By Joseph Griffin, Director of Community Based Services, CVCA
In 1967 the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave a speech where he exclaimed "A riot is the language of the unheard"! Only five decades later we all bear witness to the cries of a people that feel their approach to seeking justice and equality borderlines complicity. Every foot that hit the pavement to protest this past week screams "See us, hear us, help us"! Why are we here, again? Why are we watching the world scream "Black Lives Matter", again? Monday May 25th, 2020 we watched George Floyd plead for his life and take his last breath at the hands of a police officer. As I try to digest this abhorrent act of brutality I am filled with anger, concern, and disappointment. But to be completely honest, so much has happened I and many others have become immune to it all. See these tragedies have become too familiar within the black communities and one video begins to nullify the other. Remember Eric Garner in 2014? His final words piercing us all, “I cant breathe” as the police sat on his head, pinned him to the ground as he pleaded for his life. Eerily familiar and jarringly problematic.
As a black man and a father of two growing black boys I find myself at a crossroad. While I teach my sons to be upstanding, respectable young men I am now tasked with helping them navigate that dreaded encounter with the police. How do I teach them to remain calm, while maintaining their innocence that has already been marked as guilt by the public servants sent to protect? We have seen that you can comply and still experience a violent and/or deadly encounter. These questions do not have clear answers and that is what makes the current state of our nation scary.
As I re-watch movies like "Selma" and the documentary "The 13th" I am reminded that blacks have been strategically placed at a disadvantage. Nixon's war on drugs caused black men to be incarcerated at a much higher rate than their white counterparts. More incarcerated black men creates less fathers in homes leading to broken families. Working with at risk youth every day I see the ramifications of this system that was put in place to destroy the black communities. Statistics show that since January 1st 2015, 1,252 black people have been shot and killed by police and that doesn’t even include those who have died in police custody or were killed using other methods.
Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.... Those individual words form together one of the most powerful statements known to man. The U.S. Constitution was designed for basic rights and privileges of all Americans, not just for some. These words loudly echoed hundreds of years ago... It saddens me that in today's society there are many who have still NOT heard the words or are able to equate that with their fellow man. In the wake of the tragic death of George Floyd, our societies are undergoing a major battle for much needed change. We are all told and taught to believe in the Justice system, but the justice system is failing many deserving Black Americans. We are at a critical phase, and many lives hang in the balance of those whose primary duty is to effect change. Although the outcome seems to be bleak and it may seem that hope is lost, I try to hold on to faith that the fighting spirit of a few can positively affect the spirit of many. That spark can and will enable us to continuously push forward to fight systemic racism and injustice as well as help those who are in need and have suffered from traumatic instances. This faith is not only for our community, but it is also for the young people which we are responsible for. Having the thought process and mindset to continuously look for ways to improve the lives of others and those who have no one to advocate for them. While we continue to protest and fight against systemic racism, injustice, police brutality in honor of George Floyd let us not forget the many who lost their lives unnecessarily. Eric Garner, Ahmad Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray and so many others were taken from us but we have a chance to make their untimely passings the marker for a revolution. This revolution will be televised and we are the stars. Let us shine for the fallen and create a safer future for our children.