This post has been swirling in my head for months. Maybe I paid more attention because of the quarantine and businesses being closed. Maybe I paid more attention because I’m no longer at a job that literally takes over 70+ hours per week of my time. Maybe I paid more attention because I vowed to be more educated in what happens in the world than years past. Maybe I paid more attention simply because after eight years of my social media being dark I started an Instagram account. Regardless of the reason, the domino effects of George Floyd’s death in Minnesota put me into a hazy, dark, and twisted place. I can’t begin to fathom where it has left so many others.
For the bulk of the summer I’ve been fairly quiet. Researching, listening, reading, digging. Trying to figure out how on earth I have been so naive in believing that everyone in our country is free and that racism is a thing of the past, only occasionally dappled in by a handful of ignorant people. As I’ve done my reading and listening, it seems like one thing after another spiraled and this disgustingly hateful snowball just kept gathering speed. But then again, that snowball really never truly stopped rolling, did it?
I still don’t know the right words to say, but I also know that silence only protects those who don’t deserve it. So in lieu of writing more about my feelings and shortcomings, here are a few things that have been helpful in educating me on what the problems are and how we can overcome them.
Podcasts: These are both short, blunt, and to the point. While the “1619 Project,” which included essays and photos on the 400th anniversary of African slaves being brought to the 13 colonies, was actually released back in 2019, it has resurfaced this summer in podcast format. Nikole Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize for her work with the project. The 1A podcast has new episodes six days out of the week. These two episodes in particular feature guest speakers discussing police brutality and the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder.
Movies: When her son disappears, Kendra Ellis-Connor goes to the local police station for answers. Adapted from the stage, Kerry Washington is brilliant in American Son, a one-scene movie that is full of twists and turns. This movie will flood you with emotions and truly make you re-think how we look and react to people. Ava DuVernay’s film Selma retells the events before and after the several failed attempts and then final victory of civil rights marchers through Selma, Alabama during the time before the Voting Rights Act was finally passed in 1965.
Books: My TBR (to be read) pile on this subject feels like it is a mile high. Black Like Me was written by a white man who changed the pigmentation of his skin during the era of the Civil Rights Movement. It’s a culmination of his journal entries during that time. The contrasts he creates of people and places he could talk to or be around as a white man versus when he added brown pigment to his skin was striking.
I’m Still Here… by Austin Channing Brown was a slap in the face. Nude colored tights, that are not in fact “nude” for black and brown people, and the white man’s name her parents gave her in hopes it would give her a leg up and give her resume a fighting chance….This book is filled with what will be epiphanies for some, while every day normalcy for others.
Just Mercy got quite a bit of publicity, especially when the movie came out, and hit a revival in recent months. While you can absolutely take the two hours and seventeen minutes to watch the film, I would encourage you to read the book. There is something about seeing the unbelievable statutes and laws written in black and white on a physical page that really lets them sink in. This also dives into prison reform and is certainly a case and point when it comes to public defenders being under-compensated, but most of all undervalued.
If you’re searching for a way to talk about how black lives matter with your junior high kids, pick up Dear Martin. Nic Stone doesn’t hold back with the language or situations, and while she’s writing about high school age kids, if you think your 6th, 7th, and 8th graders aren’t already seeing and hearing what’s in this book, well….that’s probably another conversation for a different day. Take turn reading the chapters out loud, it’ll spark a dialogue and even the shyest of kids won’t be afraid to ask you questions.
We all have so much to learn. Let’s keep the conversation going.