Protesting has become a heavy topic during the last few months this pandemic.Yet protesting has always been a heavy topic and has been going on for hundreds of years now. A recent spark that has everyone angered and enraged is George Floyd’s death. Floyd was a 46 year old African American man murdered by Derek Chauvin, 44 year old white man who was a police officer at the time. Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for a total of 8 minutes and 46 seconds while he cried for his mom, he knew he was going to lose his life in that moment. This moment is what started the fire behind the most recent protests, although these moments of police brutality against black bodies have been happening for so long.
Riots, lootings, heartache and more deaths for days and days. I never thought I would actually be a part of something this big again, especially after the death of Trayvon Martin, 17, in 2012. People simply wasted no time as big rallies and organizations were put together, especially in Portland. I’ve never seen this many people here in this city come together to protest against something that wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair, it has never been fair and I don’t think it will ever be fair. I watched as every night as crowds were getting bigger and bigger. Especially after another death, another murder of the beautiful young Breonna Taylor, 26. She was sleeping at the time of her murder, yes murder—I will forever say that. Breonna was fatally shot in her sleep during a police raid by three white male police officers: Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankinson and Myles Cosgrove. The police always say this was a “wrong person,wrong time” situation, even though they forced entry into her apartment while again she was only sleeping. Imagine going to sleep not knowing this was going to be your last time you would come home to your loved ones and you simply go to sleep thinking“I’m going to wake up in the morning to start a new day.” Breonna’s death is what capped it all, the cherry on the top of the sundae. Now we’ve all woken up angry, ready to speak as we’ve come to a realization for once things are never going to change unless we continue to speak out against it.
Protests downtown every night still going on till this very day. SWAT teams being brought out with tear gas, so much tear gas. People witnessing brutality right in front of their own eyes, the injustice of it all. I remember being scared and crying for nights as I watched clips of police officers beating innocent peaceful protesters, especially the younger ones, the ones that looked like me. I went to my first protest with my friend Zéa Abreu. It was in Clackamas, where some of you may live. I was shocked because there were a lot of white people there, but at the same time I wasn’t shocked because Oregon is predominantly white and so is the Clackamas area. It made me happy to see they were all on our side, “allies” as everyone would say. We walked for a while, screamed chants, took a kneel and listened to speakers as a black girl that lived in the area had organized the whole protest. Zéa and I went to our second protest leading into downtown. It was Breonna Taylor’s birthday, which made the day so much more memorable. I cried and cried that night as my grandma had told me, “It’s sad that I have to witness my grandkids protesting for something I was protesting for when I was a teen.” That right there broke my heart and I will never forget what was said to me that night.
My grandma’s comment got me thinking about how things have really not changed since the ‘60s,even before that. I took the time to interview two important people in my life that I’ve seen protest for something we shouldn’t have to today. Same fight between different generations. My grandma Gloria was born and raised in South Gulfport, Mississippi.. Zéa was born and raised here in Portland, Oregon. My grandma started protesting at the same age as Zéa and I, 17.
As she told me,“ I was in high school. Itt was my senior year and we were ordered to bus to a white school.” This was when things were segregated and there were schools for whites and school people of color. Things were unfair back then, way worse than now.There was “tension” simply because this was the first time POCs were being integrated into white schools.“The teachers were not always being fair and so we ended up having a riot and this is the first time I stood up. I was 17.”
This of course was not the only thing my grandma had protested against. Zéa had mentioned that “History is repeating itself in the way that we are still trying to address the same issues that have been disputed in the past” and “We are still fighting for basic human rights.” Hearing things like that will definitely put it in a view that we may never get that justice we have been fighting for, that my ancestors were fighting for, that I still have to fight for today. We have come a long way, as things are somewhat better in a way I don’t really know how to describe.
“I was past the point of worrying about my life anymore. I just didn’t want to live another day in this life where I had to be quiet or I had to keep what I had to say to myself,” Zéa Abreu explained. These were the thoughts running through my friend’s head as she spoke out against the injustices going on during this time of havoc. It’s sad that at this point in time most people are still at a point in their life where they care more about finally receiving simple human rights than even being alive. It’s still happening, and history continues to repeat itself. I wish my grandma didn’t have to see her grandkids fighting for something she had to fight for so we wouldn’t have to worry about it now, but look at us, still in the same situation.
I wish it didn’t have to be like this, I wish we could move forward. But with the way everything is moving, I don’t think any of the inequality will. History will change, things will get better, but I will never feel safe being a black woman in this country. Thank you.
Photo: People marching and carrying signs in Washington, D.C. in 1968 via Leffler, Warren K.