(This blog is from the Summer of 2016.)
This past weekend our DukeEngage cohort took a trip to the Levine Museum of the New South. Although I was exhausted from another week of Freedom School and preparing for the intern gathering that was taking place the next day, I still highly enjoyed the museum and it allowed me to reflect on what is currently taking place in our country. The exhibit we officially toured displayed the history of the Latino population in certain areas of the southern United States, but before our visit was over we also took a trip through the museum’s year around exhibit, “Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers”, which takes guests on a journey through the industrialization of Charlotte and how it has come to be one of the largest financial centers in the country. Part way through the exhibit, I came to a display depicting the 1950s and 60s in the south, which included old drinking fountains during the time of segregation. For some reason, I felt inclined to stop and really reflect on what I was looking at. Suddenly, a mixed and confusing rush of pride, anger, and fear came across me. I was proud because as I stared at the display, I realized how far the black population has come in this country, and that as a people we have learned to rise up in the face of challenge. I was proud of my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents for fighting a long and hard battle so that I can be where I am today without feeling any less worthy than my white counterparts. However, I was also angry because, despite all of the work that has been done, all of the laws that have been put in place, and all of the souls that have been lost, I am still living in a world where black people are not completely safe. I am in a world where police brutality is slowly starting to become more reflective of the days when drinking fountains were still separated rather than the year 2016. And finally, I felt a sense of fear because it is now unclear to me who is safe and who isn’t. I fear for the safety of the other Philando Castiles and Alton Sterlings who do not deserve to leave our world before their time has come. I fear for the mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers who have yet to lose loved ones from the violence that is sweeping across our nation. And finally, I fear that a definite change will not come soon enough.
After circling through this series of emotions during my time at the museum, I found myself ending in another stage of pride. Proud that members of my community have found peaceful ways of protest and means of demonstrating that although the black community is hurting, we will not be put to rest. Proud that my identity of being a strong black woman is the direct result of coming from a line of strong, black men that are not the stereotypical representations that the media has attempted to portray, but rather an intelligent, loving and hard working group of men determined to be a part of the change that this world needs. Finally, I end this post with the faith that justice will come to those worthy of it and that my Freedom School scholars and future children of my own will not always have to feel the deep seated roots of segregated water fountains.