The year is 2020, exactly 60 years after the Civil rights movement that claimed the lives of activist leaders like Malcom X, Martin Lurther King & Medgar Evers.
2020 marks the 21st year since Amadou Diallo was shot 41 times outside of his apartment in the Bronx. Amadou was an African immigrant who traveled to America in hopes to return home with a degree but instead returned in a coffin. Hundreds of New Yorkers protested against the murder of the 23-year-old Computer Science major. Eventually, the four police officers who shot Amadou Diallo 41 times were trialed and later found not guilty. The police officers claimed to be frightened because they saw Amadou retrieve an object from his pocket.
Let’s rewind to 1955, to the town of Mississippi, where a 15 year old boy named Emmett Till was lynched for offending a woman in a grocery store, witnesses risked their lives and stepped forward to give an account of what really happened in the store in hopes to prove that the encounter did not justify the young boy’s murder, however his murderers were acquitted. The woman later confessed to fabricating details about her encounter with Emmett Till and his death is noted as a catalyst of the civil rights movement.
The world receives absurd explanations for the death of unarmed people of color who find themselves at the wrong place, at the wrong time. Death rarely happen by chance, especially when you have a gun pointed at you or have your life squeezed out of your body. Perpetrators often get a slap on the wrist and are given the opportunity to move forward with their lives – this act alone perpetuates that the victims of this mass injustice have caused their own death.
People of color are caught in a constant state of protest. A loop of grief, mourning, marching, social media posting, attack and a lifetime of injustice. A lifetime of brutality. A lifetime of oppression. 10 lifetimes worth of bloodshed. From the beginning of history black lives have been claimed with minimal repercussions. Injustice is served on a silver platter, a spit on the face of the countless black bodies that were sacrificed to ensure this race lives on for another century.
“We know the road to freedom has always been stalked by death.” – Angela Davis
I write this oceans away from the scene of the crime, writing as a South African “born free” still grasping the ramifications of apartheid and building a life that my ancestors would be proud of on the foundations that were left behind by Steve Biko and Chris Hani – activist martyrs that will never be forgotten because of their bravery and sacrifice. My form of protest is a short essay in my phone’s note pad. My form of protest is trying to find a thread that connects the lives of George Floyd, Amadou Diallo, Emmett Till, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Walter Scott and Michael Brown – trying to find meaning, praying for a resolution, justice and a revolutionary change. I am searching for meaning, and holding on to bits of optimism for the future of the African diaspora , most times my optimism stares blankly at me for hoping all will be well while we’re in hell.
There is no conclusion to this essay, there isn’t a deep meaningful realization that I come to. I will just leave you with the words that keep echoing in my mind…
“Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it.” – Frantz Fanon