September 24, 2016 was my oldest son’s birthday. While he and his father decided they’d celebrate his day by hanging out with a couple of his friends, my youngest son and I attended a #CharlotteUprising protest rally. This would be our first human rights march and it was a beautiful, perfectly warm day to do so. Our march led to city hall and back to Marshall Park.
To be honest, my son and I were both nervous and a little apprehensive. For him, he didn’t want to leave the comforts of home in exchange for a large crowd of chanting strangers. While I, on the other hand, was anxious due to a lot of built-up emotion combined with the state emergency Mayor Jennifer Roberts had declared on the city of Charlotte–leaving many with an uneasiness to show uptown due to a heavy police and national guard presence.
It was due to my slight reluctance and my son’s fear of going that ultimately convinced me that our attendance was absolutely necessary. He and I both needed to see–in person–a diverse group of people standing together for a recently created movement and common cause known as: #BlackLivesMatter.
I assured him that, while I was uncertain how things would go (because this, too, was my first protest) we’d be safe and IF the slightest bit of danger and/or unlawfulness presented itself, we’d leave: NO QUESTIONS ASKED.
So, off we went and arrived at Marshall Park around 1pm. As soon as we got out I knew this was a most wonderful decision because we immediately joined another a family at the crosswalk whose children seemed interested in saying hi to my son. It was only a short walk to Marshall Park and parking proved to be easy which instantly help ease some of my apprehension about going in the first place.
Before we entered the park we were warmly greeted by volunteers, with enormous smiles, who quickly acknowledged me and my son and advised us on where to get plugged in, registered and where to find snacks and water that awaited everyone in attendance.
As we made our way downhill I could feel both my son and I relax because the crowd’s energy was so calm, happy and LOVING. There were families of almost every demographic, grandparents, babies, children running around and adorable dogs. There were also plenty of professionals from all sorts of business sectors present along with reporters, press and police (who were there respectfully reassuring that our right to peaceful protest was carried out).
Every so often we were offered water and granola bars by complete strangers–even before the march started. Throughout the march, people made sure we were okay. Though we were both tired once the hour walk ended back at Marshall Park, both my son and I appeared dramatically more confident after the march versus how we both appeared beforehand–NERVOUS.
I firmly believe it’s because throughout this march people around us continuously shouted and affirmed alongside us something I’ve never felt and heard any mass of people proclaim before is that: #BlackLivesMatter.
It was during my own shouting of these words–that almost seemed to leap over the rooftops of Charlotte’s uptown skyscrapers–that I realized, all of my life I’ve been wanting to scream, affirm and fervently beckon that my life, my husband and our sons’ lives matter–AND our BLACKNESS matters too!
During the march, my son immensely watched the crowd (especially me) and marched alongside us every step of the way but remained completely quiet. I’d check on him often to make certain he could carry on and while I could see he was growing tired and sweating–he advised me that he’d be okay and could carry on. Once the march drew near the end, we both quietly got back into our truck and quietly headed home–both of us reflecting on what we just experienced.
Our silence on the way back home spoke volumes and then nothing at all–all at the same time.
It wasn’t until we were back home and nestled back into the comfort of our favorite blankets that I began to hear my son telling his daddy and older brother about his experience at the #CharlotteUprising in honor of #BlackLivesMatter.
Listening to my son from the next room made me realize one thing: people (in general) often have an issue with calling a person of color–BLACK. Even some black people have an issue with calling themselves and other people of color who identify as black–BLACK.
Then I admitted to myself that I have an issue with calling myself and other people of color: BLACK.
I believe this is due to common archetypes associated with the color black like villians and evil characters combined with other negative stereotypes we have of black such as darkness, the process of rotting/decay and looking into the unknown when we stare into darkness.
Yet during the march my son and I saw people of all colors proclaiming the same message: #BlackLivesMatter–they’d say (with raised fists and deep passion) over and over again. It was though the crowd unapologetically bade us to proclaim our blackness while their repeated chants harbored black people’s proclamation that we matter, they see us, love us and that they (non-blacks) care.
It was through my son’s recall of events and the chants he so easily recalled to his father and brother that I realized a spark had been lit within him on simply learning how to love saying the word BLACK. In that same thought I openly admitted to myself that I had began learning to appreciate with defiant vigor and audacity the word: BLACK.
I vowed right then and there that my simply saying: #BLACKLIVESMATTER and that overlooking my blackness (and all that being black in America entails) was now a thing of the past; having promised myself that I will live in my blackness and make no equivocations about it.
So, in my journey–learning to love saying the word BLACK, I invite others to attempt to love saying the word BLACK because black is truly beautiful.
Here are a few pictures from our beautiful day at #CharlotteUprising| #StandUpForCharlotte march protest for the #BlackLivesMatter movement.