I took my children to march last Saturday.
In spite of the crowds and the noise. In spite of the humidity and the heat. In spite of potential danger. In spite of the fear that this current Pandemic has created in so many of us, I took my children to march on Saturday.
And I don’t regret a thing.
I didn’t do it to be part of history or for my children to look back on it and know they were there. None of that matters in the grand scheme of things. Part of the burden of black parenting in America is filling in the gaps that the schools leave out. It’s having those hard conversations at a young age with children who are still learning on a concrete level. It is preparing them on how to stay alive in what could turn into a dangerous situation simply because of the amount of melanin in their skin. It’s hard discipline and consistency to ensure it’s you who is doing the spanking and not the cops doing the beating. It’s putting an undue amount of pressure on young children to be nearly perfect in everything they do so that they can get half the acknowledgement. It’s teaching them to speak up when they hear or see something but knowing how to do it and to whom to do it so that they don’t get in trouble. It’s constantly walking that fine line between speaking up against what’s wrong and avoiding causing problems for your husband’s career. It’s worrying everyday and praying over your family that they come back home alive.
This is real and it is happening in every Black home in this country.
So I took my children to march.
I wanted them to see the people who cared about their lives. Who valued their worth and potential without even knowing them.
I wanted them to know the names of too many people who were stolen from this Earth because they were Black.
I wanted them to know the work and the pain and the struggle of those who came before us. To better understand their history and be inspired to want to keep working so that their generation can know something better. I wanted to help them better understand everything they’ve been seeing in the news. I wanted them to be surrounded by love and acceptance. Not only acceptance but to be embraced despite of how they look.
And so we marched.
But I will be honest. It is still hard for me to believe that somehow this time will be different. As much hope that I have for things to change, there is still a part of me that is fearful that things will go back to how they were before. One of the main things I heard at the march that struck me was the emphasis that this is not a trend. That Black Lives Matter must be more than a hashtag or “the thing to do right now.” This has to be a transformational way of thinking of many people. The speaker went on to say that Black people don’t want any special kind of treatment. That all we want is to be treated equally as promised in the Declaration of Independence. We want to know that we can walk down the street and not be harassed. That we can drive any kind of car that we want to and can afford and not be pulled over because we happen to drive it in the “wrong neighborhood.” We want to not be tired anymore. We want to stay alive.
And so it was important for my children to march. For them to see just how valued and important their lives are. To know that for effective change to happen and to stay, we need to all work together. We need to support one another. We need for White people to listen and learn from Black people. For them to get comfortable with having those uncomfortable conversations with their families, especially with their children. We need for our neighborhoods to be transformed in who gets to live there and who gets to work and serve there. We need to see police patrol the communities in which they live and for government agencies to invest in hiring people who look like and who are truly invested in the interests of the communities they serve. Things need to change. There can be no more waiting. There can be no more accepting what has been. The time is now.
And so my children marched.
They marched for freedom and justice. They marched so that their voices can be heard now and as they grow. They marched so that their history can also be a vital part of what their school curriculum includes. They marched so that their father can go out and make it back alive. They marched so that they can go out and play with their friends without someone getting offended that they are too loud or that they are playing with what looks like a gun. They marched so that they do not have to walk in fear that someone might fear them and call the police on them just for being in the same space. They marched to eradicate the ignorance that precedes bigotry and hatred. They marched in love with their community, with those Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, Gay, Straight, and everyone in between. They marched to take a stand, to let America, to let our leadership know that enough is enough and that they don’t deserve to inherit the pain and anguish that stems from racism. They marched to let those in charge know that all lives can’t matter until Black lives do.
I think Toni Morrison said it best when she said “You are your best thing.” What a powerful statement. I took my children to march because I want them to know this wholeheartedness. Not just to believe it, but also to live it each and every day. That despite their challenges and difficulties that life will bring them, that they are their very best thing. That in speaking truth to power, they can accomplish anything, just like their ancestors before them. They marched to walk in those footsteps of those who paved the way so that they can freely believe and live their lives as their best thing. This confidence only comes with knowing their lives are valid and meaningful and that they have something important to contribute to the world. That the world needs them. And to be needed is to be validated. To be valued is to matter.
I took my children to march last weekend, but I realize that the work doesn’t end there. We have got to continue to educate our children so that they know their history and therefore can know themselves. To know is to empower and I want for my children to feel empowered in their own skin. Change won’t happen overnight. I know this. But I also know that it takes me doing all I can to educate myself, my children, and my friends about racism. In speaking my truth, in sharing my experiences, I can be a vital part of that change. It will come, but we still have so much work to do.
My children marched last weekend, but I had to remember that they are still children. We carved out time for them to remember that they are just kids and that they deserve unburdened freedom that comes with childhood. Many black children have to the carry the burden that comes with working for freedom. They have to hear the “twice as good” speeches from as early as they can remember. Many of our Black children have been putting their little bodies in the fight. And that is overwhelming. I have to remember that this work is overwhelming and that my children are not little adults, but are children with child-like minds and imaginations. They want to play. So we had snow cones, we danced in the street, we played in the pool when we got home, and we stayed up all night. It’s important in these times to remember that even though education and awareness is so vital for our young people to have, it is also most vital to preserve and care for their mental health during these turbulent times. So despite the work we have to do, I also choose to lift that burden from their shoulders so that they can be kids and feel the fullness of that freedom. I marched so that they can continue to play.
So I will continue to march, in both action and in my words. To do what I can to support other Black people, while speaking out when I see or hear something that is wrong. I can teach my children to do the same, to nurture within them strength and courage to know through and through that they are their best thing and that their lives are so important. That they in their Blackness are not here by accident and that they are crucial to our American dream. I can value my time and space and do my body justice by taking time for myself and nurturing my own mental health. I can hold space for my husband when it feels like the balancing act of military life and Black life is too much some days. I can educate my White friends who want to know better and do better. I can separate myself and my family from those who no longer serve our interests and happiness. I can speak truth to power and live my best life by investing in myself and teaching my children to invest in their own worth.
Marching last weekend was just the beginning. What follows will be beautiful.