“Burn this B**** Down:” A year in the trenches and the images I can’t seem to forget.

Ferguson.McKinney. Charleston. (Twice) Staten Island. Cleveland. Waller County Jail.
Rikers Island Jail.

A year ago, Michael Brown lost his life at the hands of a police officer. A year ago we all vowed to not forget his name. A year ago we pledged ourselves to fighting the good fight and calling out injustice when we see it. A year ago we settled in for an uphill battle, what we got was a Mt. Everest sized war. The cities and jails I named are just the shortlist of places where national attention was directed for instances of racism and police brutality. But there are more. There are more names, more faces, more lives lost every day, and more issues that matter in this ridiculous narrative of us vs. them. When the grand jury in Ferguson decided not to indict Michael Brown’s killer, people were angry. There were protests, vigils, meetings and all kinds of work to be done, but there are two images I can never seem to get out of my head.

Now, I’m an emotional person, (I still cry at Lion King) and perhaps that’s why these two images stick with me, but it could also be that I’m a human being…with feelings. I vividly remember standing in Qdoba watching Louis Head, Mike Brown’s stepfather, jump up and down on the hood of a car surrounded by protesters yelling “burn this b**** down, burn this b**** down!” He was angry and hurting and emotional. That kind of pain can eat at a person, and strip an entire community of its energy to fight, or even just live normal lives. But here we are. Again.

While you were sleeping last week, protestors and police in Ferguson stood at odds on the anniversary of Mike Brown’s death. We’ve seen firsthand time and time again that the story is always the same. They’ll put the murder victim on trial to protect police. Even when there is video. Even when the victim is innocent. Even when the victim is a child. And if they don’t it’s a refreshing change, yet a change that doesn’t fix the situation. Louis Head was angry and you should be too. It is past time to burn it all down. And not just in the physical sense. I want representatives who look like me. I want policies that benefit me. I want a society that not only acknowledges my existence, but one that respects and values my humanity. I want my life to matter. That’s what the BLM protesters who shut down Bernie Sanders wanted. They want to be represented. They want to be heard. I don’t care if you agree with the tactics. 400 years black people have been in this country. We will no longer be ignored. I don’t want apologies, I want answers. You can keep your pity, I would much rather we make progress.

The BLM protestors have the right idea. If you want your voice to be heard, take the mic. No one is going to hand it to you, not if it means they have to listen. Refuse to accept the status that has been assigned you. Do not allow people to tell you that your blackness is worthless. Reject policies designed as ‘helpful’ that are really stripping you of your rights.  Join a political organization, volunteer in your community, run for political office, work on a campaign, and if nothing else, exercise your right to vote. We have work to do.  Fire is a dangerous substance. It destroys everything in its path. But in nature, wildfires can be beneficial. Before new plants can grow, the old ones have to be eliminated. We know better, we can do better, we can be better. But we have to do it together.

Yours in activism,

Karli Janay

***** Tomorrow’s blog is the second part of this blog, the other image I can never forget. As always, feel free to share this with any and everyone, and be on the lookout for a revamped website launching next week!

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