As a young Black girl immigrating to the United States, a place that, from afar, I thought was the epitome of equality and fair opportunity, I would have never thought that someday I would feel the need to or have to participate in any type of protest regarding the inequality of Black people in this country.
I have attended a few protests since the inhumane murder of George Floyd, but the raw emotions of the very first protest I attended are feelings that will forever be vividly engrained in my mind and heart.
My Experiences at my First Protest in NYC
I met with a friend in Time Square where the protest was kicking off, right by the NYPD midtown south precinct. Once I arrived, there were hundreds of people already gathered there. I couldn't believe I was getting ready to experience such a historic moment.
Before we hit the ground, the protest was opened with a prayer led by one of the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement that day. As I looked around I could tell no one was there to cause trouble; they were there for their voices to be heard and to fight for equality and justice. I found myself clad in all-black attire and a bright red mask, engulfed in a sea of people of all races, colors, ages, most holding handmade signs tightly clenched and held high above their heads.
I plan to keep going to protests and speaking out until we don't have to fight for the color of our skin anymore.
As we walked, there were four helicopters hovering overhead as we continued south of Manhattan with hundreds of NYPD surrounding us. Some were on bikes, following us to the side, and the others were posted on the side of the streets with their batons held underneath their chins. I remember thinking that no one in that moment posed a threat or was inciting violence, but the NYPD officers looked like they were ready to attack at any moment. Seeing that made me so angry because once again it symbolized how police officers are not there to protect us but to protect themselves.
What was actually happening were people protecting each other. At one point a young man started spray painting "Fuck the police" on the side of a KFC, and a group of the protestors rushed to him and kept pleading for him to stop, which he did after yelling out some curse words. So many people were passing out free water bottles, hand sanitizers, bottled drinks, and a variety of snacks. I overheard one girl next to me say to another stranger "Do you want me to hold your sign so you can eat." Cars, ambulances, and bus drivers on the road were honking at us in support.
"Are you a beauty queen or a politician? I'm confused."
This was all two months ago. It has been over 60 days since the murder of George Floyd that sparked the protests and not a day has gone by that there hasn't been a protest of some kind. Although there has been a lack of media coverage and our Instagram feeds are now, somewhat, back to "normal." It's been said that the current Black Lives Matter protests have been the largest movement in our country's history. The amount of change the protests have been able to produce in such a short period of time is incredible. It's achieving what very few protests do, a significant, sustained, and widespread social and political change.
It's been said that the current Black Lives Matter protests have been the largest movement in our country's history.
Shortly after I had attended my first protest, I received a message on my Instagram from a man stating "Are you a beauty queen or a politician? I'm confused."
My initial reaction was just to burst out laughing, I felt that it was such an ignorant thing to say. First off, who said that being a beauty queen and a politician are mutually exclusive!? I'm not sure what he thinks a beauty queen should be, but for the record here is my definition,
Beauty Queen: A confident, ambitious, and beautiful woman who embraces the power she has and advocates for social issues and works towards bringing and inspiring change in the society and communities around her.
How hypocritical of me would it be to get on stage and say I believe in equality yet do absolutely nothing when the facts of systemic and racial inequality are right in front of me? I cannot only support these issues when it's convenient for me when I have the ability to take action and use my platform for good.
If you have any kind of social media account or you have friends or family that you regularly talk to, you, my friend, have some level of influence. So, remaining neutral because you do not want to cause conflict or start an argument just implies that you are a passive bystander to systematic injustice. And, unfortunately in the world we are living in, that hinders progress and change.
Cultivating a voice and speaking out or even sharing other posts against injustice is an important responsibility, especially because we are constantly bombarded with ignorance on the internet. I'm not saying it's our job to educate the ignorant, but it is definitely our job to speak out against ignorance. Ignorance breeds injustice and being passive towards that ignorance is simply compliance.
Political Ignorance is Not Bliss
Long gone are the days where "political" topics could be considered taboo, which is something I never understood in the first place. Why should we shy away from speaking about issues that directly affect us all?
Ignorance is the highest form of selfishness.
Being politically active should not have any negative connotation. Our feelings and opinions matter and they should be represented. The democracy in this country was built on the idea that citizens should have a say in the leaders that make the decisions and policies that affect our health, protection, and other fundamental rights. It is not only important to actively participate in our country's politics, but it truly is a patriotic responsibility!
Whoever said ignorance is bliss was totally fibbing. Ignorance is the highest form of selfishness. Understanding politics and just caring about what is happening in our country and world is how we are able to actively feel for one another. Whether that feeling is hate or compassion, that decision is up to you as an individual… but it's a feeling nonetheless.
I plan to keep going to protests and speaking out until we don't have to fight for the color of our skin anymore. To make it a point that Black Lives have always mattered and these protests are only just the beginning of what we all hope will be a global uprising for real change.
WRITTEN BYAndreia Gibau