By Chanel Davis
I cannot give up. I cannot get tired.
These are things that I keep constantly telling myself. The climate of our country is crying out in pain. From hashtags after hashtags of our fellow brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nieces, and nephews, each moment of witnessing the forced news coverage for justice and equality is a battle. We fight to be seen and heard.
Watching the news and checking social media is frightening. It makes me angry. It makes me hurt. It makes me cry. I sat in bed one morning reading another article of another murder and I just was overwhelmed with questions of trying to gain understanding.
I looked up and asked, “God why are we so hated in this world?!”
“What did we do so wrong to be looked upon as less than?”
I cannot take it anymore. I am so tired. Just exhausted!
Then it dawned on me. I have ancestors who were tired and exhausted who did not give up. They did not give up being heard. To be seen. To be FREE! So, I stopped complaining internally about being tired.
Although it is ok to take mental breaks for moments of peace, we cannot quit. I know my emotions are incomparable of how those before me came and what their fight in their time looked like. I think about Whipping Peter, an escaped slave from 1863 who was photographed with his scars of how badly he was whipped and beaten during his time of being a slave. He barely survived, and still, he had the determination to run to his freedom.
There is this submerged feeling I get when I think of how Dred Scott felt, a slave who unsuccessfully sued for his freedom in 1857 and was told that African Americans were not considered to be citizens. Can you imagine the feeling of defeat he must have felt sitting in a courtroom with no one who looked like him? What ran through his mind as he faced people who probably ridiculed and harassed him for even having the courage to step forward?
I think of the many places where my people settled, built their own, flourished and all to just be burned, massacred, and torn down by hatred. If you cannot think of any, I will list a few for you to learn more about and never forget:
- Pittsburgh in the 1930s was once known as a Mecca of Black Culture in which Black people settled and built a small community in a place undesirable to white people. It was torn down after it began to flourish with black excellence resulting in the displacement of over 8,000 Black people.
- The Wilmington Massacre (also my hometown) occurred in 1898 and was initiated by a newspaper article by a white feminist who suggested to, “lynch 1,000 negroes a week.” Once again, an entire community was destroyed and terrorized from fear of the success Black people had created and challenged for equal power.
- During the Springfield Massacre in 1908, more Black people were killed and their businesses were burned down.
- In the Colfax Massacre of 1873, Black men were murdered when trying to freely assemble at a courthouse.
- The Orangeburg Massacre occurred in 1968 when a civil rights protest on the campus on South Carolina State University turned deadly after a white patrolman opened fire in a crowd of unarmed Black students.
- The Atlanta Massacre of 1906 occurred due to white people feeling threatened by the upward mobilization of Black communities. The incident was initiated by white women making claims of being sexually assaulted by Black men that, to this day, were never proven to be true.
This is just to name a few which we are not too far removed in time. My heart cries in disgust at the willful ignorance and hatred one can hold in their heart, especially towards things they choose to fear as simplistic as skin color. I have severed many connections with those who choose to ignore the events happening in our world–by either willingly or unwillingly choosing to wallow in their ignorance. I’m including those who love the way I look but are not interested in learning what pains me nor how they can help to repair in their own communities. I felt guilty initially for stepping forward and challenging those who were choosing silence. Then I became brave because if not me, then who?
I want to indulge in as much history of my people as I can to understand and educate myself on where we came from, what we have been through, and the hardships we faced. Despite being murdered, beaten, and oppressed, we kept fighting. We demanded rights to be free, to vote, to integrate and moved forward as much as we have been allowed. So, I can absolutely see how one can be exhausted and tired of literally fighting for their whole life.
As I sit in virtual meetings and listen, I still put a smile on my face even when it literally pains me.
How you ask?
Because I know who fought to get me to where I am. I know what sacrifices were made for me. Despite what is going on in the news and in the world, I would not dare to let anyone see me down, sad, or to show them any sense of defeat. I was built strong. I was built to sustain. I was called and created to exist during this time because I could handle it. Because through the pain and bloodshed of my ancestors, I can endure.
I will not show the pain I feel behind closed doors. And even then, I still pick myself back up. I will not cower and back down. I will not step aside and disappear.
I will be seen, and I will be heard. I can challenge myself to do more. Not only for myself but for the next generation. I can use my voice and platforms to end injustice and inequality. I can proudly sit in board meetings and seminars and represent strength.
If my ancestors could run hundreds of miles barefoot and waded in freezing water and mud to move us forward, I cannot get tired. I cannot be exhausted.
Because I too have work to do.
Chanel Davis is a Contributing Writer for the Pedestal Project, LLC. Chanel is the creator and operator of the Diary Of A Chocolate Girl podcast aiming to connect with chocolate girls all over through personal experiences and opinions with mild humor and a spiritual flare. Be sure to connect on IG and Facebook @DiaryofaChocolateGirl.