Black Lives (Still) Matter, The Struggle Continues

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.

4 thoughts on “Black Lives (Still) Matter, The Struggle Continues

  1. Thank you for republishing this, Paul. A defense of Black Lives Matter shouldn’t be necessary, but what you have said is so important. It’s literally life and death important. It ought to be well-known by now that it should never be the job of Black and African American people to keep on having to tell white people that Black lives matter. White people and largely white-dominated American institutions should long ago have taken it upon themselves to learn, remember, and incorporate the whole truth of American history into white collective knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. Tragically, white American society as a whole STILL does not get that. Some of us are working on it, but as evidenced by the names, the cities, and the terrible events that we have been so focused on non-stop for over a week, plus those connected to myriad prior race-related tragedies that we should know so well, we have such a long way to go.

    Thank you for continuing to speak and to write the whole truth and to pray and to believe that people who have been deaf will learn to hear, that people who have been blind will learn to see, that people who have hated will learn to love, that people who have been indifferent and complacent will learn to care, and then, to speak, and to act.

    Much love,

    Karen

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  2. My dearest Karen, that I can be a part, surely, a small part in encouraging any and all who have been unable to grasp the historic-and-ongoing life-experience of discrimination and dehumanization to come to a place of honest acknowledgement, and, in that, enough to act for the common good, then I am at peace (even in these unpeaceful times).

    A luta continua…

    Love

    Like

  3. I read this several times today and just teared up each time!!! What is just sooooo unfathomable to me is the fact that everything in this post is still the same… just the names of the dead have changed (and not like on the old tv shows where names have been changed to protect the innocent).

    How can this be – where the only thing that’s changed in four years are the names and number of black men who are dead instead of living their lives.

    It’s just too much for me!! Bracing myself for what happens now that the curfews have begun and protestors are still out and still calm in DC. So thankful for the man who allowed almost 50 people into his home in DC and allowed them to stay until curfew ended so they wouldn’t be arrested or potentially hurt. Thank God for good people.

    I applaud you for republishing this because people seem to have very short memories about how little Black Lives seem to Matter to many people!

    Much love!

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  4. Oh, Loretta, thank you, thank God. Such good news to here and know (for I hadn’t heard and known) about the person who sheltered many people in his home safe from repercussions.

    As for this post, I awoke this morning with it on my mind. It took a bit to find it, for it was logged on my previous WordPress account page. When I did find and read it, I was stunned (for I only had a vague memory of its content) to behold how, for me, still relevant it was. Hence, I re-posted it, though in somewhat edited form.

    Sometimes, perhaps, often none of us can know what will speak to a given, present moment until, in truth, we discern – for human history is so bloody, damnably cyclical – that it does.

    Love you

    Like

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