On January 1st 2015, a die-in demonstration took place at Wheaton Mall. The event was entitled #BlackLivesStillMatter; which was a inspired by the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag. If you have been active on Twitter, you would have at some point in time come across the hashtag. It was originally created in 2012, after George Zimmerman was acquitted for the murder of Trayvon Martin. It was not until the acquittal of Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown that this hashtag became more than a trending topic on Twitter; it was the name of the twenty-first century Civil Rights movement. The anger and frustration people expressed over the internet soon led to worldwide protests, marches, demonstrations.
Even though the message this hashtag encapsulates is powerful, just like any other trending topic it tends to be written off after some time has passed. On social media we have seen the trend in which movements such as this have taken root and also plateaued. Sadly movements like this–just like every other trending topic–tend to die out, with the coming of a trendier or more timely issue. This is also emphasized with the coming of a New Year.
There is an unspoken collective declaration made that with the coming of a New Year, bringing forth a new slate or a fresh start for all of us. And although this “New Year, Fresh Start” mindset brings about a lot of good things, it also threatened the progress we have made with this movement. That is what led me to organize my first demonstration on New Year’s Day. I understood that by putting 2014 completely behind us, we are also inadvertently writing off the progress we have been making with this movement. It is only by keeping this movement going that any real progress can be made. If this movement is forgotten, then we not only leave behind the progress that we have made but we also leave behind Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin. Because it is only a matter of time before another name is added onto the list.
And on January 1st, 2015, about 100 people participated in the die-in. By participating in the die-in they let their actions speak on behalf of their refusal to ring in 2015 by continuing to stay silent about an issue such as this. To say that they too are sick of seeing Black lives being murdered across this nation, at the hands of either a vigilante or a police officer– and a justice system does not hold any persons accountable for these killings. A second demonstration took place in Downtown Silver Spring, entitled #ReclaimMLK because it took place the same week as Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The demonstration was meant to pay homage to the work for social justice that Martin Luther King Jr. did. And even though this second event did not garner as much attention as the first, I expected that.
The purpose of every demonstration was to show our elected officials that we will not rest until police brutality, the unlawful targeting and killing of black people, and the dangerous biases in our flawed judicial system have been sufficiently addressed. We will continue to raise our voices about this issue, until it is properly addressed.
But being an active member of this movement can most definitely be disheartening–especially when there are people either on social networking sites or as you are marching on the streets who say things such as, “Michael Brown deserved to die!” It makes you wonder, how can other not see the same injustice being done as I do?
So why do I continue to fight? Two reasons: because by staying active within this movement, I try and honor the lives of my brothers and sisters who have passed away at the hands of police, and because there is a dream yet to be realized. Martin Luther King Jr. had a vision, and even with the election of Obama as President we are far away from the promised land. During this month in particular–Black History Month–in conjunction with the events that have unfolded in Ferguson, I cannot help but see a recurring theme of Black struggle towards equality. But within the narrative of Black struggle within this country, I also see resilience and an unrelenting spirit of hope. I believe the hope lies within the youth of this country. Mainly because, the persons who are fueling this movement are the youth of this nation. If it is not up to us, there will be no better days. Those before us have done what they could, and this movement is ours now. We must carry on where they left off, and not only that but continue to fight with the same diligence and forcefulness, so no one after us has to pick up the pains that come along with this movement. There is hope for change, but that hope relies on us staying active.
So expect more demonstrations, expect more rallies, and protests. A few people may be sick and tired of hearing about this issue or movement, but please understand that this is not just merely a hashtag for some of us–this is our reality. And I refuse to see another one of my innocent brothers’ or sisters’ names added onto the list of lives taken by the hands of police officials. No justice, no peace.
Guest contribution by Elsa Lakew, Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition organizer
Photo by MoCo Student staff writer Lillian Andemicael. See here for more information on the Wheaton Mall demonstration.