This weekend, I turned 30.
It’s an age I feel that I have been waiting for my whole life; my outsides finally catching up with what had always felt like my always much older insides. The day before my birthday, I participated in a Black Lives Matter protest at my alma mater, marching through the streets of my former home alongside my sister, our friend, and a thousand strangers. At one point, my sister looked at me and asked, “Are you happy this is how you are spending the last day of your 20s?” That thought had not quite hit me. On this the last day of a pivotal decade, I was standing on the grounds that helped raise me, participating in what is now the broadest civil rights protest in modern U.S. history, continuing the fight my ancestors started long before me. All at once, I was overwhelmed. “Happy” seemed too small a word.
For the first time, I looked around and saw so many people who did not look like me. They were all ages and ethnicities, and all focused on one single message: Black Lives Matter. Their energy exuded the urgency that this moment called for. There is a long journey ahead in this fight for social justice, but I believe what I felt blooming inside me at that moment was the warm glow of hope.
1. I hope we all keep doing the work
Listen. Amplify. Self-Educate. Support. Donate. Vote. These are the responsibilities of an ally. If you were not aware of the injustices our current systems bestow on Black people before, then you are now. There is no turning back. Every day, in ways big and small, we all have to show up. We have to do the work of having conversations with others and ourselves about how we may have been complicit. We have to give of our time and our resources. We have to rest, restore, and renew our energies towards this cause. It is crucial we remember that the momentum of this moment may begin to fade, but that the work never does.
2. I hope we continue to see the full breadth of Black humanity
I am many things. I am a writer, an activist, a manager. I am ambitious, impatient, and kind. I am a woman. I am Black, and proud to be. The importance of my intersectionality needs to hold space with the people who love me. For the first time, I am having conversations where my friends not only see, but also fully embrace my color. I hope that continues. It is not acceptable to only show up for the fun and shiny parts of each other’s humanity; we need to show up for the parts that are in anguish as well. So often people ignore my being Black because they are uncomfortable with the type of conversations that recognition may lead to; the hard parts of this work that would require them to look inward. No longer.
Please do continue to laugh with me, to ask me about the TV show I am binging and the book I am reading. I ask that you also hold space though for the part of me that is scared and in pain as well, because I am not narrow; I am broad and complex and the full breadth of who I am deserves recognition.
3. I hope no ally allows themselves to again be silent in the face of racism
Any time I have faced passive racism in my workplace, the responsibility has always fallen on me to defend myself; but to have allies who are actively anti-racist means that shouldn’t be the case. The thing I have heard most often from my non-Black friends since this movement has begun is that they are “afraid of saying the wrong thing.” To that concern, I have two responses.
First, your primary job as an ally is to educate yourself and amplify the voices of the leaders in this field. You should be less concerned about whether or not you are saying the right thing if you are following their lead.
Second, if you are going to do this work, then at some point you are going to say the wrong thing. If—and when—that happens, it is important that you recognize that you made a mistake, show grace as you let yourself be corrected by those who will correct you, apologize, and allow yourself to continue to be teachable as you move forward. We need you to show up imperfectly in order to fight for a more perfect union. Do not let your fear allow you to be complicit. The weight of racism is a hard and heavy burden to bear; allow your voice to help us shoulder that burden.
4. I hope this is the beginning of the end of systemic institutionalized racism
I want to believe that in my lifetime I will see the systems that disproportionately kill, isolate, impoverish, and imprison Black people dismantled. I know that this may not be possible. This fight has taken the entire lifetime of my parents, grandparents, their parents, and every single person in my ancestral line. Every person who has lived on American soil and led to the creation of me today writing this to you has had to dedicate their entire life to this fight, and I know that it still might not be enough. Maybe though, with the outcry of every person who has stepped into this fight, those seemingly impenetrable walls will begin to tremble.
5. I hope there is a future where my Black children do not know this violence
When I have Black children that are born with Black skin, I want this to be a part of their past—not their future. I want them to be afforded some of the privileges that some of your children will be afforded. That they will get to run and play with their friends with wide smiles, big laughs, and fear absent from their eyes; that they will not witness the violence that I have witnessed. I want the monuments that occupy spaces of honor in the parks my children roam to bear the names of the people that got us to this point—Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade— instead of those that fought for oppression. I know the only way that happens is if every single one of us puts in the work. I hope that you will show up for us and do this work.
On Sunday, I turned 30. My friends and I had a picnic at the park near my house. We played games; we laughed and shared stories. When we were done we each went home, put on our sneakers, picked up our signs and marched with tens of thousands of people in the streets of Los Angeles. To both end one decade and start the next in this way was in fact the happiest thing I could have done for myself.
Breonna Taylor will never get the chance to turn 30, and neither will Ahmaud Arbery. George Floyd will never get the chance to watch his daughter become the age that I now am. For them, I used my voice. From the very depths of my soul, I cried out their names repeatedly because I believe with every ounce of my being that doing so will prevent them from being forgotten. I believe, as I look around and see so many people of every creed and color chanting those names along with me that there may in fact be a seismic shift happening. For the first time in a very long time, I am beginning once again to feel hope.