by Joy W. Simone
This is not a roll call of the senseless deaths that occurred over the last month or year, the unjust acts that have left numerous, nameless young African American boys in graves. This is not a roll call of the senseless beatings, attacks and abuse suffered by African American girls across the country who have suffered in silence. Our missing children go without a searchlight, without nationwide acknowledgement, without fair treatment. Yet, parents, neighbors, friends, classmates, and families grieve. There’s a poem by Langston Hughes called Democracy that has special meaning to me because I once won an oratorical contest based on my delivery. At the age of 15, however, I did not fully comprehend its meaning, its weight, its implications.
Democracy will not come
Today, this year
Through compromise and fear.
I have as much right
As the other fellow has
On my two feet
And own the land.
I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I’m dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow’s bread.
Is a strong seed
In a great need.
I live here, too.
I want freedom
Just as you. – Langston Hughes
In the last stanza, Hughes says:
I live here, too. I want freedom. Just as you.
Michael Brown, undoubtedly, horrifically discovered the meaning of these words.
If our country and constitution are based on the words stated in the Declaration of Independence…
We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
…then why do we not see this reflected in our society and culture at this time? Who among us deserves less than this?
The President’s official comment about the murder of Michael Brown reflects the sentiments.
“I know emotions are raw right now in Ferguson and there are certainly passionate differences about what has happened, but let’s remember that we’re all part of one American family, we are united in common values and that includes the belief in equality under the law, respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protests.” – President Obama
Today versus 1950s – 1960s
It is disheartening to see such parallels between what occurred nearly a century ago – African American lives being threatened, snuffed out on the brink of overcoming, achieving, excelling. And still it should be no less disheartening to have any life taken too soon in an unjust manner at the whim of someone’s prerogative, sense of fear, personal sense of justice, or an incomprehensible justification.
Perhaps a renewed focus on the past would help bring things into perspective. Yet, images of cruelty and protest could fuel opposing forces and bring more peril. One-on-one, individually, neighbor to neighbor, we’ve got to share some collective responsibility for change.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.
Read more on Michael Brown #ferguson:
Essence.com – http://www.essence.com/2014/08/15/ferguson-police-release-officer-name-michael-brown-shooting
Poem – http://blogthisrock.blogspot.com/2014/08/poem-of-week-danez-smith.html?m=1
WSJ.com – http://online.wsj.com/articles/joseph-epstein-whats-missing-in-ferguson-mo-1407885042
Washingtonpost.com – http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/08/15/ferguson-police-releasing-name-of-officer-who-shot-michael-brown/