Black Lives Still Matter

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Me in Washington Park, Albany NY (Tulip Fest 2015)

Me in Wash­ing­ton Park, Albany NY (Tulip Fest 2015)

I am on a short vaca­tion to vis­it mom in Con­necti­cut. I need this time off, more than you know, and I thought it would be nice to see her for Mother’s Day. It’s been a busy few days, but enjoy­able. Yes­ter­day me, mom, and baby took a trip to Albany, NY for the Tulip Fes­ti­val in Wash­ing­ton Park. They crowned the Tulip Queen, who, if I recall, will go on to head a lit­er­a­cy cam­paign and oth­er inter­est­ing social­ly con­scious stuff, along with her court. The may­or was there. Lots of ven­dors, with cool, inter­est­ing and friv­o­lous wares for sale, food for which you want to take a lax­a­tive to get out of your sys­tem, thou­sands of gor­geous tulips, sun and hot and gen­er­al hap­pi­ness, a lit­tle lake where you could sit under trees and catch a breeze, adult bev­er­ages, peo­ple with kids in strollers, live music… It was nice.

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There were also a cou­ple of small but sig­nif­i­cant (at least to me) protests.

Just as the Tulip Queen was about to be announced a group of about 20 folks stepped for­ward to shout “Black Lives Mat­ter!” They did this for about five min­utes and moved along. This thrilled me. I mean, isn’t that a thing to be proud of? In the midst of tulip queen crown­ing there are still peo­ple who want to come out and remind us of the things that are tru­ly impor­tant to the coun­try and world at large. The Tulip crown­ing is impor­tant in the city of Albany, part of its Dutch her­itage, and a vehi­cle for ser­vice for the young woman crowned, but there are things even larg­er than this. The bru­tal­i­ty that young black men encounter on a day to day basis is enor­mous and trag­ic. Though the spot­light shines bright­ly on this issue now, it isn’t near­ly bright enough, and it isn’t new. Mod­ern tech has been said to make slaves of us, but I say it is a God­send. There are few things more beau­ti­ful than a cam­era phone.

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Lat­er, as me and fam­i­ly strolled through Wash­ing­ton Park, I saw a group of elder­ly white folks also tak­ing a stand for Black Lives. This struck me hard­er and deep­er than even the first protest. I had to stop, take a pic­ture or five or six, give them my thanks and a thumbs up. I know there are good peo­ple out there, but we (and by we, I mean, I) often expect the old guard to be out of step with cur­rent issues of race. Espe­cial­ly the old white guard. This is an erro­neous con­cept, at least in part.

After this, I was stopped by the local press. Well, a man with a cam­era and a mic. “Can I ask you a few ques­tions about what you saw over there (refer­ring to the Black Lives Mat­ter protest)?”

Sure,” I told him. I’m sure he saw me and thought, this lady is a for­tune in diver­si­ty. And, you know what? I’m hap­py to be.

He asked me what I thought of the protest. And also, “Have you ever expe­ri­enced racism?”

Mwa-ha-ha-ha! That was the jack­pot ques­tion of the day. And a slight­ly stu­pid one, if I may say. I’m African-Amer­i­can, I’m Mus­lim, and I’m a woman.

Have I ever expe­ri­enced racism? Take a guess.

It’s easy to get caught up in our day to day busy. Our day to day busy quick­ly and eas­i­ly becomes more impor­tant to us than the huge things that are hap­pen­ing out there in the world. Our car trou­ble, or the fact that we need to pick up eggs and milk for tomorrow’s break­fast, or the cof­fee stain on our work shirt, is emi­nent­ly more press­ing than say, the plight of the Pales­tini­ans, or hun­gry chil­dren in our own coun­try, or the sex­ism women face in the work­place, or the lives of black men that are being stolen whole­sale by the very peo­ple employed to pro­tect and serve them.

This all made me think about a brief but very mean­ing­ful Twit­ter con­vo I had with a few friends recent­ly about what it means to be an allie. Admit­ted­ly none of us had all of the answers, but I can say this. Being an allie is more than lip ser­vice. Being an allie is stand­ing out­side in the heat, hold­ing up signs in silent protest, when every­one else is walk­ing around drink­ing gal­lon size mugs of lemon aid. Being an allie is tak­ing a chance at ruin­ing every­one else’s good time to remind them that dammit, there are lives at risk out there and that it affects us ALL even though it may seem like it doesn’t. Being an allie is tak­ing time out of your day to stand in the midst of a Tulip Fes­ti­val only to be ignored and over­looked by every­one else. Except me.

#Black­Lives­Mat­ter

Still.

Amistad Memorial in New Haven, CT

Amis­tad Memo­r­i­al in New Haven, CT

Amistad Memorial in New Haven, CT

Amis­tad Memo­r­i­al in New Haven, CT