Throughout history, Black people have always led the fight for Black liberation: like Nat Turner’s uprising in 1831, the Abolition movement in the 19th century, the Civil Rights Movement in the 50s and 60s, the Black Power movement in the 60s and 70s, and currently the Black Lives Matter movement.
We decided to take a moment to reflect on this moment in history.
“In the midst of everything going on, it is so beautiful that we are always able to celebrate each other, through dances, songs, or any other medium.” —Yanet Amanuel, Public Policy Advocate
In every generation, there is always a movement. The Black Lives Matter movement is ours and it was born out of centuries of unanswered demands from the Black community. Yet — even in the middle of a global pandemic — our community has managed to exhibit a sense of community, to somehow pull our resources together to support and uplift each other, and to still find a sense of joy, even if it’s only for a moment.
I don’t know if we can reform an institution that was derived from slave patrols and that is rooted and heavily built on white supremacy. But we can put policies in place that hold police officers accountable. Perhaps then, we could start to shift police culture and stop the police from killing Black people.
To non-Black people, understand that Black people are working through two crises: disproportionately being killed by COVID-19 and by the police. One has been here for a long time. When we clock off, we’re not really off. We’re still living the Black experience. We still hold half a breath every time our mother, our brother, our cousins, or we, ourselves, leave the house. For Black people, this is a lived, every day experience. Please be mindful of that and honor that.
“Despite all the obstacles and plights we face, our community is and has always been resilient.” —Josh Johnson, IT and Operations Associate
Seeing the demonstrations after the killing of George Floyd, I was struck by the unity. Everyone coming out to support and being on the same page about eradicating the issues that plague the Black community is encouraging to see. But what I want for the future is to see more change.
Our entire system — from the prison-industrial complex that drives the mass incarceration of Black people, to the legal justice system that disproportionately arrests and locks us up at higher rates than any other race, to the way the media demonizes Black people, to racist laws that elected officials disguise as necessary to attack Black communities, to almost every other facet of our society and culture — it all needs to be changed and restructured, if we really do mean it when we say, “Black Lives Matter.”
We built this country and help contribute to it every day. This movement is an assertion and an affirmation that: We, as Black people, are here. We belong. And we have a right to equality and to be safe on American soil.
“I march, I work, I think, I strategize, I cry, I dance for my ancestors. I love that I’m connected to greatness through blood, sweat, and tears. I’m connected to centuries of Black greatness.” —Dana Vickers Shelley, Executive Director
The Black Lives Matter movement is so much more than a hashtag. It is the legacy of millions of Black people, including those who have passed on. I see myself carrying a torch and moving the work of justice and equality forward.
Laws and regulations have been put in place to diminish, devalue, and oppress Black people. The pain of generations of disinvestment in our communities is still throbbing. ICE and the police are putting us in detention, tearing apart our families. Mass incarceration is crushing our spirits. And the police are still killing us. Serious, long-lasting change is more urgent now than ever.
I have no interest or respect for any entity that says, “Black Lives Matter,” but doesn’t take action or invest in Black lives. If Black lives matter, laws should be enacted to protect our rights. Investments need to be made in Black communities. If our lives matter, we need to reimagine policing, turn it upside down and start over. Real public safety values every life in every community.
This is a moment in America’s history where we are saying – alongside our ancestors, my grandmothers, and my mother – that we deserve respect and rights as residents of this country, as the people who built this country, and as human beings.
We remember Black Marylanders who were killed by the police: Emanuel Oates, Freddie Gray, Tyrone West, Robert White, Leonard Shand, Kimani Johnson, Matthew Wood, Michael Minor, William Green, James Edward Adell, Rodney Edwards, Elijah Glay, Korryn Gaines, Donte Bennett, Allen Harvey Jr., Mark Anthony Blocker, Anton Black, Anthony Trice Jr., Arvel Douglas Williams, Gary Hopkins Jr., and sadly so many more. Rest in power.
“The destiny of the colored American … is the destiny of America.” — Frederick Douglass