When founders, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi began a movement, I am certain they knew it would be controversial. What they achieved was to set in motion the recognition of truth in three words, Black Lives Matter. To refute their assertion, primarily white Americans countered with All Lives Matter. What they failed to admit is that The Declaration of Independence has always said all lives matter. The first of the truths that are self-evident is “… that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This preamble was meant to be the credo by which America asserted its moral authority over other nations, exercised its declaration of free will, and was a promise to the legacy of its future.
America broke that promise and lied, again and again. Declaring enslaved people 3/5 human, denying black Americans and women unfettered participation in democracy, and forbidding the entrance of the Chinese to partake of the potential riches of the American dream, just to name a few. America has stripped land, raped, and lynched in the name of All Lives Matter. When Rosa Parks dared say she was tired and wanted a seat on a bus after a long day’s work her Black Life did not Matter. When Martin Luther King Jr. said his life Mattered, the answer came back in the form of a rifle bullet. When Breonna Taylor slept in her bed after hours of working to save citizens from a dreaded pandemic, the police no-knocked and riddled her body with bullets with the explicit meaning that her Black Life did not Matter.
Yesterday morning I watched as a black caisson, pulled by two black horses, driven by a driver cloaked in melanin and black, drove across a bridge honoring the name of a traitor to this nation and a traitor to those rights endowed by the creator. As Congressman Lewis’ flag-draped coffin was cheered by onlookers through the tears and the shouts of “soldier” I could not help but acknowledge the irony. The same organization[Alabama State Troopers]that wielded clubs, cattle prods, and attack dogs, and who chased down defenseless, praying men and women were now protecting John Robert Lewis’ last march over that bridge from Selma.
In 1965 Sheriff Jim Clark issued the order, “ troopers advance” and the result of that March 7th day is forever known as Bloody Sunday. It let Americans know watching from the comfort of their living rooms, in black and white, all across America, that Black Lives Should Matter. Congressman John Lewis, who his family called ‘Robert’ was also the “boy from Troy” as Dr. King affectionately called him. That boy became a man for the ages that day as he stared down the face of violence, took blows that fractured his skull and weeks later risked it all over again.
During his career, Mr. Lewis had plenty of opportunities to denounce America, and some may have felt that was righteous, or burn a flag, or even take up arms but he refused because he wanted to lay to rest with his life’s work the lie, All Lives Matter. Just as it took the clubbing of John Lewis on Bloody Sunday, George Floyd's murder, as his daughter so eloquently stated in another context, changed the world, and now; Black Lives have a better chance to Matter.
Vote in 2020 for Change.