Educate, Engage, Activate

What “Black Lives Matter” Means to Me

By Mayra Rodriguez-Howard

Black Lives Matter is a movement that sheds light on police brutality toward the Black community and uncovers ways by which systems in our society prevent Black people from reaching their full potential. It has opened doors to examine the means by which our systems deny people of color the fair share of resources and benefits that many of us take for granted.

On a personal level, it has offered me a new spark to continue learning, reading, and reflecting about the horrendous ways that Blacks are treated in the criminal justice system and other systems in this society. It is also a way to show solidarity and act in partnership with a social movement to help address these inequities in order for Black people to be treated with the consideration, respect and fairness from which Whites benefit.

When people say to me “All lives matter,” I respond: Yes, ALL lives matter. Unfortunately, as a society, we do NOT treat all lives the same. 

As a person of color, I take responsibility for how I have been complacent and complicit in ways that are invisible to me. When I examine my behavior, I realize that I have “caught” messages from society about who is better than and less than. I have been exploring how I react when I see others who are different from me and reflecting on what messages I have received about this group and where they came from. This movement is about seeing what is not visible to me. 

What does community support for Black Lives Matter mean to you? What does or would that support look like?

It is imperative for communities like Winchester to show strong support for movements like Black Lives Matter. Most importantly, in order to correct wrongs that have occurred historically and that continue to happen, we need to join forces. In communities like Winchester there are many residents whose positions of power and influence are able to significantly impact a wide range of social, business and government institutions, and as members of a community that has benefitted from White privilege, it is important to examine how this has played out in our town and to strive to rectify resultant injustice. If different communities add their voices to the movement, have conversations, learn together, take action and join forces with movements such as Black Lives Matter, they become positive agents of change and demonstrate that we are all in this together. Those who adopt an attitude of complacency allow for the perpetuation of inequities to continue. WE ARE US. WE are all part of a system that needs reconfiguring and strengthening. WE have come to a point where historical wrongdoings have come to the surface, where “undoing” needs to be part of the “doing,” and where new awakenings are taking place.

For me, support of the BLM movement is synonymous with supporting a more equitable society. I have joined anti-racist book clubs, listened to podcasts and webinars, participated in community conversations, and volunteered with sanctuary movements. I have led Diversity, Inclusion, Equity workshops, held “Black Lives Matter” signs, and continue to look for ways to educate myself, make a difference, and lend my support. At this point, I cannot say “I didn’t know.” While I will never know all that there is to know about inequities, especially if they haven’t affected me in a negative way, by continuing to live my life without questioning, I am complicit in perpetuating systems of inequity. And I might feel better by giving money to “those who need it,” and feel good about myself, (which is ok), but that is not enough. Donating money without learning about the roots of problems we’re seeking to improve will maintain a system with ingrained challenges that need addressing. There are countless members of our society who work as hard, are as smart, and have what it takes to be where we find ourselves right now.

Black Lives Matter is not a movement for communities of color only.

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