🏠😷🦠 Life As A QuaranTEEN 🦠😷🏠 The UnifiEd Student Voice Team Blog Surrounding COVID-19
On February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin walked down the street wearing a hoodie and carrying a bag of skittles; then, abruptly had his life taken from him as a man shot him because he appeared as a threat...
Soon after the acquittal of his murderer, the movement known as Black Lives Matter was established by three black women: Patrisse Khan-Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi. It gained a lot of momentum but few celebrities backed the hashtag during that time due to risks that their fan bases may deplete due to the blunt statement. It still began to steadily grow. With more technology and smart phones came more exposure of a corrupted system that fails African Americans time and time again. After every tragedy that went viral showing the horrific outcomes of police brutality, the hashtag soon followed: #BlackLivesMatter.
Now, let’s fast forward to May 25, 2020. An officer knelt on the neck of George Floyd for nine minutes, asphyxiating him which led to his untimely passing. Since that day, global outrage has sparked from the US and has spread across the world as thousands of people marched in honor of George Floyd with posters, banners, and social media posts about the historical movement. His death represented the tragic stories of so many black lives that had been cut short due to police brutality. News Anchor for CNN Don Lemon addressed this issue best with the controversial news head line: “Two Viruses Killing Americans: COVID-19 and Racism” and if that isn’t the headline of the year, I don’t know what is.
African Americans don’t even have the luxury of being scared of a pandemic because there are much more daunting factors in our lives that we have to take into account. Mr. Floyd is our brother, father, friend etc. so naturally there was an anxiety in my heart after seeing the clip. In the past weekend my timeline has been flooded with countless videos of people who looked like me being brutally violated by the police or harassed by the internet’s newest charter, The Karens. Seeing anyone be harassed or die as a result of the color of their skin can be traumatizing to say the least, but it hits closer to home when you know that can easily be your reality at any time. Needless to say that in the eyes of many, fighting for sustainable rights seemed as though it would have longer lasting effects than any virus so a plethora of people have taken up the health risk and marched, myself included. It’s interesting going to a march because it’s much more diverse than one would expect. It’s very comforting to see so many people of various backgrounds all coming together with one common goal.
I attended the first protest in downtown Chattanooga near Coolidge Park. It remained peaceful for hours with marches full of inspiring posters and chants that have been drilled into my head such as, “No Justice, No peace” and “Who’s streets are these? Our streets!” As the night progressed, tensions rose. Soon thereafter, the police moved in on us. Although most people peacefully protested, with the occasional yell, the police became a barricade holding their night sticks horizontally and moving us even further down the knoll of a road. I continued to hold my sign and the next thing I know, my boyfriend is pulling me all the way to the back of the crowd and out of the cluster to keep me away from any possible dangers. After removing me from the crowd, he proceeded to swim back into the mix of people. I tried to let him do his thing and help resist with the others but the next thing I knew, he was in what seemed like a whirl pool of protesters moving about. Some were trying to resist the forward motion of the police and others were simply trying to stir up more violence. If anyone knows me, they’ll tell you I’m not the most intimidating person but once I saw my boyfriend being tugged, I knew I hadto do something. With all five feet of me I shoved through and grabbed him by his shirt as if I was his mother and he was in trouble. I brought him back to the same place he brought me and later things de-escalated.
I recently attended the protests in Miller Park which seemed much more organized than the first night. Community members worked together and provided many resources for people attending the march, such as free pizza and hotdogs, masks and hand sanitizer and live music. There were energized speakers who emphasized the importance of exercising our rights and volunteers walking around and making sure everyone was registered to vote. The sense of community and fellowship was remarkable. As we walked it was so exciting seeing old friends from school and unexpected attendees such as my sister’s engineering professor.
Overall, I’m glad I’ve been able to participate and make history with my community. The impact that those protests make reaches far beyond the Chattanooga Police Department. My only hope is that for the cops who I spoke to, who were adamantthat they were one of the good ones, understand why we protest. We’re not against the good cops that go to work everyday to serve and protect, this isn’t about them. This is about the corrupt cops who take away safety, opportunities and lives from the black community. If you aren’t out protesting due to health concerns, but you want to support the cause in other ways, speaking out on social media, correcting your peers when they say insensitive remarks about marginalized communities, and signing online petitions are all great ways to help support this movement and make an impact. If you do choose to protest in the Chattanooga community free COVID19 testing is available at a variety of facilities such as: the Hamilton County Health Department, UT Family Practice and The Minute Clinic among others. Finally, it is critical, now more than ever, to stay informed, stay compassionate and stay willing to learn!