By: Adria Obonyo | June 12, 2020
The devastating murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis’ law enforcement has made us all acknowledge the resurgence of America’s tumultuous racial climate.
Consequently, many have chosen to take their deeply-held frustrations toward the Nation’s systemic failures to the streets by marching for justice, sharing stories of black experiences in America, and consoling those who are sorrowed by another episode of law enforcement’sabuse of authority. Others have chosen more violent approaches to the matter as seen in the scorched buildings, looted storefronts, and fatal riots that took the lives of David McAtee, Chris Beaty, Dave Underwood, Italia Kelly, Calvin Horton, Jr., James Scurlock, and others who remain unidentified in the Nation’s largest cities.
In contrast to protesting, millions of others have chosen to use financial support as their weapon of choice in the fight against police brutality. Businesses and individuals alike have opened their pockets to George Floyd’s multi-million dollar GoFundMe campaign, organizations such as the Minnesota Freedom Fund to finance bail payments for arrested protestors, and have pledged to support black businesses and voices in their communities.
In this uphill battle for overdue racial equity and justice, it can feel numbing to be black in America; I think that’s where I currently stand. There is no right way to feel during times like this, regardless of your racial background. But for me, a young black Kenyan-American woman, the ability to express the collective pain of people that look like me is at a standstill. As for those who are outwardly expressing their anger, use it as a catalyst to usher in a more equitable future in the long-term because whatever change you want to see begins with you.
If this is my generation’s moment to redefine the institutions that have crushed marginalized communities for centuries, where do we begin when we leave the streets and return home? How do we take on the behemoth of a racially biased system? How can we improve black experiences in America? It can be daunting to address these questions on a national level, so here are three ways to make effective changes on a smaller scale:
1) Educate Yourself.
It’s imperative to learn about black history as primarily told by black people if you want to better understand our plight. Here are some of my favorite books, movies and other media suggestions:
• Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
• Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
• Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
• The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson
• The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein
• Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Ownership by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
*Purchase from black-owned bookstores, where possible.
Movies & Series:
• 13th by Ava DuVernay
• Do the Right Thing by Spike Lee
• If Beale Street Could Talk by Barry Jenkins
• When They See Us by Ava DuVernay
• 1619 from The New York Times
• Floodlines from The Atlantic
2) Support Black Businesses and Communities.
We all purchase food, household products, and supplies on a regular basis, so making the active decision to purchase these products from black businesses in your community could help promote financial equity. Using apps like EatOkra, following your local black publications, or a simple Google search can help you find the right black businesses to meet your needs. Here are some local options:
· Everyone’s Place (Baltimore)
· Mahogany Books (Washington, D.C.)
· Wisdom Book Center (Gwynn Oak)
Restaurants & Bars:
· Gisele’s Creole Cuisine (Wheaton)
· Lefty’s Barbecue (Waldorf)
· Monikay’s Kitchen (Laurel)
· Silver Spring Wings (Silver Spring)
· Shagga (Hyattsville)
· Swahili Village (Beltsville)
· The Krab Joint (Hagerstown)
While many are frustrated with this nation’s institutions during these uncertain times, here’s how to make your local government work for you:
Did you approve of your state legislators, mayors, councilmembers, and sheriffs during their times in office? Have their actions aligned with your vision for your community? Have they been supportive of all members of your community? However you answer these questions, take this time to contact and learn about the candidates for these local offices before you make your final decision in the general election this coming November.
Learn about State Resources:
If you want to add value to your community, many county and city governments have grants, programs and initiatives waiting for the participation of more individuals and organizations. Call your local officials, agencies, or departments for more information.
Systemic racism in our corporate, legal, and educational institutions start from the top. These racially exclusive corporate boards and management structures authorize the tolerance of racist barriers that hinder black progress. To combat these oppressive systems, demand for your representative boards to hold a space for black members. This senior-level representation would increase black participation in decision-making processes and help to ensure that diverse perspectives are always considered.
In order to honor the memory of George Floyd and the countless number of black lives that have been lost, we must look to the most accessible leaders that we know…ourselves. We have the ability to redefine our institutions and pave the way for racial equity and justice through the choices that we make every day. Let’s educate ourselves on black experiences, support black communities, and use our influences to make the lasting change that we all deserve. My life matters, your life matters, and #BlackLivesMatter too.
Adria Obonyo joined the Harris Jones & Malone (HJM) team as a Government Relations Associate in January 2020. She recently obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland in College Park (UMCP), where she was a member of the Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity and the UMCP Mock Trial Team. Prior to joining the HJM team, Adria served as a legislative aide in the Maryland General Assembly, assisted with legal research for Spivey Health Law, and served as an election judge for the Maryland Board of Elections. She is also a recognized alumnus of the American Legion Auxiliary’s Girls State and Girls Nation programs.