“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”Nelson Mandela
The last couple of months have been a rollercoaster. However, the twist and turns of the last 2 weeks contain events that I hope were not for naught. On May 25, 2020 George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis. On that day, he was strangled by a police officer who held his knee to Mr. Floyd’s neck for 8-9 minutes until he passed way. Per news accounts from family, George Floyd was a 46 year old African American man that was a father, family man, friend, hard worker, and kind man. Since the death of George Floyd, riots and protests erupted across the country and worldwide. It has been a scary 2 weeks because there have been constant images of George Floyd being murdered, circulating footage of other African Americans that have loss their lives, and coverage of violent protests and riots. In Brooklyn, I have been surrounded by protests and riots. Many stores have been looted and others boarded up for fear of further damage. We have been placed on curfews for safety, but it also perpetuates fear. I regularly went out for fresh air the last few months, but have kept indoors for fear of my life based on what I was being inundated with on the news.
Why I Went
Interestingly, a friend reached out to me because she anticipated that I may have been particularly stressed by recent events. In our conversation, I was shocked to know that many protests were peaceful and that she had participated in a few. I started to inquire about these protests and was intersted . Shortly after our conversation, I received notice that the family of George Floyd, faith leaders, and various activists in the area were holding a memorial service and march. Immediately a spark ignited in me to participate. I wanted to be part of this moment in history. Another factor in my attendance had been that it has been weeks since I attended church. I envisioned that this march would be different from any other protest because it was a memorial and organized with faith leaders. I craved to physically be around positivity and hear the wisdom of God-fearing people. Another factor was that I wanted to support the family. I know how powerful it is to see people come out to show respect for the people you love. My heart goes out to all the families who couldn’t hold funerals or had limited numbers at funerals. I felt that if I came out it would make some difference. I initially watched the broadcast and saw many people fill Cadman Plaza. I was expecting to see more African Americans. I absolutely loved to see the diversity in the crowd. It showed that this death and the deaths of African Americans has affected us all. Nevertheless, I was further inspired to show that Black professionals supported this march and the family.
Reflections at the Memorial
On the way to the memorial, it was most interesting to see that people going about their normal day. Granted, there were people with signs, but in New York this could be overlooked. Closer to the memorial, there were more concentrations of people with signs that spoke out against social injustices proclaimed that Black lives mattered. I watched the broadcast on the way to the memorial, so that I didn’t miss the messages. Sadly, with the exception with of the opening prayer, I somehow missed words from faith leaders. It was either that I missed it while getting ready or there wasn’t as heavy a presence of the Church that I craved. Many of the speakers were local activists and politicians. Many of the messages highlighted the need for people to stay active until there was equality and justice. Other messages highlighted the various injustices that occur in the Black community and the need for peace and respect. As a mother and physician, I was excited to hear activists discuss the disproportionate mortality rate of African American mothers in labor. I was also humbled to see Terrance Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, say words in honor of his brother and the movement. I recorder the coverage of the services at home and there are various accounts online. I feel I didn’t get the best gist of the Memorial and will likely watch the recordings.
On the Bridge
I was luckily able to secure one of the best spots to see the march. Safety was my main concern. As much as I wanted to be involved, I also wanted to be able to escape if things did not stay peaceful. Luckily, things were peaceful for the most part. Nevertheless, there were things I saw and heard that could have took away from the message of the memorial and march. Many people antagonized the police. The most disturbing occurrence was a White woman antagonizing and being threatening to an African American, woman officer. The icing on the cake was that the woman walked away mumbling, “I don’t care if she’s Black.” I tried not to let that event and various other peripheral displays distract from the mission. Unfortunately, those moments served as painful reminders that everyone wasn’t gathering because they believed Black lives mattered, or because they wanted peace, or because they wanted to pay tribute to the family. The initial marches we saw were fairly large, mostly peaceful, and were held across the pedestrian walkway of the bridge. A turning point was when the formal procession started and the family walked by with hundreds of people behind them supporting. I couldn’t do anything other than sob. I cried for the Mr. Floyd’s family. I cried for the other families that unnecessarily loss their loved ones due to racism. I cried for my loved ones who could easily be a target and I cried for God to have mercy on us all. I even reflected on a childhood friend that loss his life to an authority figure and hoped that ,unlike the relative silence that happened after his death, the death and remembrance of Mr. George Floyd would ignite some change.
I am blessed to have been present for this historical and hopefully culture-changing memorial. I found myself to be jaded by the violence and constant turmoil that evolved in the last 2 weeks. Nevertheless, I and humanity have to remember that Black lives matter and Black people should have a voice in the midst of injustice. Since Black lives matter, no life is unaffected by the injustices that have occurred in the Black community. I also don’t want us to forget that all lives matter and that people of all cultures are needed for any change to occur. We don’t need allies. We need people that see us equally as people and recognize that this fight of injustice is a fight fought across humanity.
I hope this blog was encouraging and or gave a perspective that was worth reading . Please leave comments.