It’s hard for me to wish you all a Happy New Year with many of us still processing the events of 2020—the seismic shift of what we would call normalcy. We were rocked by the coronavirus just as we were shook up by the many police killings and the revival of White nationalism. Even our political foundation shows cracks with Trump calling our national election a fraud and his supporters following him down that road.
I am a Black man in prison and I’m from the “Hood”— where we really don’t do politics like that. So I was like … what?
Some people really think that it’s a good thing to undermine our belief in democracy. We endure so much death and loss in our lives we lost icons such as Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman; “RBG”—U.S. Supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; singer/ entertainer Little Richard; congressman John Lewis; actor Sean Connery, OG James Bond; Jeopardy’s Alex Trebek, Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gigi; and Tom “Tiny” Lister Jr. who played “Deebo,” the lovable bully from the Friday movies (“What you got on my 40, homie?”) Plus many other legends.
More than 300,000 Americans died from Covid-19, and more than one million people worldwide. They were mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters. For eight minutes and 46 seconds we literally watched George Floyd take his last breath of life as former police officer Derek Chauvin sat nonchalantly with his knee on George’s neck. Breonna Taylor was shot and killed in a police raid prompted by something she was not involved in.
Ahmaud Arbery was killed by White vigilantes for jogging in the wrong neighborhood. Young Kyle Rittenhouse traveled across state lines to protect some property and allegedly killed two people at a Black Lives Matter protest.
So are our Black lives equal? Just look at the millions of dollars killers easily raise with their Go Fund Me accounts. Yeah! “Law and Order” for whom?
Former President Trump told the Proud Boys, an anti-government group, to “Stand back and Stand by.” What?! Are you kidding me?! Let any other American say something like that and they could be charged with inciting a riot. If nothing else, they would be under investigation. White nationalist groups stormed state capital buildings with guns after Trump tweeted, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!”,“LIBERATE VIRGINIA!”, “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” To protest coronavirus lockdowns there was even a plot to kidnap and kill the Michigan governor.
As vote counters around the nation had their lives threatened, we (the incarcerated) watched these events unfold from prison cells, serving decades of time. And we are considered the dangerous ones! Go figure.
To process so much pain and trauma one must stop and breathe, be still and search for the good. My word for this New Year is “Steadfastness” — be firm in belief and determination. One thing 2020 has surely taught us is that the world is changing, be it climate change or political unrest throughout the world.
There is no more business as usual. With Joe Biden as President, we have overcome a lot. Some prison reform has taken place around the country. Progressive district attorneys have been elected, police oversight committees have been established and much more.
I have watched many of my friends parole, go home and turn immediately to advocacy work. I find my strength in these exceptional men and women who have not forgotten us.
Nina Turner, former Ohio state senator who is now running for a newly vacant seat in Congress, had this to say in a Democracy Now interview:
“’No honeymoon.’ What do we mean by that? We mean that we the people hold the power, that we must continue to fight for what is just, right and good, and fight against what is not just, right and good. We mean that we must have solidarity and commitment, one to another. We who believe in freedom cannot rest. What do we mean by that? That as long as there are injustices, we will continue to fight. What do we mean by that? We know that when everyday people put a little extra on their ordinary, extraordinary things happen. We need not just bold voices, but people who will take action and will be fearless when it comes to standing up for what is just, for what is right and for what is good.”
I wish you all the best in your endeavors, and remember that love for each other can conquer all.
Have a good year.