Looking at the "collective depression" of Black communities fighting for racial justice.
“While my heart is fearful, my ancestors guide my feet. Today, I rise.” ~ Dr. Lindo Productions, Timeless
I’ve been working around the clock, avoiding Social Media and then being dragged back in.
The images are that powerful… and so is the trauma that the images on my Facebook feed insight.
People dying… People marching… People crying and demanding change.
While this can be extremely empowering for many people who take part in this important humanitarian work, we often forget the impact that watching this day in and day out can have on those whose experiences are the ones we are marching for.
That’s when it occurred to me. I am living through the “Collective Depression” of Black communities everywhere, trying to navigate it as best I can.
As a Black woman watching the news in 2016, I feel the pain of my people – not just myself. It doesn’t matter that I live in Canada and the victims of racial violence had homes in the U.S. The color of my skin makes my time across the border risky – what if I forget my turn signal? Or wear a hoodie? Or send my children out to play in the park one day for some fresh air? Will people see us as “human” and ask questions, or would I be setting myself up for a visit to the coroner’s office?
As difficult as this is to believe, the second-guessing that I am describing has now become an everyday aspect of the lived realities of Black community members all over the world. We worry about standing up for our humanity and dignity, and we are no longer surprised by news coverage that positions us as troublemakers, criminals and violent protesters, no matter how peaceful our protests actually were.
We march and pray for love, crying out over the injustices so deeply embedded in our social systems, and making it plain that we are here to be part of the change. But our messages get misconstrued, images of our marches being relegated to those pictures that, without context, make us look aggressive and angry.
But why can’t we be angry?
Wouldn’t you be angry if you knew that shackles on our wrists and ankles were used to transport us from place to place?
Wouldn’t you be angry if, after centuries of “freedom” we are still denied access to high paying jobs and quality education?
Wouldn’t you be angry if each day you saw people who looked like you murdered and called names for saying that they have a right to life no matter the color of their skin?
And that brings us to the intergenerational impact of race-based thinking that has become the foundation of the collective depression inherent in many Black communities today.
In 1964, the Ethiopian Emperor Negusä Nägäst Haile Selassie I delivered a speech to the United Nations. Among the many timely issues raised, he stated the following:
“Until the philosophy that holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, everywhere is war.”
In 1976 the legendary social justice activist and musician, Bob Marley, took Emperor Haile Saleassie I’s speech and popularized it in the song “War,” bringing it to the public’s eye in the album Rastaman Vibrations. This album recorded by Bob Marley and the Wailers became a top 10 album in the United States.
And now, in 2016, Black communities are being forced to fight for their humanity once again.
Because many people continue to believe in the philosophy that one race is better than another.
Because media portrayals – be they movies, television programs or news broadcasts – continue to position the few Black people that they cast and speak of as criminals and gangsters.
And because four days of continual race-based violence in July 2016 can be rationalized and decontextualized by focusing on what the victims may or may not have been doing or done in the past that makes it “normal” that they were murdered.
So now, with that context, let me tell you what my collective depression looks like:
Sometimes I find myself on the verge of tears for no reason (except the reason is that social media alerts me to a new death, another life lost, and another network of children, wives, parents, aunts and uncles who have to bury one of my people for no reason at all).
Sometimes I feel a surge of anger, but then I spend the rest of the day trying to pretend to be happy because I fear that my anger – however justified – will be used to justify the death of a Black person I have never met.
Sometimes my sadness is so deep that I turn to social media to be surrounded by others whose sadness is just as deep. I surround myself with others who can understand my anger at the injustices and that share the same fears that I share – of being Black in 2016.
While this sounds like individual depression, it’s not. It’s not, because it is a feeling of unease that permeates every aspect of my community.
I don’t grieve for myself, I grieve for my people.
I don’t long for justice for myself, but for my people.
I don’t recognize my own sadness, but instead I am trying to navigate the sadness of my people.
And when I pray, I am not praying for myself, I am praying for my people.
So please, send love our way. Send positivity and healing energy to the Black communities across the planet whose fear is real, whose experiences are real, and who, as Stevie Wonder warned us in 1976 when he released “Love’s in Need of Love Today” in his album Songs in the Key of Life:
Love’s in need of love today
Send yours in right away
Hate’s goin’ round
Breaking many hearts
Stop it please
Before it’s gone too far
So what are you doing to send love today?
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