I marched twice this weekend. The first day was Friday at a faith-based event protesting the killing of young black men. New York City on a Friday evening in December. The cold quickly set in and I walked back and forth, taking steps to keep myself warm in front of City Hall. The small group then walked a few blocks to One Police Plaza and proceeded to circle around NYPD headquarters not once but seven times. On the Saturday, a much milder day, my friend Kristen and I managed to catch up to the 50,000+ crowd as they moved with fluidity down Broadway. Further downtown until, once again, getting to One Police Plaza before they moved onto the Brooklyn Bridge.
What happens next? I thought as we left downtown for midtown Manhattan. Not once the crowd crosses into Brooklyn but where does this movement, this protest, this pervasive anger go after the weekend? So, we marched until our feet grew tired and we chanted until our throats were sore but then what? We cannot simply rest because it’s no longer a trending topic but…what? Jamelle Bouie made this point in Slate. My exact line - but far better written - of thinking over the past four days:
“With protests across the country and endorsements from major figures in American society, “Black Lives Matter” might be the most significant youth movement in recent history. But right now—and not unlike its contemporary, Occupy Wall Street—it reads as just an exercise in catharsis, a declaration of dignity and a plea for humanity. This isn’t a bad thing, but it isn’t a strategy. Not only could “Black Lives Matter” shift attitudes on criminal justice and force a needed conversation about police culture and police violence, it could create political space for changes to law and policy.”
Non-violent protest isn’t enough nor is simply acknowledging the systemic and long-standing issues between communities of color and the police. We know that these issues exist and while we join hands to say, ‘enough is enough’, there needs to be that push towards engagement. A shift in policy. A mention in a party platform. I wish that true change simply came from feet on the streets. I truly do. I managed to miss that both houses of Congress passed a bill to address police killings but that isn’t enough and I hope that upon learning so we - the collective ‘we’ that sees this injustice and knows that there is more to be done - doesn’t stop simply because of one bill. No. This is only the first of many steps that need to be taken.
Please don’t think that I have anything to suggest even though I think that something more needs to be done. Though, a quick digression; a week or so ago I did a TEDx talk on political engagement and at the end our MC asked me what people can do in order to stay involved and motivated - what makes lobbying effective? I, in all of my anxiety and nervousness answered that lobbying requires the ability to be a pain in the ass. Lobbying is putting that ‘can’t stop, won’t stop’ mentality into practice. It’s showing up even when the legislator thinks that you should give up. It’s knocking on a legislator’s door, making that phone call until you see movement. It’s what I always suggest, of this I am aware but keep being that thorn in your legislator’s side. Phone calls, letters, just saying ‘hello’ at a community event; these acts make a difference. They show the person you are trying to convince that someone does care.
I’ll end with this - and I am scattered today, for which I apologize - a quick word on Grand Juries. Though I have never been to law school I do know that Grand Juries are a cross section of the communities where they serve. If a lack of education or social standards in these communities leads to inexplicable outcomes then that is on society. It’s on us. It goes back to the old ‘you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink’.
We are part of the problem. Until we hold ourselves and our respective communities to a higher standard then this will go on and on. We’ll still be marching come summer.