I recently watched Selma. I now need to watch it again and again until I can view it without the searing pain that slices at everything I believe and hold dear.
I’m challenged by the fact that people had to deal with the indignities of reciting the Constitution’s preamble in order to have their voter registration card considered for approval.
Little girls were blown to smithereens to send the message that black lives didn’t matter. Police dogs were attacking citizens and water hoses were used to spray people with so much pressure that it left their bodies bruised.
Black people (and their white allies) were hung from trees like strange fruit. Peaceful protests became murder scenes and angry mobs full of racist white people stood on the sidelines, reinforcing the belief that “niggers” had no right to vote.
Black people couldn’t serve on juries unless they were registered voters. Without that powerful right, the only places that mattered, where our voices were heard, was in church and the schools we defiantly created so our children had an opportunity to learn. It was indeed a sad time.
After so many bled and died, we were given the coveted right to walk into a booth and cast our ballots so we, too, could participate in America’s political process. So here we are 50 years later, and 1965 is juxtaposed into the modern day. We’ve begun to underscore the value of voting, and during any given election in Philadelphia—or any other city—less than 20% of the population exercises that right.
The end result of disengaging from the political process has been the murders of our innocent black children at the hands of people who wouldn’t have so much power if we didn’t give ours away through apathy.
The school houses we created are either long gone or in financial distress. We have failed to support our institutions, and on any given day we can be found pointing fingers at each other, instead of collectively taking responsibility and striving to be better.
We suppress the emerging and genuine leaders who want to help the masses, and celebrate those who are charismatic, ego-driven, and mediocre.
The world is watching now as once again black, brown, and white people have taken to the streets to demonstrate their dignity. It’s incredibly difficult to keep the bitterness and sadness at bay some days, but like those who came before us, we have a moral duty to not just lie down and die.
We must continue to contribute our gifts to the community and support each other in the process. We’ve got to teach and remember our history, because 50 years from now we may be in the same conditions, shaking our heads in despair.
I choose to not only have hope, but to act upon it in an effort to leave this world a better place for the generations to come.
This story first appeared at The Good Men Project. More from our partner:
Self-Serving Leaders and Outdated Orgs Among Black America’s Top Problem
The Power of Black Money in the Aftermath of Ferguson