The ones who were afraid in Baton Rouge
Were the ones carrying the “red sticks”
Not the warrior queen who visited from the north
On behalf of her five-year old son
So she might invest in
His having a better life.
A better life
Than the sons of other mothers
She had gone there to mourn with
And stand proudly for.
She repelled the “red sticks”
Who were few in number
But seemed to grow into
A wall before her
As she stood her ground
Quietly in front of them.
She was a nurse who cared for others
Who said she was now “a vessel”
Doing God’s work.
The young queen arrived in regal garb
Regal in that it adorned her presence
Regal in that it could almost be said
To adorn ours.
She dressed for the moment
So that – standing in the hot sun
Of righteousness and pride –
She could feel as though
She were floating
In God’s air
In Baton Rouge.
The “red sticks” took her away
Took her away from her son
Took her away from her duties
Took her away from the cameras
And the tributes.
But the imprint she left
In the hearts and minds and souls
Of all of us
As though someone had gone out
And built a statue
Of a modern-day goddess
In every town in America.
The young queen
In the flowing garb
With diamonds in her closed eyes
With grief in her open heart
Sharing the secret:
How to be a woman
How to be a mother
How to be the vessel
How to show us the way
To Baton Rouge.
She stood silently on the gravel
She never spoke
But when we close our eyes
We can almost hear her say
“Ain’t I a woman?”
So that someday her son may say
“I am a man.”
President Barack Obama talks with paralympic athletes at the U.S. Olympic Training Facility in Colorado Springs, Colo., Aug. 9, 2012. Broadcast of the gold medal ceremony for the U.S. Olympic women’s soccer team plays on the TV in the background. Photo by Pete Souza
DeRay McKesson: Ferguson And Beyond: How A New Civil Rights Movement Began – And Won’t End
Mike Brown should be alive today. He should be home from his first year at college, visiting friends and enjoying summer as he prepares to return to campus. The movement began one year ago as Brown’s body lay in the street of Canfield Drive here in Ferguson, Missouri, for four and a half hours. It began as the people of St Louis came out of their homes to mourn and to question, as the people were greeted by armed and aggressive officers. In the past year, the movement has focused primarily on police violence that can be seen and its impact, centered on broken bodies and death. But the police are violent in ways that cannot always be seen – the violence against the hearts, minds and souls of black folk. We must begin to address the sexual and emotional violence inflicted upon us by the police, too. We must begin to address the assaults on our self-worth and potential, too.
Beyond Ferguson: how a new civil rights movement began – and how we will win | DeRay McKesson trib.al/ZhdaOQO
Naming this violence means one thing: the police and the state must change. It is not our job to shift the skin and identities into which we were born. It is up to systems of law enforcement, and the systems and structures that sustain its presence, to change. As much as this fight is about systems and structures, it is also a fight about hearts and minds. We will work hard to teach people that the safety of communities is not predicated on the presence of police – that safety is a more expansive notion than policing. Safety is strong schools, access to jobs, workforce development and access to healthcare, among many other things. The solution-work will likely fall into two separate but critically related areas: removing barriers, and building and rebuilding. There is much to be done to tear down systems and structures that oppress people, like mandatory minimum sentencing, broken-windows policing and police contracts that provide officers with protections that ensure they will never be held accountable for the crimes they commit.
President Barack Obama talks on the phone with President François Hollande of France in the Oval Office, Aug. 9, 2014. Photo by Pete Souza
President Barack Obama looks back towards a group of students before signing H.R. 1911, the “Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013,” in the Oval Office, Aug. 9, 2013. Photo by Pete Souza
Members of the audience listen as President Barack Obama delivers remarks on higher education and the economy at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, Aug. 9, 2010. Photo by Pete Souza
President Barack Obama walks to the podium on the South Lawn of the White House to deliver a statement on Iraq, Aug. 9, 2014. Photo by Amanda Lucidon
President Barack Obama, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, left, Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon, second from left, and governor Emilio Gonzalez, right, walk across the main courtyard at the the Cabanas Cultural Center during the North American Leaders’ Summit in Guadalajara, Mexico, on Aug. 10, 2009. Photo by Pete Souza
Paralympic swimmer Michael Prout watches as President Barack Obama signs a board for athletes during a visit to the U.S. Olympic Training Facility in Colorado Springs, Colo., Aug. 9, 2012. Photo by Pete Souza