Black Lives Matter Mural and Holding Both

I have begun to exit from my total COVID-19 lock down. My husband is a person at high risk for severe complications from COVID-19. We decided to stick to strict social distancing and other recommendations to keep both of us safe. Since New York City has reduced the number of infections significantly to below 1%, I’ve been venturing outside more.

During the height of the virus in New York, there were so many people protesting the death of George Floyd. We watched it from inside. A few days ago, I walked with a friend to Union Square in Manhattan, a central starting point of most demonstrations. There I found a colossal mural supporting Black Lives Matter. I was so moved by it I began filming with my cellphone to get a sense of it. I eventually went back with my video camera to record the experience. Here is what I found.

The artists divided the mural into two parts. On Union Square East, there are Black people’s names on grey painted plywood who have been killed by the police in the US and other countries. Feet and legs are moving forward from different cultures and places. It was, at once, a memorial to their lives and a celebration of their spirits. The grey tones also help one’s grief.

Around the corner On East 15th Street was something completely different. There were quotes by leaders of African American rights’ struggle on how to change these unjust situations from various decades. Once again, the plywood was grey, but the messages were is a bold and strong font. Not a scream, but a steady, honorable voice of encouragement to those who will struggle against this gaping in wound our society that has not yet been replaced with equal positive regard for all.

Here is what you will see if you come to New York City and walk around Union Square.

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Black Lives Matter: Stop Police Violence

The past weeks’ protests demand that I hold space for many aspects of this historic moment simultaneously. There is activism in every state of the United States that inspires me. People in countries around the world also demand an end of racial violence in the US and their own countries. At the same time, we need to hold space for those brave enough to leave their homes and risk transmission of COVID-19 to have their say.

On one of the first days of the protest, I was able to see that so many of the people participating in the demonstrations are teenagers, like the students I used to teach. I see they are getting arrested, and police are putting them in jail for their activism against police violence. These jails are epicenters of COVID-19 transmissions. I cry because I love them. I have a special place in my heart for teenagers, having spent so many years sharing important life moments with them.  I love them because they want a better life for everyone and are willing to risk their own well-being for the greater good.  I also grieve for the tragedy of their young lives. First COVID-19, the loss of school, maybe the loss of loved ones, perhaps poverty, and the experience of how little the society they live in values their lives.

I also need to hold space for “there is no other way to get to where our world needs to go.” I sense that the brave souls leading and participating in this journey are not just doing this for themselves. They are acting with a “we” consciousness.

How is this Happening?

As I try to make sense of this moment, I kept asking myself how is this happening? As a child, I watched Vietnam war end because of demonstrations around the world.  I thought that the demonstrations just happened spontaneously and the politicians surrendered to pubic opinion.  I later found out that ending the war was the result of an immense effort to organize and educate society along with the the persistence, and the power that that desire to stop the war created.  So I knew to look for what is not visible to me.  These new and powerful voices that seemingly emerged overnight are not new.  The events are the result of years of effort to organize and educate society along with power that the desire to end police violence other aspects of racism creates.

This post offers a chance to meet the leaders of this movement–African American women who used their anger around the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, to create a vast network of organizations that helped us get to where we are today. They will tell you how they used their body sense of their lives to propel us to this moment in history. They offer many suggestions of how to be part of this energy and power. I hope you enjoy the video below hosted by Jane Fonda of Fire Drill Fridays in conversation with the leaders of the Movement for Black Lives Jessica Boyd, Colette Pichon Battle and Chinyere Tutashinda.

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