ALL LIVES MATTER
“Where justice is denied;
Where poverty is enforced;
Where ignorance prevails;
And where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”
-FROM FREDERICK DOUGLASS’ SPEECH IN 1886
The fight for the unity of ideas, sentiments, racial equality, objects, institutions, in which there shall be no North, no South, no East, no West, no Black, no White, is not a one-day battle. The efforts to improve the quality of life for African Americans are as old as the United States.
The first score of Africans was brought by British privateers in 1619, in Point Comfort, Virginia. They were addressed as “Negro slaves” from their emergence. When they were first brought in America, the colonies thought of refining them through baptism in order to embark on this journey, but then they were not baptized as there was some doubt as to whether they were capable of receiving baptism. When the British colonies finally decided that a negro really was a human being capable of being baptized, a new hindrance to the conferring of the sacrament was discovered, namely, the fact that baptism might manumit the slave. Eventually, special enactments set forth that baptism did not confer freedom.
Lucy Terry, an enslaved person who was brought to Rhode Island in 1746, is considered the earliest known African American poet. Her poem,” Bar’s fight,” the only remaining piece was not published until 1855. Her future husband purchased her freedom before their marriage in 1756.
In 1773, Phyllis Wheatley became the first African-American author of a book of poetry. Same as Lucy Terry, she was sold into slavery at the age of seven and was emancipated in the year 1778, by the North American family who had purchased her.
So you must be wondering why these specific mentions, it’s because they were the earliest known black American poets.
In an era where one had to purchase their freedom, literary forms and expressions must be a tough road to cover. Manumission had been carried out in those days in which either the owner used to free their slaves or they used to toil and purchase their freedom.
In 1800, Gabriel Prosser, a literate enslaved blacksmith, planned the first major slave rebellion in U.S history. But the information was leaked before execution; therefore, he, along with his few followers, were taken to captive and hanged.
In 1822, the same initiative was taken by Denmark Vessey, a literate skilled carpenter who tried to raise his voice but faced a similar consequence. Many such voices in the history of America rose and shut, unnoticed and unheard.
Later, the country became the hotbed of the abolitionist movement. Abolitionist newspapers and pamphlets sprang into existence. The liberator, by William Lloyd Garrison and The North Star, by Frederick Douglass, were anti-slavery four pages long newspaper published for putting forth their demand for equality and emancipation. Amidst the American Civil War (1861-1865), Abraham Lincoln, the president then issued the emancipation proclamation, declared, “that all the persons held as slaves are, and henceforward shall be free.” But then, on April 14, five days after the civil war ended, Lincoln was assassinated.
Black code, often called Black laws, was passed in 1865 and 1866, drastically reducing the rights of newly freed slaves and governed the conduct of African- American. The activists, abolitionist and several faces fought against the discrimination and injustice, many lost their lives, were assassinated or punished, laws were formulated and amended, separate schools and voting rights were achieved, but the rigorous battle lasted for several decades, and the seed was so deeply sowed, that the prevailing boundary gets visible even after this consistent battle.
Be it the discrimination faced by them in their day to day lives or the way they were brutally murdered by people and police. The instances are several.
Rosa Louise McCauley Parks was a civil rights activist who refused to surrender her seat to a white passenger in Montgomery bus, in which the former section of the bus was reserved for white men and women and under no circumstances can be taken by black people. Finally, in November 1956, the segregation on public buses was made unconstitutional. Emmett Louis, a 14-year old African-American who was brutally murdered in Mississippi in 1955for allegedly whistling at a white woman. The Tuskegee Syphilis experiment done on the African-Americans were told they were receiving free health care from the federal government. The purpose of this study was to observe the natural history of untreated syphilis; the men who were suffering were neither informed nor cured; thus, numerous men lost their lives. Michael Brown, an 18-year old black man, was fatally shot by 28-year old Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. In 2014, Eric Garner was stopped by the police for selling single cigarettes from the box without stamp, that he was not selling, and then the police chokehold him and with the words of, ”I can’t breathe” he died. The endless list of such brutality with the recent of George Floyd’s death, which has ignited a nationwide movement against police brutality in the United States.
Floyd’s final words were, ”I can’t breathe” the same as Garner’s, which has become the recent cry of the rally. You all must have seen the viral video of Floyd’s death last week at the hands of Minneapolis Police; it was heart-wrenching. These days the camera has become ubiquitous, isn’t it? Strangely, not a single soul stepped forward to in that 8minute to save his life. No one. The ongoing protest, whips, tear gas, and clubs against the protestors and the reaction of Donald Trump adds fuel to the burning fire.
“Differences” is what we people can’t accept; rather than cherishing diversity and variation, we get webbed in the hierarchical concept of stratification, one above the other. When it comes to NBA superstars like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, James Harden, or actors like Will Smith, Morgan Freeman…We cherish, applause, and idealize them, but then off-screen the African-Americans are “Black Negroes.”
Double-standards of our lives are endless.
Martin Luther King, known for his immense contribution to the Civil Rights movement and Peace Movement, spoke in his famous speech, “I have a dream” of ending racism in the United States of America, seems to have remained unfulfilled.