To aggregate my experience as a black girl in America facing the Black Lives Matter epidemic would take me several pages, but for now I will try my best to articulate how I feel in one page.
I am not a natural born American citizen; I was born in Kisii, Kenya and moved to Jersey City with my family in August of 2001, 2 weeks prior to the 9/11 attacks. Coming to this country at the time of 9/11, as an African immigrant, was a turning point in my life that introduced me to the ugliness of racism. I was only in primary school, but everywhere I went I felt heavy glares from my white counterparts, and in effect, was excluded from their circles because I didn’t look or sound like them. Fast forward to present day, 2020: the world is in an uproar from Paris, France to Hong Kong, China about the injustices that black women, men and children have been encountering via police brutality. The world seems to stand with us during this monumental moment in history, but our non-POC supporters will never feel or experience the hardship of walking around in black skin.
The Black Lives Matter movement is past due. For years, black people have cried over the loss of a father, mother, sibling, etc. from the hands of our police department, yet the world stood quiet. It took a pandemic to stop the world from self-serving and finally redirect its focus on the suffering of people who have been brought pain since the existence of the slave trade, more than 400 years ago. It’s a shame that it took COVID-19 to bring our story into the spotlight, but I’m happy that people are finally flipping the pages and willing to stand up.
Being an active part in the protests for BLM made me love my blackness even more. I felt a sense of relieve that people who didn’t look like me wanted to understand, listen and support my people. To be black in this country is to constantly walk around with a target on your back; if you are not black there is not a space for you to tell a black person how to feel. Finally, people of all nationalities are seeming to understand that, or at least try to. My first BLM protest was in Prospect Park, Brooklyn and I want to say it was nothing like what the media portrayed: I felt loved, listened to, accepted and an overall sense of great joy. However, these positive feelings do not take away the pain of the killings, beatings and harassment of all those affected during the protests.
To watch the uniformed men and women who swore to uphold the law, to protect and serve their country’s citizens, beat us to a bloody pulp fueled my anger, boiled my blood and made me hate cops. It is disgusting to witness almost daily videos of senseless killings of people who look like me for unjustifiable reasons: walking, playing, sleeping in your car, being in the back of a cop car, and countless other simple activities, those of which would never be questioned if done by someone who is not black.
However, when someone’s retort is, “blue lives matter” or “all lives matter,” I can’t say that their lives don’t matter. Here’s the thing– cops don’t wake up everyday and put on their uniform to go outside and be harassed; they made the choice to be a cop. It’s a job, not an inherent identity. Being black is something I have no control over; I cant just take this skin off and be someone else. Blue lives matter is simply a counter-movement for BLM due to years of systematic racism and brainwashing from this country. How can you wake up and tell me All Lives Matter before Black Lives when it’s people who look like me that are shot for simply existing? How many times can you recall a white person getting shot for walking down the street and holding a pack of Skittles? Black Lives Matter does not mean that no one else’s lives matter, it just means to say, “look, we are here, we want to be heard and we want to stop being killed simply for being black.“
I will forever support BLM until the wheels fall off. We aren’t asking for a hand out or reparations, just equality. Black people have been oppressed and still are oppressed yet through it all, we will triumph. I will continue to support my black people. I’ll also continue to support any non-POC who stands with us during this crucial time.