“Your voices matter, your dreams matter, your lives matter”: on BLM

“People like us in situations like this become hashtags, but they rarely get justice. I think we all wait for that one time though, that one time when it ends right.” 
 Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give

This is about George Floyd.

But, as Angie Thomas writes in her young adult novel The Hate U Give (2017), this is also about Oscar Grant and:

“Aiyana. 
Trayvon. 
Rekia. 
Michael. 
Eric. 
Tamir. 
John. 
Ezell. 
Sandra. 
Freddie. 
Alton. 
Philando. 

It’s even about that little boy in 1955 who nobody recognized at first—Emmett.” 


Our hearts are heavy.

It is impossible to write and say the right thing while processing four hundred years of trauma, abuse, and injustice.

I understand what a privilege it is to even articulate our anger and pain in this way.

Scholar Edén E. Torres writes:

Knowing the history of North Africa from the period of its indigenous civilizations through the destruction caused by conquest and colonization has helped many people to develop ethnic loyalty […] But simply learning the dates and names or the geographical locations of that history does not enlighten us about its effect on the human soul. Our ancestors suffered the events and devastating displacements of that history, and we continue to experience its legacy, though our responses to it are much different. Through hundreds of years of upheaval, they fought–we fight–to survive. This constant state of struggle and endurance leaves little time to indulge in a ritualistic or communal grieving process for all that we have lost through imperialist processes. Our political rhetoric does not always reveal the scars we carry in our hearts heavy with this history, but our literature tells the story.” (12)

So, we watch, listen, read, reflect, support, and share the story.

As Angie Thomas asks, “What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?” 

Please read, reflect on, implement, share the quotes below; and share with us in the comments more resources, quotes and readings.


Artwork by Katie Wohl, Breonna Taylor, #Black Lives Matter Art Series

“I feel that if we don’t take seriously the ways in which racism is embedded in structures of institutions, if we assume that there must be an identifiable racist who is the perpetrator, then we won’t ever succeed in eradicating racism.” 

Angela Y. Davis, Freedom Is a Constant Struggle

“I am angry. It is illegal for me to be angry. Remember: Don’t get angry. It is illegal to be a black man and be angry. Right. Got it. I will remember this next time.” 

― Kara Lee Corthron, The Truth of Right Now

“If slavery persists as an issue in the political life of black America, it is not because of an antiquarian obsession with bygone days or the burden of a too-long memory, but because black lives are still imperiled and devalued by a racial calculus and a political arithmetic that were entrenched centuries ago. This is the afterlife of slavery–skewed life chances, limited access to health and education, premature death, incarceration, and impoverishment.” 

 Saidiya V. Hartman, Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route

“Really, we’re fighting because she raised me to never forget I was born on parole, which means no black hoodies in wrong neighborhoods, no jogging at night, hands in plain sight at all times in public, no intimate relationships with white women, never driving over the speed limit or doing those rolling stops at stop signs, always speaking the King’s English in the presence of white folks, never being outperformed in school or in public by white students, and, most importantly, always remembering that no matter what, the worst of white folks will do anything to get you.” 

Kiese Laymon, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America

“Authentic and sustainable solidarity efforts must be premises on this broader understanding of why Black lives matter, why they have not mattered historically, and why they still do not matter today as they should. Centralizing Black communities in the current moment is how genuine solidarity begins. South Asian, Arab, and Muslim activists have been a careful not to co-opt or expand this premise by applying it to their communities – by stating “All Lives Matter” or “South Asian Lives Matter,” for example. This stems from the knowledge that when Black lives actually matter, when Black people are not seen as disposable commodities, then all lives will truly matter. In other words, when Black people, who are at the bottom of America’s divisive racial ladder, are free, it will be impossible for systems and policies to engage in discrimination and racism against other communities of color.” 

Deepa Iyer, We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future

“Such was the short bitter life of Brother Tod Clifton. Now he’s in this box with the bolts tightened down. He’s in the box and we’re in there with him, and when I’ve told you this you can go. It’s dark in this box and it’s crowded. It has a cracked ceiling and a clogged-up toilet in the hall. It has rats and roaches, and it’s far, far too expensive a dwelling. The air is bad and it’ll be cold this winter. Tod Clifton is crowded and he needs the room. ‘Tell them to get out of the box’, that’s what he would say if you could hear him. ‘Tell them to get out of the box and go teach the cops to forget that rhyme. Tell them to teach them that when they call you n** to make a rhyme with trigger it makes the gun backfire.”

Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

“The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it’s the only way forward.”

 Ijeoma Oluo 

“All our silences in the face of racist assault are acts of complicity.” 

 bell hooks, Killing Rage: Ending Racism

“These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.”

Martin Luther King, JR. “Beyond Vietnam”

“Does the law exist for the purpose of furthering the ambitions of those who have sworn to uphold the law, or is it seriously to be considered as a moral, unifying force, the health and strength of a nation? The trouble with these questions, of course, is that they sound rhetorical, and have the effect of irritating the reader, who does not wish to be told that the administration of justice in this country is a wicked farce. Well, if one really wishes to know how justice is administered in a country, one does not question the policemen, the lawyers, the judges, or the protected members of the middle class. One goes to the unprotected—those, precisely, who need the law’s protection most!—and listens to their testimony. Ask any Mexican, any Puerto Rican, any black man, any poor person—ask the wretched how they fare in the halls of justice, and then you will know, not whether or not the country is just, but whether or not is has any love for justice, or any concept of it.

It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”

James Baldwin, “No Name in the Street” in The Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction

More Resources & Recommended Reading:

Resources, News, and Petitions on BlackLivesMatter.com

Justice for George Floyd Petition on Change.org

Official George Floyd Memorial Fund

Support the National Police Accountability Project: of the National Lawyers Guild that helps people find legal counsel

“How a Minnesota Bail Fund Raised $20 Million”

Donate to the Minnesota Bail Fund

Donate to the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund

“George Floyd, Houston’s Protests, and Living Without the Benefit of the Doubt” by Bryan Washington

History of #BLM on PEW Research Center

“An Ongoing List of Ways to Join the Anti-Racist Fight”

Katie Wohl’s “Black Lives Matter – Black Voices” Art Series

Again, please share more resources, quotes and readings.

8 replies

  1. Very well-chosen quotes!! Almost every sentence in this post shook me to the core, and what deeply moved me in particular was Ijeoma Oluo’s “The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself.”
    No one is doomed to be a racist for the rest of their lives. Despite the countless disheartening events over the years, I believe humanity and a prejudice-free mindset still have a chance to prevail within everyone of us, and education is always key in this process.
    Thank you for the post, Neriman!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Another great post, Neri. Thank you. During turbulent, troubling times, many people turn to religion; however, perhaps like you, I turn to literature. Often when I am researching articles for Bookshelf, I am struck by the prescience of writers whose insights decades ago are just as relevant today. Take this excerpt from Russian novelist Alexandr Solzhenitsyn from his Nobel Prize speech dovetails nicely with many of the quotations you selected: “[Art and literature] can perform a miracle: they can overcome man’s detrimental peculiarity of learning only from personal experience so that the experience of other people passes him by in vain. From man to man, as he completes his brief spell on Earth, art transfers the whole weight of an unfamiliar, lifelong experience with all its burdens, its colours, its sap of life; it recreates in the flesh an unknown experience and allows us to possess it as our own… I believe that world literature has it in its power to help mankind, in these its troubled hours, to see itself as it really is, notwithstanding the indoctrinations of prejudiced people and parties. World literature has it in its power to convey condensed experience from one land to another so that we might cease to be split and dazzled, that the different scales of values might be made to agree, and one nation learn correctly and concisely the true history of another with such strength of recognition and painful awareness as it had itself experienced the same, and thus might it be spared from repeating the same cruel mistakes. And perhaps under such conditions we artists will be able to cultivate within ourselves a field of vision to embrace the WHOLE WORLD: in the centre observing like any other human being that which lies nearby, at the edges we shall begin to draw in that which is happening in the rest of the world. And we shall correlate, and we shall observe world proportions…” Cheers. Alex

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Alex, thank you for sharing this wonderful quote. What a well-written paragraph about the power of literature. “We artists will be able to cultivate within ourselves a field of vision to embrace the WHOLE WORLD: in the centre observing like any other human being that which lies nearby, at the edges we shall begin to draw in that which is happening in the rest of the world” –this bit particularly resonates with me. -Neri

      Liked by 1 person

  3. These are some excellent recommendations! I especially love Baldwin. Even his fiction on non-racial issues is incredibly good too (I’m thinking Giovanni’s Room). I’ve always recommended him to friends who want to try and understand the black american experience.
    I think unfortunately people do need to want to listen in the first place though, or it’s pretty useless. I’ve found this with my step-brother who I used to be really close with, but is such a dick on political issues and just sticks his head in the sand on issues like BLM, and pretty much refuses to accept there’s a problem at all (he just thinks “black people like complaining”). I’m not sure what you do with white guys who say things like that? Besides kicking them in the nuts, of course, Lol.

    Like

    • Hi Anita, yes, I love Baldwin’s writing too– Giovanni’s Room and Just Above My Head are both fascinating. He has a special place in my heart also because he called Istanbul home for a while.

      And you’re right about the idea that people need to be willing to listen and to have a conversation about these critical issues. I’m not sure what exactly it is that keeps them from understanding the importance of these conversations — a lack of empathy, compassion, understanding? A lack of love?

      Like

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