A global pandemic widely known as COVID-19, has made the world stop, slow down, and realize that we truly are all in this world together. Regardless of age race, color, origin or creed this global crisis became the great equalizer.
A Spark Ignites
The virus that nearly brought the world to a sudden halt, has touched the rich and the poor, the old and young, bringing widespread illness and death to people of all colors. It has also sparked economic uncertainty casting a brightly lit flame across black and brown communities in particular, which are said to be the hardest hit and most impacted.
Just as the world began settling into various levels of quarantine and people started to learning how to social distance as called for by the pandemic, it was only a matter of time before the winds of change would fan the already lit flame of the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Where There's Smoke Caught on Camera...
A couple of Caucasian men, likely bored from being in quarantine, decide to become vigilantes and kill an innocent black man they have been watching as he walks the neighborhood; a white woman decides to call police on a bystander who happens to be a black male, politely asking asking her to control her dog as they both shared the common space of a major city park; incidents of police brutality follow in other cities bringing to light white police officers fatally killing black men who were presumed innocent. In this glorious age of social media, incidents such as this are being caught on camera, for all the world to see, and for a people already enraged and on fire for justice, the ammunition needed to call for action to address systemic racism.
Then Comes a Flame...
The unjust attacks on blacks, men and women, have gone largely unanswered until now. In Georgia, the recent deaths of Rayshard Brooks and Ahmad Arbery, both black males, who were killed by white men sparked protests and marches against systemic racism. Black people are not just angry, they are determined to raise awareness and demand change not only in the south, but across the United States.
Girls on Fire
Youth are on the front lines, actively and positively working to raise the voices of the African-America community in the ongoing fight for equality and justice, sounding their voices in honor of Juneteenth 2020.
"The celebration of Juneteenth is important because the transatlantic slave kidnapping was the biggest deportation and enslavement of a people in history and a determining factor in the world economy starting from the16th-to-the-20th century. Millions of Africans were torn from their homes, deported to the American continent and sold as slaves. Their enslaved forced labor is the economic foundation that the Americas stands on today." - juneteenthatl.com
The annual celebration that marks the end of slavery in Texas looked quite different this year than it has in the past, partly due to COVID-19, but mostly because organizers around the country took to the streets with ongoing protests and marches to raise awareness about racial inequality and injustice.
“We have to continue to fight. We must live for those who have died, they live in us.” - Aniyah Vines, The Live Movement
“We wanted Historically Black Colleges & Universities to be on the front lines and unify so our voices can be heard,” says Aniyah Vines, creator of The Live Movement, and a rising Jr. at Howard University. "I wanted to create platform, a movement where youth can talk about how they feel and the changes they want to see...the youth are the future."
Aniyah's passion for justice was ignited upon her completion of the Justice and Injustice course led by Juror Doctor Nichad Davis during her experience as a 2016 Duke Tip scholar. Her passion became action after she and her family experienced the senseless murder of her cousin, Delrawn Smalls, who was wrongfully killed by an off-duty police officer in Brooklyn.
Recognizing the drawbacks in the Criminal Justice System, she has engaged in various levels of community and social justice projects which includes creating the V.O.I.C.E. (Vision, Outspoken, Inspire, Create, Evolve) mentoring program, implementing and facilitating the Northwest School of the Arts (NWSA) Gun Violence Awareness walk-out, and partnering as the program co-director for the Howard University Alternative Spring Break DC jail - Dr. Muhammad Experience 2019 among others initiatives to create connections around criminal justice reform that help to educate youth and create conversations with law enforcement officials.
Winds of Change Fuel the Flame
With compassion, whites and people of all other races and origins are locking arms in solidarity supporting the movement toward change. Corporate America is answering to the call for change, developing if not enhancing already existing Diversity & Inclusion programming. In efforts to seek understanding and find ways to help with the movement towards equality some have gone as far as to proclaim Juneteenth as a recognized holiday for their organization.
Real conversations are taking place in the living rooms and at the dinner table but there is some skepticism among African-Americans who want to see longstanding action behind the talk.
“This is all great,” says Cassandra West, Secretary for the Live Moment who organized a Juneteeth march in her hometown Chelmsford, Massachusetts, where the holiday has never been celebrated. The rising Junior at Howard University, majoring in Psychology and double minoring in Strategic Communications and Administration of Justice says, “I appreciate the statements of solidarity,...I think it's convenient they're all coming out at the same time. I hope they are following up with actual policy changes that would allow for black and brown people to have better lives. We want to make sure that it’s not just talk.”
A long overdue dialogue is taking place, people are coming together to grow their understanding and support the movement toward open and honest equality. “Our voices are being lifted up and people are hearing them. Now we have to implement systemic change strategically,” says Jonathan Mayo, Director of Corporate Engagement for Year Up Greater Atlanta, a one-year intensive education and internship program for urban young adults aged 18-24. Year Up's program recognizes that both job skills (technical and professional) and higher education are necessary to provide a viable path to economic self-sufficiency.
"It's going to take all of us coming together, all people...standing against systemic racism." - Jonathan Mayo, Year Up Atlanta
There are other victories arising out of the flames for justice. For more than a decade, elected officials in Georgia delayed the passage of a Hate Crime Bill that would punish actions of injustice. However, on the hills of recent current events, the State of Georgia could have a law that extends protections to people who are targeted because of their race, sexual orientation, religion or physical or mental disability. House Bill 436 awaits signature of Georgia Governor Brian Kemp.
"The Georgia Legislature on Tuesday approved hate-crimes legislation, setting the state up to have a law on the books for the first time in more than a decade that extends protections to people who are targeted because of their race or sexual orientation or religion. House Bill 426 would allow enhanced criminal penalties to be levied against those who target their victims on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, or physical or mental disability. The bill now heads to Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature." – Atlanta Journal & Constitution
Aniyah Vines hopes to take the Live Movement to a national level spreading awareness about education and criminal justice reform, with formal classes in school systems. The march she organized in association with Juneteenth Atlanta held on Friday, June 19th, was the largest gathering for Live Movement. It drew a sea of supporters and participants.
We have a lot of work to do as a nation, there is much healing that needs to take place. “We are going to use our minds and our hearts to change this world ,” says Jonathan Mayo, Year Up Atlanta.
Thanks to the Black Lives Matter Movement, the Live Movement, and countless others black, brown and white raising our collective voices we can begin to heal, celebrate our differences and commonalities, and hopefully continue to move forward in the right direction.
Valerie Winrow is an author and a women’s lifestyle writer/blogger with focused content on health, wellness, and finance. Her “Yes, I'm That Girl!” blog and "Yes, That Girl!" podcast, shares inspirational stories and anecdotes to encourage others to live a life of purpose.
Check out Valerie's podcast interview with Aniyah Vines, Cassandra West, and Jonathan Mayo on the “Yes, That Girl!” podcast on Anchor for more inspiration and encouragement for your daily living. Follow Valerie online @yesimthatgirlblog on Instagram, and @yesthatgirl on Facebook and Twitter.
Follow the Aniyah Vines on Instagram @_thelivemovement / @smilingemoji. Follow Cassandra West on Instagram @cassandra.vines.
Special appreciation to Sona Jobarteh. African Guild Records. Website. sonajobarteh.com. Sona is a vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and composer from the Gambia. She was born in 1983 into one of the five principal Kora-playing Griot families from West Africa – she is the first female professional kora player to come from a Griot family. Follow her on Instagram @sonajobarteh.
Sona's hit song "Gambia," is sprinkled throughout this week's podcast in celebration of Charmaine Minniefield, Atlanta Visual Artist who is currently collaborating with other artists in The Gambia to celebrate the voices of our Ancestors.
Charmaine Minniefield draws from indigenous traditions as seen throughout Africa and the Diaspora and her personal connection to women who have played a major role in her life.
Her work explores African and African American ritual from a feminist perspective by pulling the past to the present, conversing between spirit space and the physical.
Follow Charmaine on Instagram @blackangelatl.
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