Outcry: The Vitality of Protests for Black Liberation
At approximately 11pm, Christmas 2010, my baby sister sends wailing screams throughout the house. Neither my parents nor I had reached REM sleep, so we were easily awakened by her cries. My stepmom aided her newborn child with a bottle of milk, aware of the responsibility and instinctive need to nurture her baby girl. This symbolic, meaningful bond fuels the relationship these two will share for a lifetime. The effectiveness of my stepmother’s response to my little sister’s cries may eventually lead to the way my little sister will decide to raise her children and each subsequent generation.
At approximately midnight, August 9, 2014, I frantically search for unfiltered footage of the Ferguson protests on Twitter. Michael Brown had been fatally shot by Police Officer Darren Wilson. Live videos chronicling encounters between St. Louis County Police and peaceful protesters were being posted on social media by protestors, journalists, and local residents of Ferguson. Tactics necessary for battle were being employed by the Police department. A war zone emerged between the ones who were to be protected (residents) and those who were supposed to be protecting (police). But, in order to be engaged in war there must be oppositional forces armed and equipped for combat. Citizens in Ferguson, Missouri occupied the streets armed with their tears, rage, and discontent. Those responsible for guarding the lives of Black communities were facing off with the Black community. All the while, American government who maintains this burden of responsibility to protect Black people through corrective justice yet stood silent and allowed the deaths of other Black men and women to go unnoticed and unavenged in the eyes of the law.
The similarities of these two occurrences between a screaming child and Ferguson protests include the cries of people who are distraught. From distress comes the necessity of relief. A child receives that from her mother, the one who brought them into the world. In a comparable sense, the ‘former’ colonial government of America imported African slaves to the United States of America and gave ‘birth’ to generations of Black Americans. Despite this birth, Black Americans have proved to be motherless by the country who forced them to unfamiliar lands and into the African Diaspora, making Africa seem less familiar to the descendants of the first slaves to inhabit America.
Black Americans, who are descendants of slaves, have fought for centuries to make America inclusive for ourselves in government, healthcare, education, and other powerful institutions. Institutional racism fills the spaces in between the lines of articles, amendments, and policies (in the aforementioned institutions) that this country was founded upon. The so called ‘mother’ that brought us here left us for centuries to fend for ourselves and gave us rights like it was an afterthought. But we knew for complete liberation there had to be more. Explicit racism justified by Jim Crow made it difficult to ignore the inequalities we faced. Making me using a separate bathroom is hard to ignore. Forcing me to sit in the back of the bus is hard to ignore. Saying that I couldn’t go to UNC-CH because of my race until 1961 is hard to ignore.
What isn’t hard to ignore (according to the law) is that stand your ground laws can justify why Trayvon Martin was shot and killed. What isn’t hard to ignore is that Tamir Rice ‘appeared’ to be an armed adult so he was shot and killed. What isn’t hard to ignore is that Philando Castile could be targeted and killed for having a “wide nose” resembling that of another black suspect. These biases, correlations between criminality and blackness as theorized by Sadiya Hartman, and subconscious hostility towards Blacks aren’t hard to ignore for America because in those founding articles, amendments, and policies there is no regard to the value of Black life.
Just as my sister screamed to the top of her lungs from her nursery to ensure that she’d get her mother’s attention, Black America is screaming to the top of our lungs for true equality. These protests mobilize the efforts for recognition that we are human and that we are deserving, even though our bodies seem to be more important than our humanity. These protests provide Black communities across the globe with political agency. Our voices of declaring why we matter permeate geographic boundaries into the countries of Great Britain, South Africa, and Australia.
This agency has encouraged other countries with roots within Africa to finally claim their blackness. These protests prove themselves to be are powerful. WEB DuBois constantly raved that the common struggles and common histories within the African Diaspora is what essentially makes us Black. Communities in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean are finally realizing that. Political agency gives us a right to assert our identities as Black people from all over the world in an effort to form a powerful collective.
Instead of cries exerting energy, our cries fuel the momentum for Black Liberation. Protests are not moments, they are movements. This movement propels us and urges the community to act and do more. This stage for protesting is a sign of life. The posters, barricades of black and brown bodies, and insistent shouts are vital signs of the community. These protests act as a pulse to the beating hearts of those who yearn for justice in the wake of a cruel and dark America.
A chant frequently used by Black Lives Matter protestors is based from a quote in the autobiography of Assata Shakur. We normally start in a normal tone and then gradually into a rallying cry. I hope these words resonate with you.
It is our duty to fight.
It is our duty to win.
We must love and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.
- Assata Shakur
by Miriam Madison