By Ivan Williams, Community Impact Manager, United Way of the National Capital Area
When remembering this time in our history, there are many incidents to recall the experience. Many families transitioned from regularly scheduled activities like school and professional sports to home quarantine to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The circumstances surrounding the virus forced millions out of work at a time when we know many are already struggling to survive. The immeasurable loss of family members and loved ones organically created this environment where we found ourselves seeking empathy and transparency from our institutions that protect and support us.
It is under all of these circumstances that forced the country to take notice of the lack of empathy and humanity citizens like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery received from the individuals that took their lives. All of these cases are unfortunate examples of white supremacy and systemic racism manifesting in our Law Enforcement system. This system needs reforms primarily due to its overwhelming tendency to convict and sentence black and brown men to crimes disproportionately to their white counterparts.
The news coverage of protests in the streets and footage of buildings on fire and police cars turned over was previously a scene from a history book or dystopian future that someone else had dreamed up as breaking news on live television. I was too young to take notice of the riots in Los Angeles following the acquittal of the officers in the Rodney King case. The marches and protests of that time and before are a part of not only my family’s history but embedded into the DNA of this country. We have a responsibility to ensure that we come out of this new movement with a new sense of optimism and continue to fight for a better future for everyone in our country regardless of their race, religion or social status.
On May 25th, when the Black Lives Movement became heightened with the news of George Floyd, we were angry, hurt and in desperate need to find a solution to end police brutality against Black men. It activated communities at large to come together in the days and weeks with peaceful protests, demonstrations and everything in between.
What’s validating about this current situation is seeing and knowing that we—the Black community—were not the only ones upset this time. In the past, we felt we were the only ones who cared, but not this time and that’s what’s made this moment different.
It made me think about a quote I always hear from talk radio host, Joe Madison, “The difference between a moment and a movement is sacrifice.” When I see the protests in DC that is what I’m seeing: sacrifice. We’re seeing small businesses and corporations, celebrities and individuals step up. They are showing that they are committed to being part of the change and seeing it through.
It’s been more than six weeks since the passing of George Floyd. Many of us are being called back to work and beginning to stabilize in this new way of working and living during the pandemic. But I urge you to stay committed to that sacrifice that fired you up weeks ago. Continue to demand equity for your Black brothers and sisters. Enough is enough until justice prevails.
This piece is part of a collection of stories told by African American male colleagues at United Way NCA. To hear more, click https://unitedwaynca.org/podcast
Originally posted in the Patch.