Tatianna Jefferson, Jemel Roberson, Ahmaud Aubrey, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, and so many more names.  I marched for justice for these names on August 28th, 2020 at the 57th Commencement of March on Washington. It was more than just a march; it was a community gathering. COVID-19 did not stop the beautiful words and ceremonies on this day.

I was unsure what to expect and was slightly comforted that my protesting experience commenced in this way. My mind kept reverting to fights and violence of protests I had previously seen on social media this past summer, but I was pleasantly surprised by this experience. It was more than peaceful; even though the heat and humidity were unforgiving, love, and compassion filled every corner of the National Mall. Everyone was looking out for one another, with waters, masks, and other necessities. Friends and family members of all races and genders came together to contribute their voices and steps for one protest closer to tangible change for Black Lives in the nation’s capital.

It was invigorating to walk down the edges of the pond of the National Mall to witness this timeless event being brought to life. My mind swarmed with past events, shootings, and brutal acts done to my people over the years as I took one step closer to the podium of speakers. I felt empowered and emotional hearing words by the family members of just a few of the Black men and women whose lives were stolen by police brutality. I wondered what it felt like to be my age  57 years ago when Martin Luther King took to the podium at the same place to speak on the change that Black people are still seeking today. It saddens me that 57 years later we are still facing prejudice and racial injustice, despite the myth widespread in America that we live in a post-racial society.

I have said this before and I will continue to say this again until it is truly heard and acted upon. Solidarity, advocacy, and action are the ONLY way change can take place. It takes more than just words to fix what is truly broken in our country. It is the only action that will transform the deeply rooted issues of racism that our nation has faced for hundreds of years. This protest wasn’t just done for justice for our Black brothers and sisters who died under the unlawful hands of law enforcement, it was to break barriers in spaces that were not meant for us. It was my job to show up and be present and it is also yours, especially if you are white. If you are not able to get out to the streets, donate to the families of these victims, donate to organizations who fight on the frontlines for the cause. Support black-owned businesses and hire Black employees. 

Be Strong, Stand Tall, Be encouraged, Don’t stop saying it: Black Lives Matter. Don’t stop peaceful protesting. We have work to do and it’s only the beginning. Join the movement. It’s up to you to do the work.

(Photos: Arlesia Grace McGowan)