Special Kwanzaa Edition: Keep Going
It’s a curious thing. The death of George Floyd re-energized those of us who have been fighting for Black freedom since the middle of the last century. It ignited the passions of young people, who are new to an organized fight, but sadly, not new to experiences of oppression. It re-configured the movement for equality and justice, even bringing some white allies and mainstream politicians into this, our most recent battle.
Why George Floyd? There are so many before and since, both known and unknown. You may recognize some names. We demanded that their names be said out loud. Breonna Taylor! Michael Brown! Sandra Bland! Eric Garner! Yvette Smith! Ahmaud Arbery! And well before them, Emmett Till! (lynched, MS, 1955), William Epps! (Tulsa race massacre, 1921), Joseph Reed! (lynched, TN, 1875), and many, many more. More than there are lines on this paper.
For whatever reason, it was George Floyd’s murder by three police officers in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020 that unleashed a torrent of grief and rage. The pandemic and its disproportionate impact on Black lives—and deaths—added weight to our already heavy hearts. Many of us were deemed “essential workers,” expected to stay on the job, often under dangerous circumstances. Our work was essential, but we ourselves were not. Once again, our country, especially its healthcare system, both failed and exploited us. Tuskegee! Henrietta Lacks!
On the first day of Kwanzaa, December 26, a full 19 months will have passed since George Floyd died. Some things have changed, important things. We have momentum and a common purpose that encompasses the young and not-so-young, crosses boundaries of color, religion, and identity, and has raised within us a spirit of excitement that says, “Yes! Things really are changing!” Somehow we have made it to the mountain top. We have seen Black freedom and have heard it ring. We don’t need to explain it. We just need to know it is out there.
The first Principle of Kwanzaa is Unity. Everything stems from there. Be united in spirit with your entire community—families, neighbors, allies, businesses, public officials and others who are working to realize Black freedom. That freedom does not come at another’s cost. We seek to be fully free and equal, not to diminish the standing of others. This Kwanzaa offers us the opportunity to mark the shifting of public conscience and recommit ourselves to our quest for freedom.
“If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there’s shouting after you, keep going. Don’t ever stop, keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going,” — Harriet Tubman