Monday, January 2, 2017

Parenthood: Week 185 & 2016 People Of The Year: Part 6 - Black Lives Matter: Natalie Braye, Sophia Byrd, Eva Lewis, and Maxine Wint

Dear Ollie.

You have come to understand that there are things that you cannot do until you are older. Yes, when you are older, you can drive, you will be able to use the stove and you can get a tattoo like Maui (we might have to see about that last one). However, there are things that you don't have to wait until adulthood to do. You don't have to wait to have a possible impact on the lives of people around you, you don't have to wait to fight for the rights of others and you don't have to wait to change the world.

I've been reflecting on people in the past year who have inspired me to be a better person and a better dad to you. There's Bayley who proved that being kind and working hard bring success and joy to others. Sgt. Hawkins reminded me that it takes bravery to be oneself. Kate McKinnon helped me laugh but also cry while Dan Savage taught me how to work through tragedy and show me a way forward through understanding and embracing differences.

President Obama proved that real men fight for the rights of woman and are feminists.  Lin-Manuel Miranda continued to create amazing art that helped me understanding that the values of anti-racism, diversity and inclusion must be at the heart of all that we do in order for our lives to be meaningful, beautiful and inspiring. Michelle Obama revealed all of who she was, reminding me of the power of words to both humiliate and inspire. Asma Khalid brought understanding and thoughtfulness into a political world that showed far too much hate and intolerance. And Secretary Hillary Clinton inspired millions to fight and continue to work for a vision of America where we all celebrate all of the facets of your identity.

More than all of these amazing people, there is a group of four whose actions touched me more deeply, brought me more pride, and inspired me with more hope than any other people or group of people this year: Natalie Braye, Sophia Byrd, Eva Lewis, and Maxine Wint, members of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Photo: Colin Boyle, Chicago Magazine
These four African-American teenagers organized peaceful protests in Chicago last summer to bring attention to the continued injustice against members of the African-American community. In response to the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, which is sadly only part of a pattern of injustice in our country, these four women decided to do something. By focusing more on community than division, peace than violence and hope over hate, they worked with police, community members and the press to create a peaceful rallies. Their will, clarity message and hard work resulted in an event that had no arrests, and brought together over 1,000 people for the cause of justice for all.

The founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi are to be admired for their contributions and continued work. It is their commitment to social justice that reminded our entire country of the tradition of protests and activism that is central to the success of our democracy.  There are those who react to this movement negatively, and it is important to remember that these reactions are only a reflection of people’s insecurities, guilt and irrational fears. For it is in the Black Live Matter movement that we find our conscience.

It is in these four woman that we see the future. So many dismiss young people as being apathetic, selfish and shallow, but they are no more so than adults. These four women, like many of the young people I have worked with throughout my life, prove these assumptions wrong. Like these women, you have the potential to see things adults refuse to acknowledge, and say things adults don’t want, but need to hear. These woman and you are important and we need your strength to improve our society.

If these four black women, with the limitations of their age, lack of white privilege, and society’s lack of positive expectations, can put together these amazing protests, what excuse do the rest of us have?

We as adults have no excuse and if we do not take action against injustice this year, we are letting you down. 2016 was a difficult year but the work of Braye, Byrd, Lewis, and Wint, showed us that we can do better.  And we will do better, I promise.

Love,
Dad

*****

Check out these articles for more information on these protests:

How Four Teenage GirlsOrganized This Week’sHuge Silent Protest by Bettina Chang from Chicago Magazine

Teen Activists Shut Down Chicago Streets With Peaceful Black Lives Matter Protest by Eval Lewis from Teen Vogue

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