Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement
Friends and family. Kinfolks and loved ones. I appreciate the dedication to this movement and the love that is being shared for all black people inside of the Americas and across the globe. We are from hoods in South Central and the South Side of Chicago, the Grenfell towers, the shanty towns in South Africa, and the favelas in Brazil.
We are all a part of the diaspora of people who recognize the rise of fascism not just domestically but also in countries across the west. We are watching the country that has claimed liberty and freedom for all be torn apart by abuffoon of a president. A president that has continued to decimate the constitution.
It is a hard time to feel hope right now, when each executive order that is penned into law wipes away the human rights of people who look like me and sound like me and love like me.
And even with all this despair, we are in a moment where women, queer and trans folk, black people, immigrant people, folks with disabilities, Muslims and Arabs have come together to fight back against the underbelly of American society.
We are living in a moment where our movement has sustained itself to push for real and true political power. We know that the continued killing of black people at the hands of the state exposes the expansiveness of black grief, and yet we keep fighting back.
We keep calling for accountability and reinvestment and a push for all of us to imagine a world where black people are not policed but instead supported, and loved and cared for. Where our families can feel safe and inspired and protected. Our movement will not go away.
We will not die out. We will not go silent. We will not stop fighting until every single black life is provided the type of love and support we so desperately deserve.
Patrisse Cullors is an artist, organizer and freedom fighter. She is a co-founder of Black Lives Matter and the founder and executive director of Dignity and Power Now
Naomi Wadler, March For Our Lives speaker
If Martin Luther King Jr was alive today, his dream would be to promote equal representation of all people.
The misrepresentation of people of color in the media and society leads to dangerous stereotypes. Black people are often bombarded with double standards. Black men may be viewed as dangerous criminals, black women as angry and aggressive.
These stereotypes cause inaccurate portrayals and inequality. Low expectations become the norm. With the common belief that young black children are less than their counterparts, these kids often have low self-esteem and the belief they cannot achieve. With these stereotypes projected onto us, false notions become fact and fear of young black children spreads. Children of color are punished and incarcerated at disproportionate rates.
These inaccurate portrayals lead to fear. The fear of black people increases the amount of race-related casualties. Society identifies suspects who are black by their race, but does not do the same when white people are suspects. Black people are assumed to be armed and guilty, while white people are given the benefit of the doubt, therefore black people are victims of violence without cause.
Today the Rev Martin Luther King Jr, as he did during the 1960s, would promote a movement to educate people and to inspire black youth.
As King said: “Now is the time to make justice reality for all of God’s children. It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the movement.”
Naomi Walder is 11. She recently spoke at the March For Our Lives rally in Washington DC
The Rev William Barber and the Rev Liz Theoharis, co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival
Dr King’s legacy has been sanitized and locked into one moment marked by four words: I have a dream. The speech many regard as an expression of unwavering optimism was in fact a prophetic, subversive call to action delivered to a quarter-million people at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Originally entitled “Normalcy, Never Again”, Dr King’s speech outlined nightmares of oppression that gripped the nation. Dr King reminded his audience that freedom had not been fully realized for black Americans and many others shackled by racist laws and trapped in poverty.
King was clear that change would not come from one messiah or politician, but a movement from the bottom up.
“Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed,” King declared.
Like Dr King, we must refuse to believe that the great vaults of the nation are bankrupt. Reigniting the movement of poor people that Dr King and others called for in 1968 is the best way to honor his legacy. We are doing what he said –grassroots leaders in states across the country are building a moral movement to reclaim our nation’s lost soul.
Until we address the same systemic racism, poverty, militarism, ecological devastation and theological malpractice of Christian nationalism Dr King fought against, our nation’s dream will continue to collide with the nightmare.
The Rev Barber and the Rev Theoharis are both co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, NBA hall of famer and bestselling author
America, we all have shared the hope of the American dream – but some of us have had that dream deferred.
We all have been inspired by the idyllic vision of a colorblind America, an America in which justice is a reality for everyone.
But, America, some have conspired to stifle that dream.
Some of us see life as a crowded footrace in which the only way they can win is to hobble the other runners – particularly runners who don’t look, think, worship, dress, or talk like them. Some are under the impression that not everyone deserves to have an equal shot at their dreams.
America, we are in a shameful condition. In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr helped us to acknowledge that, 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, “the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land.”
It’s now 155 years since emancipation, and our national shame continues. We have an administration that targets the very people for whom King envisioned justice, whom the constitution is meant to protect and to help thrive.
People of color, women, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and others feel as though they are in an abusive relationship with this frightened faction of America. Those who perpetuate the abuse keep saying how much they’ve improved, how many fewer broken bones and bruises there are. That we should be grateful.
Fewer bruises is not our dream.
Our dream is to run as hard and fast and far as we can with only the wind and gravity and our own inertia to overcome. And not to have that dream deferred for another 155 years.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played for the NBA for 20 years
George Yancy, professor of philosophy at Emory University
We are living an American nightmare. The current state of white America, as it marches toward an unabashed authoritarianism and an antidemocratic neofascism, is reprehensible. America has forfeited the little moral authority that it had. At its helm is someone, Donald Trump, far more dangerous than George Wallace, Eugene “Bull” Connor, and George Lincoln Rockwell combined.
How can, how dare, my evangelical Christian brothers and sisters love God and refuse to reject militarism, xenophobia, and Trump’s words of violence – of “fire and fury”?
I have a dream where the people refuse his lies, hoaxes, hypocrisy, “alternative facts”, and political idolatry.
I have a dream where the people, the demos, tire of his moral equivocation, where the KKK is not as “good as” those who protest them.
I have a dream where America refuses to unleash a bloody war on its own children, slaughtered in their schools, and in their neighborhoods, their bodies bloodied and torn to bits by guns because politicians care more about money and power than their young lives.
I have a dream where politicians are not moral cowards and spineless sycophants.
I have a dream that one day America will give a damn about its stated proclamations written on parchment.
I have a dream where black lives will finally matter, where I can breathe again, where my soul isn’t haunted by the painful and mournful cries of an Eric Garner: “I can’t breathe.”
I have a dream that one day a Trayvon Martin will no longer be hunted down and murdered like a dog in the street because he is judged by the color of his skin or a Stephon Clark killed because his cell phone is said to have been a gun.
I have a dream that one day white America will no longer have the need to call some of us “niggers”.
I have a dream that one day white Americans will no longer be consciously or unconsciously racist, and where they lament the loss of their white privilege and white “innocence”.
I have a dream that one day white America will truly love itself and have no need for massive incarceration rates for people of color.
I have a dream that one day women will be truly safe from male violence, where disability isn’t a mark of shame, and where being queer isn’t “deviant”.
Until these dreams become a reality in America, my dream is to remain maladjusted and discontented with America’s lies about justice and equality. And I will never falter to dream dangerous dreams of love, mutual respect, and a shared humanity. I have a dream today!
George Yancy is the author and editor of 28 books, and a New York Times columnist
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, author and assistant professor in the department of African American studies at Princeton
We must face these tragic facts.
A century and a half since the Emancipation Proclamation, and more than 50 years since the March on Washington, “we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free.”
We are only one year removed from the end of the second term of the nation’s first black president – a development that even in King’s wildest dreams he may not have imagined.
And the negro is still not free.
In the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity, millions of black men, women and children continue to languish in poverty. There is prosperity and power for some. But this should never be confused with freedom for all. The successes of a few cannot obscure the deprivations experienced by millions more.
More than 50 years since the march on Washington, African Americans continue to suffer from the indiscriminate murder and wanton brutality of American police. In the 21st century, the US remains racked by the triplets of racism, militarism, and materialism.
We must face these tragic facts. We must face them – and yet, today I am not sad.
There is a movement afoot. Today, in the streets of the United States of America, young black people are revealing the systemic flaws in our society.
Today, above all, we are learning from our black feminist sisters about the oppressive and exploitative vice of capitalism. We are learning that when black women are freed from this vice, our society will be fully transformed. Their liberation will require – their liberation demands – a complete unraveling of society as we know it.
There is a movement afoot for justice. I believe its revelations will compel all ordinary Americans that what is necessary is a radical reconstruction of this country on the basis of solidarity, justice, and genuine freedom.
These are my freedom dreams. Let us never again have to say: “the negro is still not free.”
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor is the author of From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
Bishop Charles E Blake Sr and Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
Through the suffering of innocent freedom riders, faith leaders and working people we shook the conscience of a nation. Through the cries of “I am a man”, we rose up to realize the promise of democracy. Through the creative suffering of the civil rights movement we hewed from the mountain of despair a stone of hope, the ultimate non-violent means of compelling lasting social and political change – the vote.
But our country is still composed of two, unequal societies. Special interests have rigged our economy, putting unions and working people – especially working women of color – under attack. Daily tragedies of gun violence threaten the lives of our inner-city youth. The chains linking poverty, education and race have not been broken. In 1968, the Kerner Report unveiled the extent of racial inequality in our country. Today we remain decades behind.
Fifty years after our “drum major for justice” preached his final sermon at the Mason Temple in Memphis, the Church of God in Christ and the AFSCME will train a new generation of activists to work toward freedom and justice for all. Young people, faith, community and labor leaders are rallying to “I AM 2018”, picking up the mantle from Dr King and the fearless Memphis sanitation workers, mobilizing together toward the 2018 elections and beyond. Together we will recommit ourselves to the work of bringing Dr King’s dreams to life. Together, we shall overcome those who seek to silence our voice.
Bishop Charles E Blake Sr is the presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ, one of the oldest and largest pentecostal denominations in the world. Lee Saunders is the president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), a union of 1.6 million members that represented the Memphis sanitation workers who went on an historic strike in 1968
Tricia Rose, director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America at Brown University
I’m writing this to “dramatize a shameful condition”. Racial injustice and systemic discrimination remain defining features of black life in the wealthiest and most powerful democracy in the world.
Since King’s “I have a dream” speech, Jim Crow signposts have been physically removed but the underlying aims – the systemic accrual and protection of white racial advantages over black people – remain largely in place.
Today we face a less visible but still formidable condition. The explicit defense of racial hierarchy has mainly been replaced by the outright denial of the conditions of injustice – a denial manufactured by deft co-optation and reinterpretation rather than the rejection of the values of civil rights.
Efforts to level a grossly uneven playing field are met with agreement that it should be level. In fact, many “good white people” say it is level and if anything they are at a racial disadvantage.
To fight for justice today is to do battle with the twisted myth of colorblindness, a race-neutral sounding ideal that fuels self-righteous post-race white protectionism. The term freedom itself has been pried from the hands of social justice movements and re-attached to the protection of the powerful. The durability of white fear and its impacts on the life chances of black and brown people tugs at me. I worry about the consolidation of corporate power and its influence over government, journalism, culture and media. If this continues, where will tomorrow’s radical truth tellers come from?
I am reminded of King’s caution not to “wallow in the valley of despair”. The power of justice, love and the will of everyday people is tested but is not extinguished.
This is not the darkest moment. And truth tellers are all around us, embattled but still here.
Tricia Rose is director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America at Brown University