Black Lives murder?

On Thursday, July 7, in Dallas, Texas, a lone sniper shot twelve law enforcement officers, killing five, during a protest demonstration organized by the Black Lives Matter movement in response to the police-involved deaths of two black men, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, LA, on July 5 and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, MN, on July 6. The Dallas assailant, Micah Johnson, cornered and refusing to surrender, before being killed by the police, while evoking the name and cause of Black Lives Matter, expressed anger about the fatal shootings of Sterling and Castile and his desire to kill white people, especially white police officers.

Detractors to the Black Lives Matter movement were swift to condemn…

On Friday, July 8, conservative radio talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, denounced Black Lives Matter as “a terrorist group” waging a nationwide “war on cops.”

That evening, Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska and 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate, wrote in a Facebook post: #BlackLivesMatter is a Farce and Hyphenating America Destroys Us…self-descriptions that put any race in front of being an American…further divide our nation…Shame on our culture’s influencers who would stir contention and division that could lead to evil such as that in Dallas.

Many, some more or less prominent than Limbaugh and Palin and more or less predictable in their responses in more or less similar terms, have decried Black Lives Matter from the time of its founding in 2013.[1]

I rise and write in defense (not that the movement needs my approbation) of Black Lives Matter.

In two ways.

First, by reading and reflecting on what the Black Lives Matter movement says for itself:

Who We Are: Black Lives Matter is a chapter-based national organization working for the validity of Black life. We are working to (re)build the Black liberation movement. This is Not a Moment, but a Movement.[2]

What We Believe: Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.[3]

In a recent blog post,[4] I closed:

I confess…my anger; ever a companion of my sorrow. The deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are but the latest killings (murders?) that stir in my bowels my racial animus. A few years ago, I crafted a shorthand self-statement: “I am a 60+ year old African American man born and raised in America”; my Cliff Notes autobiographical testament to my ever-present lens of race through which I look at life and the world. Sadly, angrily, I see no reason to dispense with it.

In this my witness to an ineffaceable element of my ontology, I laud Black Lives Matter’s self-profession.

Secondly, I voice my support of Black Lives Matter as I look back, through my lens of race, at a slice of relatively recent history…

In 1954, author Richard Wright published Black Power, in which, chronicling his journey to Africa’s Gold Coast (later, Ghana), he extols the virtues of the possibility of a people’s empowerment.

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his iconic I Have a Dream speech in which he sorrowfully noted that 100 years after Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, “the Negro still is not free” and, thus, declaring, in part, “I still have a dream, a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. One day this nation will rise up and live up to its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’” King, at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement, calling for equal rights for blacks, also championed the phrase, “Freedom Now!”

In the latter 1960s, Black Power was the core political slogan of Stokely Carmichael (later, Kwame Turé), a chief organizer of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, who uttered it as a statement of solidarity for all who yearned to bring into the present that then still long future day of collective black econo-socio-political might.

During this same period, Black is Beautiful, from the writings of South African activist Steve Biko, became a rallying cry in America for all who sought to dispel racism’s stigma, both imposed and internalized, of the inborn ugliness of black folks’ physical features. Black is Beautiful, coupled with economic empowerment, was a hallmark of the preaching and teaching of human rights advocate and martyr, Malcolm X.

In 1968, the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, sang, shouted, “Say It Loud, ‘I’m Black and I’m Proud’”; the song becoming an unofficial anthem of the Black Power movement.

In 1969, singer, songwriter, and civil rights activist, Nina Simone, produced “To Be Young, Gifted and Black”, encouraging black youth to embrace their God-given graces.

Following King’s assassination, his wife and fellow civil rights activist, Coretta Scott King said:

Struggle is a never ending process. Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation. That is what we have not taught young people or older ones for that matter. You do not finally win a state of freedom that is protected forever. It doesn’t work that way.

From Black Power to “I Have a Dream” and Freedom Now! to Black is Beautiful to “Say It Loud, ‘I’m Black and I’m Proud’” to “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” to, now, Black Lives Matter – all bespeak the labor of liberation from a culture of oppression and devaluation.

Amen, Coretta, a luta continua…

 

Footnotes:

[1] On February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida, Trayvon Martin, 17, was shot and killed by George Zimmerman. On July 13, 2013, Zimmerman was acquitted of second degree murder and manslaughter. In reaction to what was and is perceived as the systemic devaluing of black lives, Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi founded Black Lives Matter; the movement becoming nationally recognized through organizing street demonstrations following the 2014 deaths of two black men at the hands of police, Eric Garner on July 17 in New York City and Michael Brown on August 9 in Ferguson, Missouri.

[2] http://www.blacklivesmatter.com

[3] Ibid.

[4] fatal encounters…again and again, July 7, 2016

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One thought on “Black Lives murder?

  1. My dear brother Paul,

    I am in Des Moines, IA this morning, not as in touch with news as normal, but my heart is aching as I am catching up on the weekend’s events post-Dallas. I am so glad you wrote this post. I have become convinced that the awareness and dialogue that the rise of Black Lives Matter has begun to stimulate is the only way forward. Condemnations of its existence, rhetoric, and tactics were bound to crescendo in the wake of Dallas, but we only need it more now. The voices that have just begun to be heard must continue to speak and tell the story from a perspective most of us have ignored at best, or denied at worst. I think whether the nation can acknowledge it or not, we are depending on those voices to lead us to a greater wholeness, a new sense of who we are. Sadly, the burden of teaching and leadership falls once again on those who have borne such unbearable burdens for so long.

    You are one of those essential voices, Paul, along with Pontheolla. I have whispered so many prayers of thanks that our paths crossed. Can it really be only last month?

    Write on, dear friend. Live on in your grace-filled way, and continue to help point the way for us.

    Much love to you and Pontheolla.

    Liked by 1 person

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