"The Battle of Adwa"
So many amazing stories have been submitted over the past 2 weeks and this is no exception. Thank you to Kelsey for this submission. Keep sending in your #ProtestPics and #ProtestParticipation stories! Direct message our social media or e-mail email@example.com
Protest Attended: Ayer, Massachusetts (June 26, 2020)
"I’m from a fairly small town (Ayer, MA) and students from the high school jumped on organizing a protest/march almost immediately following the murder of George Floyd. (proud moment for me as some close family/friends were involved) They made it on the one month mark of his death to give time to organize. It’s almost as if they knew immediately that we would not relent this time, that a month in the future we would still have the town turn out for black lives. And they did! And I was so proud and inspired. But I feel it’s important to share that perhaps the most meaningful moment was when a man (the father of one of the students who organized the event) spoke about the first time he experienced racism. The very first time he experienced racism was in my hometown. He shared that he was told on multiple occasions that he did not belong with his wife and he was frequently pulled over, followed by police until he was out of Ayer, and sometimes searched without cause or consent. The crowd was VERY quiet. When the teens spoke to inspire, the crowd had been animated and inspired. But this was a moment of collective discomfort. Here is part of his speech.
“As a black man from Africa - I am from Ethiopia - one thing that I never experienced growing up in Africa, I never had the thought that my black skin would stop me from doing anything I wanted to do. Coming here I will tell you here in Ayer is the first time I experienced racism. Coming here dating a white woman, being told I cannot be with her, that was the first time I was told that my black skin was going to limit me from being who I am. Coming here, there’s a different history that I learned. I come from Africa where we have black kings and black queens. African history, black history DID NOT START WITH SLAVERY... we have so many black queens and black kings that history here does not speak of.”
He also shared that when he moved here he joined the Army to be trained as a medic. His white drill sergeant asked him why he chose medic and said that people like him were supposed to be cooks.
He continued his speech
“My black skin should not stop me from being who I am. My black skin is not a threat to any of you. I don’t want to tell my kids two different stories of being black and being white. I want to be able to tell them that if they work hard and do the right thing, they can succeed. The jokes you make in your household, your kids will take that and make it their reality. Racism is taught at home! White people we need you to speak up to your family and friends and even strangers! So if you don’t care about the jokes, DO! Because someone is gonna take that and make it reality.”
HIS FINAL STORY
“Battle of Adwa - look it up. In 1896 a white army from Italy came to conquer Ethiopia. The black king got together and defeated a white army. THE BLACK KING WON. You know what they printed in the paper? They made him a white person because they didn’t understand that a black king could defeat a white army. So many histories you’ve been told and are taught in the US are all wrong. They are taking away our history and only talking about black slavery. Black people YOU DID NOT START AS A SLAVE. WE STARTED AS FREE PEOPLE AND WE ARE ALWAYS GONNA BE FREE.”
Ugh. Through tears, here are my final thoughts coming from the perspective of a white woman (obv). It’s nice to attend protests and feel inspired and empowered surrounded by like minded people who believe in a future where we are ALL!!!! truly as seen as equal and have access to the same opportunities in life. And so everyone there was at least showing up, pat on the back. But in that moment of collective discomfort, hearing that it was OUR TOWN where this man had first experienced racism AND racial profiling by the police, it was a moment of TRUE realization. I hope it was for everyone present. Showing up to the protest was not enough. CLEARLY we have not done enough. Nothing slides any more. We must have these conversations. We must call racism out EVERY.SINGLE.TIME. we see/hear it even in it’s most disguised form. It will be uncomfortable at times even for the most passionate, the most informed. But we MUST rise to the challenge. How many of us call plenty of strangers/acquaintances/politicians out but avoid those truly uncomfortable conversations with certain people who may be family/friends??? Black lives must be protected and if that means calling out family/friends/strangers I think that is the LEAST we can do at this point. How much change could we generate if EVERY PERSON who says they support the BLM movement called out EVERY racist remark, EVERY racist action, EVERY injustice??? This applies to sexist, homophobic, transphobic remarks/actions, rape culture, toxic behaviors, etc. Where could we be if we took the time to educate/inform every person who may be a few steps behind, but could learn to understand. Bottom line - Black people, you did not start as slaves, and as a white woman and an educator, I refuse to perpetuate the system that continues to teach us a false version of history that begins with your enslavement and leaves out anything that threatens the idea of white superiority. My mom always reminds me to keep the ultimate goal in mind, so we must not get lost in senseless arguments with those who have no interest in listening or learning, but I PROMISE to continue increasing my ability to have uncomfortable conversations with anyone and everyone. I will always stand with you. Because BLACK LIVES MATTER. And sooo much more ❤️"