By Frances Murphy (Toni) Draper
For many of us, including me, the past two weeks have been the most impactful, life-changing weeks in my entire life. I am old enough to remember many marches and demonstrations; many protests and sit-ins; and, unfortunately too many instances of African Americans dying at the hand of those sworn to protect and serve. As a young girl, I vaguely remember rocks being thrown at my Dad’s old Ford station wagon, as he drove through the gates of the newly integrated Sandy Point State Park; as a high schooler, I remember my mother taking my brother, sister and me to D.C. for the March on Washington; as a college student, I remember marching and protesting and, yes, writing about the rioting after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and a mere five years ago, I remember being in the streets of Baltimore with fellow clergy as we linked arms with other community leaders to protest the murder of Freddie Gray.
But this moment in history is different. It has a different feel to it. It is more than a march, more than a protest, more than a demonstration, more than the singing of “We Shall Overcome.” It is a movement primarily led and organized by young people; young people who understand that, while we deeply mourn the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Freddie Gray, and so many more whose pictures have appeared on the front page of the AFRO, there must be reform in every area beginning with a radical overhaul of many of the nation’s police departments. These young, and not so young protestors (even in the midst of the possible resurgence of the coronavirus) are willing to lift their voices and their signs, until justice is served; willing to unashamedly declare that Black Lives Really Matter. And, for those who so readily counter with “all lives matter,” you’re missing the main point. It is true that all lives matter, and no one is saying that only Black lives matter. However, Black lives are the ones that are in grave danger. If your house is on fire, you don’t want the fire department to put water on the house next door first. Once your fire is totally out, then attention can be paid to your neighbor’s house. And, speaking of our neighbors – specifically some of our White neighbors and especially our fellow White Christians neighbors: please stop asking us — your Black neighbors, your Black friends and your Black family members — what to do and what to say, until and unless you’re prepared to hear the truth and to deal with the real issues. This is not a one and done conversation. It is not a “let’s figure out how we can all just get along; it is not a kumbaya moment.” After 400 years of oppression, injustice and cruelty, there is not a quick fix. It is a painful, brutally honest conversation that many of us are tired of having, only to have to repeat the same points over and over again. We are tired of having “the talk” with our children, and many of us are tired of having the talk with those who pretend to get it, and then rush back into “business as usual.” The truth of the matter is that there is no new normal and business is anything but usual.
So, as Oprah Winfrey asked this week, “Where do we go from here?” What happens after the protests die down? How do we stop the next police officer from putting his knee on a Black man or a Black woman’s neck, until they stop breathing? While there are no easy answers, the AFRO-American Newspaper will continue to fight for justice and equity, as we have for nearly 128 years by:
- Reporting on, exposing and campaigning against racial inequities, white privilege, structural and systemic racism wherever it exists;
- Urging our community to register to vote, and then go to the polls in record numbers;
- Promoting the completion of census forms;
- Holding our elected officials accountable and working with them for the passage of legislation that benefits African Americans;
- Supporting institutions and organizations who advance the African-American agenda—institutions like the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA); the NAACP, the Urban League, Associated Black Charities, Black Girls Vote, Morgan State University (and other HBCU’s), the National Council of Churches, colorofchange.org, to name a few;
- Writing, posting and celebrating stories about the past and present contributions of African Americans—especially African-American businesses owners and those who support African-American causes;
- Advocating for fair housing, equitable health care; criminal justice and police reform; the elimination of food deserts, quality public education and economic justice for all;
- Hiring and mentoring young African-American journalists; and,
- Campaigning vigorously to get Donald Trump out of the White House in 2020 (maybe this should have been number 1)!
We thank all of our readers and advertisers for your support and we pray that you will continue to work with us, to make sure that Black Lives Matter — for when Black Lives Matter, then all lives will matter.
Frances Murphy (Toni) Draper