged in an effort to change the customs or laws of the South. That responsibility, newspapers quote you as saying, you leave to the other guys. That attack upon you clearly indicates that organized bigotry makes no distinction between those who do not actively challenge racial discrimination and those who do. This is a fight which none of us can escape. We invite you to join us in a crusade against racism."
WHO IS STEFANIE?
I am an inspirationeur!
I am passionate about empowering people to understand how their unique skills, talents and interests can change the world for the better while leading to personal happiness in the process. Through my work as a cutting-edge business woman, founder of a leadership development organization and spirited public speaker, I believe in #DoingItBIG and accomplishing results. #LiveCandid