The other day the video of Philando Castille’s 4 year old daughter consoling her mother, both of whom just witnessed his murder, appeared on my Twitter feed. Seeing a child who isn’t even in kindergarten yet help her mother process the murder of her boyfriend cast a wave of anger and heartbreak over me that I can’t put into words. Black children are taught at a young age to grow up and process things that no child should. When I was in elementary school, at my mostly white and affluent private school, I heard comments that forced me to realize I was different and seemingly worse than my classmates because I was Black. From the very beginning we become hyper aware of the racism our country is now beginning to see and must justify our right to exist.
Black people don’t get to pick up the activist role. We don’t get to choose it as a career choice after being taught about injustices in this country. We’re born into it. I don’t want to be doing this right now. I’m barely 20 years old. I’m supposed to be thinking about grad school, focusing on my internship, talking to my friends and writing my first book. I want to be doing research and working on one day becoming a professor, not begging people to care about the mass murder and mistreatment of my people. I don’t want to wake up every day and fight for my life. From childhood we have to worry about things that none of our peers have to worry about; and we’re still expected to perform at 100%. Being Black is a glorious, rewarding, and indescribable experience; but it also comes with a steady and unshakable pain.
Despite this, our ability to find joy and laughter from the darkest of times is nothing short of incredible. Even when we’re screaming to the world and justifying why we deserve to be alive, we make time for moments of joy. In the midst of our anger, we fellowship in the beauty of all that it means to be Black; that’s what’s making all of this worth it for me. The vision of making these moments of uninterrupted Black joy permanent and living in the glory of Blackness without the lingering pain, anxieties, and fear is keeping me going. I want my people to be able to go home at the end of a long day and sit in happiness, not exhale a sigh of exhaustion so deep it comes from the lungs of our ancestors.
Black activists don’t have the freedom to pick up or put down this role, it’s tied to our very being. We have other dreams, hobbies, interests, and goals; but the prospect of no longer having to fight this battle fuels the work we do every day.
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