This weekend, I attended two discussions regarding the Trayvon Martin incident, the problems that African American’s face in our country and how we can overcome them.
[ Yes..this weekend, Black folks were actually meeting. ..everyone was invited though.]
If you have been paying attention, you know that the country, the world, is concerned about Trayvon Martin being shot and killed by a professed neighborhood watch member in Florida.
In reaction, the media and groups across the country have been in discussion about racial profiling, social justice and just how and why in the year 2012 we still have to contend with these issues 40 years after Jim Crow.
One such discussion was held in downtown Oakland, hosted by Top Ten Social, a local organization whose mission “is to push the cultural, artistic and intellectual envelope of Afro-futurist urban expression and create sustainable models through innovative events”..like a Speaker’s Series. On March 31st they dedicated time for the community to come together and to share reflections and strategies on how we should respond to the Trayvon Martin tragedy.
On Sunday April 1st, I attended a more intimate affair organized by my wonderful friend Tiffany who texted all of her friends asking for discussion and ideas on what we should do. We had a potluck at my church Memorial Tabernacle CHSC ( Christ Holy Sanctified Church) in North Oakland (Easter Services this Sunday at 10:30 am- if you don’t have a church home..:) . This event, though smaller, was a tad bit more structured. Tiffany (who is a
master bossy A-type awesome organizer) came with a preset agenda, movie, food and discussion questions.
At both discussions we all had something to say about the problems. It was, to some, a relief to give voice to fears we have lived with for a long time. What’s obvious is that despite the amount of progress we have made (integration, right to vote, education, etc)..Blacks in America still have a long way to go.
Both discussions also generated a laundry lists of things we can do in reaction from driving down to Florida to petition a state representative, to protests, marches and boycotts, and multi-media campaigns.
I would like to talk about three solutions that came out of the discussions that help to create a community movement, and will make it hard for another Trayvon Martin moment to occur.
Check it out..
Problem: Our children are being maligned, made to believe that they are not good enough and shown that their lives are meaningless.
Solution: We need to love support and cherish our children!
Not just when there is a problem, but constantly. Even before a problem starts. When your baby is born, read to them, nurture them..tell them everyday that they are beautiful, smart and important. If you don’t have children interact with the ones you come across. Ask them how they are doing, smile at them, give them complements. Hug them. If you see a child on the street- don’t look a way and ignore them. Smile and say Hi! Don’t be afraid of them.
Tiffany says: “I ain’t afraid of no child. If they are under 20 years old..I ain’t scared of them. Now if they are over 21 that’s a different story..” *Insert South Carolina cackle*
If we spend more time nurturing our children, our children would love and cherish themselves more. They wouldn’t feel defeated when the world tells them they are nothing…and they would feel like they were capable of accomplishing ANYTHING.
Let’s also stand up for our children by supporting education and community organizations that work specifically with youth.
Oakland: One such group is Young, Gifted and Black. YGB provides cultural support to African American youth by educating them about history through poetry, music, art and movement. Members of YBG performed at the Top Ten Social Discussion and gave a tribute to Trayvon Martin that you can watch below:
Problem: The system seems to be working against us.
Solution: We need to make the system work for us.
I know that there are some cynical Suzie’s out there who feel that “The Man” controls things around here. There is no point in voting when money and greed rules the day. You can’t trust a politician as far as you can throw them..etc, etc.
But we elected Barack Obama! “Well what has he done for me lately?” Folks are unemployed, he’s killing US citizens with unmanned drones, attacking innocent state-supported medical marijuana colleges, AND he wants me to buy insurance? grumble, grumble, doom and gloom.
Some of that is true. But what is also true is that the Justice Department didn’t decide to look into Trayvon Martin’s case until we, the public, raised our voices in complaint. What’s true is that when enough of us are present..and in one accord- we can move mountains.
What’s true is that if you communicate your desires, by voting AND by attending town hall meetings, city council meetings and the like, you can take part in change. Barack Obama is one man. He can’t do this alone and he shouldn’t have to. We should take responsibility and be the change that we want to see!
We tend to react to things instead of being present from the very beginning. We reacted to Troy Davis too late. We are reacting again..to Trayvon Martin’s death, rather than the passage of a law that made his death possible. We should have been there from the beginning, when the law was introduced and shut it down.
The difference between us and “The Man” is that “The Man” participates in the system and makes it work for them from the beginning and doesn’t just ‘give up’ when things don’t seem to go their way. We need to do the same.
Oakland: an opportunity is presenting itself. Wednesday at 6 pm is the Community Police Review Board meeting, at City Hall. On discussion is “100 Block” program and the increase in crime outside of the “100 Blocks”. Gotta concern? You had better be there to make sure your concern is addressed. I can BET “The Man” will be there. We should be there too.
Problem: We don’t have a sense of community.
Solution: Get to know, love, respect and protect thy neighbor and thy hood.
Do you know your neighbor? Do you know their name? Would you go next door to borrow a cup of sugar? If you get locked out of your home, could you go to your neighbor for help? Would you trust your neighbor to babysit your child? If your car gets stolen from your driveway, would your neighbor see it and tell you? If you are screaming outside of your home because you are being assaulted would your neighbor come out to help?
If your neighbor saw you getting attacked would they report it to the police? Or does “Snitches get stitches” hold them back?
What if things were different? What if we trusted enough in our community to not let a few dictate what happens?
You can’t build community and trust without building relationships. A relationship starts with you. If you don’t know your neighbor, go next door and say hi. Bring over a cup of sugar. Exchange emergency contact info or talk about a plan in case of an earthquake, fire, flood, tornado or crazy person with a gun.
That’s just the beginning. From there you can start looking at your neighborhood and what you can do to help it. You can have block parties, and clean up days and all sorts of civic wonderfulness. Wonderfulness that is worth being protected and fought for.
As a community member at the Top 10 Social discussion stated: “We don’t have to travel across the country to Florida to make a difference, we can make a difference here at home.” We can take our communities back. It just takes us working together. That work begins and ends with us.
Soledad O’Brien had a national town hall “Beyond Trayvon: Race and Justice in America” that aired on CNN this past Saturday. Roland Martin said “This is the conundrum, will Trayvon Martin’s death be a moment or a movement”
I don’t know if we are going to see the kind of political movement like that of the 60’s.. but I think what we can all do is create a movement of community change that can be just as powerful.
We’ve lost our village. Lets bring the village back!
What do you think? Do you think we can bring back our village? Do you know your neighbor? If you heard someone outside screaming for help..would you go out to help them? Be honest!