Note: In a previous post, Black Lives murder? July 10, 2016, in response to wide-ranging public criticism, indeed, vilification of Black Lives Matter, I wrote in defense of the movement. In the light and the shadow of this day and time, the words, my words, now, nearly four years later, sadly, though surely still matter. Hence, today, I repost an edited version.
I rise and write in defense…of Black Lives Matter…in two ways.
First, by reading and reflecting on what the Black Lives Matter movement says for itself:
Who We Are: Black Lives Matter is a chapter-based national organization working for the validity of Black life. We are working to (re)build the Black liberation movement. This is Not a Moment, but a Movement.
What We Believe: Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.
In a recent blog post, Fatal encounters, again and again, July 7, 2016, I closed:
I confess…my anger; ever a companion of my sorrow. The deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are but the latest killings (murders?) that stir in my bowels my racial animus. A few years ago, I crafted a shorthand self-statement: “I am a 60+ year old African American man born and raised in America” (this being) my Cliff Notes autobiographical testament to my ever-present lens of race through which I look at life and the world. Sadly, angrily, I see no reason to dispense with it. In this my witness to an ineffaceable element of my ontology, I laud Black Lives Matter’s self-profession.
Secondly, I voice my support of Black Lives Matter as I look back, through my lens of race, at a slice of relatively recent history.
In 1954, author Richard Wright published Black Power…chronicling his journey to Africa’s Gold Coast (and extoling) the virtues of the possibility of a people’s empowerment.
On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his iconic I Have a Dream speech in which he sorrowfully noted that 100 years after Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, “the Negro still is not free” and, thus, declaring…“I still have a dream, a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. One day this nation will rise up and live up to its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’” King, at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement, calling for equal rights for blacks, also championed the phrase, Freedom Now!
In the latter 1960s, Black Power was the core political slogan of Stokely Carmichael…a chief organizer of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (and) uttered…as a statement of solidarity for all who yearned to bring into the present the then still long future day of collective black econo-socio-political might.
During this same period, Black is Beautiful, from the writings of South African activist Steve Biko, became a rallying cry in America for all who sought to dispel racism’s stigma, both imposed and internalized, of the inborn ugliness of black folks’ physical features. Black is Beautiful, coupled with economic empowerment, was a hallmark of the preaching and teaching of human rights advocate and martyr, Malcolm X.
In 1968, the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, sang, shouted, “Say It Loud, ‘I’m Black and I’m Proud’”; the song becoming an unofficial anthem of the Black Power movement.
In 1969, singer, songwriter, and civil rights activist, Nina Simone, produced “To Be Young, Gifted and Black”, encouraging black youth to embrace their God-given graces.
Following King’s assassination, his wife and fellow civil rights activist, Coretta Scott King said: “Struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation. That is what we have not taught young people or older ones for that matter. You do not finally win a state of freedom that is protected forever. It doesn’t work that way.”
From Black Power to “I Have a Dream” and “Freedom Now!” to “Black is Beautiful” to “Say It Loud, ‘I’m Black and I’m Proud’” to “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” to Black Lives Matter – all bespeak the labor of liberation from a culture of oppression and devaluation.
Amen, Coretta. A luta continua, the struggle continues…
© 2020 PRA
Endnote: On February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida, Trayvon Martin, 17, was shot and killed by George Zimmerman. On July 13, 2013, Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter. In reaction to what was perceived as the systemic devaluing of black lives, Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi founded Black Lives Matter (http://www.blacklivesmatter.com). The movement became nationally recognized through organizing street demonstrations following the 2014 deaths of two black men at the hands of police, Eric Garner on July 17 in New York City and Michael Brown on August 9 in Ferguson, Missouri.