Do Black Lives Matter?

Black Lives Matter in Durham NCTravon Nicholson of Durham, who started a nonprofit organization in January 2015 called Inspiring Truth.

What are you doing within the Black community to show that Black Lives Matter?

The initial uprising of the Black Lives Matter movement started with the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in 2013. That acquittal sparked the hashtag #blacklivesmatter. Not only did Zimmerman’s acquittal seem to show disregard for the value of Blacks’ lives, it was also a sign of the systematic degradation of Blacks that dates back to the birth of this nation. Following Martin’s death, with the murders of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Eric Harris, Walter Scott, Jonathan Ferrell, Samuel Dubose, and Freddie Gray, as well as the mysterious death of Sandra Bland, Blacks and Whites across the country began to protest nationally, shouting the mantra “Black Lives Matter.”

In the city where I grew up, Durham, NC, as in many other cities across the country, protesters blocked streets, picketed government buildings, and, in some places, looted and vandalized property. It seems like daily, when I look at social media, there is a constant stream of memes, videos, and other posts that focus on these specific deaths of Blacks as a painful reminder that Blacks are not seen or treated as equals within American society, and even in many other countries outside the U.S.

However, I’ve noticed that it doesn’t matter whether many Blacks or Whites have all the evidence of whether some of the murders were justified or not. At times, even when there is evidence that justifies the actions of the killer or the victim, there are those who still protest under the guise that vindication or indictment of the accused must be a conspiracy. There are some who will believe that every time a Black man is killed by a White man, it is racially motivated and there is no other plausible explanation. There are others who will believe that each and every Black man killed by a cop, at minimum, was a thug who deserved it, or who had it coming.

This brings me to my point. Taking note of the very vocal Black Lives Matter movement, and considering the love that I have for the Black community of Durham, NC, along with the pain I feel concerning the numerous overlooked murders of Blacks that have taken place there due to Black on Black crime, it’s very hard for me to not see the hypocrisy of the nationwide Black Lives Matter movement. The most vocal leaders of this movement only seem to really value certain Black lives, numbering about 15, that were killed by Whites. All the Black lives that were taken due to a violation of their rights should be protested. Even the ones who were justly killed, their lives mattered. Likewise, it doesn’t matter whether the 50 or so Black lives that were taken due to Black on Black crime in my city were justified or not; their lives still mattered.

It’s just as important to blockade Highway 147 or organize a march in the Southside of Durham, West End, Hicks Town, East Durham, etc. to protest the death of a teen who was shot dead next door for the most frivolous reason as it is for those who attempt to convince a White supremist across the country that Black Lives Matter. Again, Am I saying that Blacks shouldn’t protest violations of their civil their rights? No, but I think that the scope in which the Black community has been protesting the disregard of Black lives by the racially unjust US justice system is inconsistent with respect to valuing Black lives within our own communities.  How much is the Black life worth that didn’t make national news headlines? Does it really matter when a Black life is lost, or does it just depends on who took the life?

Furthermore, though the Black Lives Matter Movement seems to promote Black empowerment, I’ve heard many speak in a way that causes me to believe that they  on the contrary feel inadequate and may have succumb to feeling of inferiority, spending much of their time trying to get “the White man” to accept their legitimacy rather than advocating for the value of black life. Chicago, one city alone, saw over 400 Black lives lost in one recent year.  That alone should have sparked a nationwide movement. It’s almost seems as if many are more sad about White men seeing them as inferior than the actual loss of life. There’s an old saying that comes to mind: “Are you trying to convince me or yourself?” Side note: The same can be said for the Oscars. I don’t understand why we as Black people are so in need of a pat on the back from those who we constantly proclaim to be oppressed by but equal to.

When more Blacks start truly seeing themselves as an equals, despite how they feel this country, which is built upon White supremacy sees or treats them, it will only be then when they will be empowered. We are letting our kids die or go astray daily at an alarming rate within the Black community from inner-city gun violence, lack of being there for the fatherless, less fortunate, etc, yet wanting to be loved so badly by White supremacist that if “they” hurt one of us, we will tear up an entire city, but seemingly not so much because we value that life but more so due to a deep longing to be accepted as equals by White men. This longing to be accepted by the “master” is a culturally ingrained trait that is deeply rooted in Black American culture. I did say Black American culture because many Africans and other people of color who are not from here, are more often balanced in their care for their communities. At some point, we must began to come together as a community, making sure no child is left behind, and not carrying on business as usual until the next teen is killed by law enforcement.

Nevertheless, there are some within the Black community who unconditionally value Black lives, without the dog bone of national attention. One of those whom I would like to commend is Travon Nicholson of Durham, who started a nonprofit organization in January 2015 called Inspiring Truth. Since its start, with few resources, the organization has fed more than 1000 people, many of whom were homeless. It has also taken kids to edthe zoo free of charge, and hosted many fundraisers to support lives within Black communities that are in need. Nicholson found himself in and out of a homeless shelter from the age of 6 to 16, and now he is working hard to help those who are in the same situation.

Another person is BJ Smith; he has spearhead free cookouts and recreational activities for the youth of the West End community. The cookouts were spun off from BJ along with members, Len Lilly, Demario Hampton and TJ,  of the 40 Below barbershop, which is a staple of the West End community in Durham, where they have at times supported the community with free haircuts. Like Nicholson, Smith along with 40 Below are helping youth overcome some of the obstacles that they themselves had to experience. For those of you who want to support a true Black Lives Matter movement, get active in your community, gaining the favor of and supporting youth, many of whose surroundings are nothing more than an incubator for failure. At minimum, support those who support the nourishment of the community. I hope to see more organizers like Nicholson, Smith and the barbers of 40 below within the Black community, showing that Blacks Lives Matter.

Updated 8:25 am Tuesday, 03/22/2016

For all of those who say: “We are not talking about that right now.” When the hell are we gonna talk about it?


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