That will never be your son! Calling for his mother as a police officer presses his knee in his neck. That will never be your brother, struggling to breathe as a police officer presses his knee in his neck. That will never be your husband bleeding and unconscious on the ground as the police officer continues to press his knee into his neck for nine minutes in broad daylight, in full view of a bystander filming his actions.
What more do you need?
What is murder?
Why did he feel so confident he could act in this egregious manner in public, in full view of a video camera?
How long do we have to endure such inhumane treatment?
One thing I do know, we are the descendants of strong Africans who survived the unimaginable. Our ancestors suffered the unimaginable so we can be where we are today. They must be screaming at us right now to continue to ‘wade in the water’ for one more day. It may not feel like we have made progress, it may not feel like we have come very far, but we really have. Yes, I’m finding it hard to be optimistic and to have hope for our future. It’s beyond frustrating. When I don’t have an answer and I’m filled with a sense of hopeless I have no choice but to do one thing – look internally for healing and guidance from a source greater than me. My faith is being tested. Our faith is being tested. It’s understandable that we want to give up. However, there is always a reminder of our purpose and the work we need to do in this lifetime. There is a reason why we are on this earth in abundance and in perpetuity.
Over the weekend during a retreat for Black women, Jamela Pettiford beautifully sang her rendition of “Wade in the Water.” She sang from her soul, her heart and her guts. She was immersed in the moment; you could feel her pain. She sang our pain, our sorrow, our truth, our anguish as we live through generation after generation after generation with the same condition of injustice, poverty and struggle. Jamela’s deep spiritual voice took us there, stirring us to a past life of our ancestors, into our history and into our struggle. That place that reminded us the tactics they used then are still the tactics they are using now to control our minds. As I listened to Jamela, I literally felt like I was watching my ancestors wade through the water driven by the knowledge that their descendants will live a better life. Our ancestors stayed the course, wading through the water for their children, for us! From generation to generation the baton was passed through the waters. Unfortunately, we still have the need to wade, to a safe place, and pray for our freedom, our rights and our humanity.
When are we going to stop wading through the water and reach a solid ground anchored in peace, justice and equity for us all? I hope sometime in my children lifetime. It requires all of us to band together and maximize our collective impact. It’s time for those Black folks who distance themselves from Black issues to open their eyes and see the reality of our situation. It’s time for those who feel their voices don’t matter to speak up and speak their truth. It’s time for all of us to step up, to build on our ancestors’ legacy and take necessary action. We must help change the narrative, drive for systemic change and be part of the solution. Vote, run for office, complete the 2020 census, organize, give back to our community irrespective of status or standing in the community. Write to your elected officials, attorneys general, police chief and mayors. Hold them accountable for their staff, demand justice and resources that helps a community thrive. And don’t stop wading in the water until the job is done.
As for God, he didn’t create this mess, it’s all man made. God has carried us through this mess. He carried our ancestors through the waters and carried generations through for us to be in abundance today. I do believe if it wasn’t for God our savior and creator, we would not have survived the unimaginable. God’s love is the only thing that gives us the strength to carry on even through our darkest hour, such as this hour.
As I write this, my eyes well up, my throat is dry and sore. My heart. My aching heart beats faster, deeper and louder. When will it stop and what must we do to make it stop? What can I do within my power to make a meaningful difference? It seems never ending. I must continue to cling on to hope. We must continue to cling onto hope and onto God loves. HE created us in HIS likeness for a reason. We are beautiful strong people, rising as we carry the cross on our shoulders as we wade through the water to freedom, equity and justice.
There will come a day when it will stop being our sons, our brothers and husbands. There will come a day when it will stop being our sisters, daughters and loved ones. There will come a day when we will live in our beautiful bodies without fear of retribution for just being us.
My heart, thoughts and prayers are with the Floyd and Avery family. May their souls rest in peace in the divine arms of the Lord. May justice prevail for both families.
Dr. Sylvia Bartley a Senior Global Director for the Medtronic Foundation is well known for her community work in the Twin Cities and her voice on KMOJ radio.