I would have never imagined that I would stand on the very steps Martin Luther King Jr spoke from in 17 May 1967 at the Sproul Plaza at University of California-Berkeley speaking to a community of people that have suffered significant trauma. The hub of free speech from the time of Martin Luther King Jr fifty something years later still mourns the injustices against black people.The atmosphere was solemn as final preparations were being done. Students, faculty, community members, black white, latino and allies were all gathered for a vigil to honor those that had suffered under police brutality the passed two weeks. The resounding storyline is that the shootings are nothing new. It is only the videos and social media that have brought light to the ferocity of the violence. Mothers are afraid for their sons many worried if their sons will get home safe night after night. The increase of police presence does not calm the situation and put people at ease but rather increases the fear and the anxiety of the black community. To protect and serve the foundational slogan upon which the police department is built is met with skepticism and sometimes repugnance. One of the African fellows here at UC- Berkeley mentioned that he is afraid to stay out late fearing for his life because he is not immediately distinguishable from the locals.
One cannot help but realize that the Black Lives Matter movement is but part of a larger ongoing story for justice.
The vigil began with a short formal program acknowledging the University and the Cal Black Student Union for ensuring that the event takes place. Thereafter was an open mic for anyone who wanted to share words, song, chant for catharsis. There were messages filled with encouragement, positivity and others full of pain, anger and frustration. However this was a safe place for us to feel, speak and be. Hearing our voices, singing, being together was healing in of itself. Taking into account our Namibia history with apartheid I felt connected to the stories being shared. For centuries black people have suffered and carry that trauma it is not easy to “just” get over.
One of the student speakers said a profound statement “we are always fighting never healing”. It is sad to see how inequality has been hemmed into the very fabrics of our history and society. The blood of the innocent young men and women cry for justice. How long until our narrative changes from suffering to thriving? How long and how often do we forgive and turn the other cheek until it is enough. I for one had to examine my own heart to look into my prejudice and start to interrogate and speak against the systems that proliferate inequality. My silence speaks to the normalization of injustice. As a Namibian I cannot help but think have we truly reconciled, are the playing fields equal in access and opportunity or shall we too have our day of reckoning?
* The Black Lives Matter Network advocates for dignity, justice and respect in the policing system in America