As we closed out the Fourth of July holiday that I and many other activists deem a reminder of oppression, Alton Sterling took his final breath, his life wrongfully taken by crooked cops. We took to the streets, parks, and other landmarks of our cities and lifted him up.
All of this comes on the heels of the upcoming one-year anniversary of the wrongful death of our sister Sandra Bland. We lifted them both up, we honored them with our words and held hands. But tragically, while we held our fists up, the news came that Philando Castile was murdered in front of his child and fiancé on a Facebook live broadcast.
Then we had to address the shooting in Dallas. Here in Houston, we released a statement:
To our friends in Dallas, we are glad you made it to safety in light of the shooting event that took place last night. Many of you were placed into harm’s way as you peacefully excercised your right to protest and lift up the names of those we lost to police violence. We have and always will be a peaceful movement. But please know that while we have a strained relationship with the police state, there is still no justice in bloodshed. There is no justice in taking a life.
BLM – Houston
As I write this, we are still out in the streets saying their names. We say “Black Lives Matter” in their honor, and we do the work to create change we want to see. This change does not come easy when this movement for Black lives is about deconstructing and dismantling a system of racism and White supremacy.
The most obvious starting point for our activism is the physical police violence against our Black bodies, and our work leads us into other, less visible forms of systemic oppression that have been just as problematic in terms of the criminalization of Blackness, including but not limited to: misogyny, limited access to quality education, financial instability, and lack of access to proper healthcare.
As we activists attempt to address these issues using our valuable time, we take risks and get all kinds of flack to stand for what we believe in. We stand up against White supremacy and against institutional, structural, and systemic racism through continual acts of civil disobedience across the country. We know that it’s not enough to just protest and hold vigils. The truth is that we have to keep the fight alive at every level and in every jurisdiction until we dismantle all systems of oppression. This is not a call for anarchy but for humanism – for a holistic approach that does not condone violence but perseveres in the face of it.
A vigil for Alton Sterling in Houston, TX on July 6, 2016, organized by the author.
A march through downtown Houston on July 7, 2016, organized by the author.