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Teen Voices for Racial Justice: Uncertain Times

A teen essay contest winner, presented by Cambia Health Solutions

Presented by Cambia Health Solutions By Akaisha Williams September 21, 2020

We are living in, certainly, uncertain times. Day by day, virus by shooting, privilege by prejudice, night by night. Waking up to invigorating and heart-aching chants from Pioneer Square. Fists of all colors brazenly raised to graze the sky. Our murals of popping pastels alongside signature roses climbing like ivy, now covered in thick oak boards. There's no escaping downtown without seeing a singed garbage can or being swept up in a waft of eye-stinging air. Yet, when you brave those familiar streets, close to those wooden walls, you are blessed by the faces shaping history. You're compelled to read their names, joining the new anthem.

“George Floyd... Breonna Taylor... Ahmaud Arbery..." A recent trio on the ceaseless body list of black folks murdered by police across our nation. One asphyxiated, one murdered in their home, and one hunted in broad daylight. None of which were doing anything worthy of such disgusting, excessive violence.

The author, Akaisha Williams

Image: Tom Cook

When a person of color comes across these tribunes, they see but a beautiful, cruel reminder of the world we live in. Truths we've known for our entire lifetime reinstated. Fearfully instilled in our children for centuries. But when a person devoid of color ogles them, they are faced with a choice. One with only one answer — Black Lives Matter.

I remember the first time I heard of the Black Lives Matter movement. As if age 9 was just yesterday. I was with my Big Mama, watching the news. Back when I was too nervous to call her “Big Mama” around my group of overwhelmingly White peers. We were sitting on her black, leather couch set she's had longer than I've been alive. I vividly remember the dead silence when I spoke. Her look of disbelief when I professed my agreement to All Lives Matter. I was uncertain of myself at the time, too ignorant, maybe even too young, to see the real message. Disregarding the various racist encounters I endured, age aside, that I dismissed for the benefit of the doubt. The movement was never advocating supremacy, but real equality. Not that Black lives were the only ones that mattered, but that ours were the most in danger. Black humans being hunted like game while the spiteful monsters responsible walk free. Looking back, I try not to fault myself. I’m more happy that it never stuck. And it gives me hope that others will grow more concerned with our irreplaceable livelihoods than their material goods.

Regardless of what I wanted, it's hard for me to do much when it comes to protesting. I'm no journalist, no matter how many times I've thought about attempting, and I'm regularly afraid of my own shadow. It severs my fervor to join the ever-growing protests in person in half. I can barely breathe when I see a pickup truck coming down the street, no matter the face inside or the flag mounted in the back. I become crippled with the fear of firecrackers, slurs being sung like hymns, and water spat like acid. With the anxiety slowly developing into PTSD, I carried out a micro-protest with two friends. Holding, “Honk if you support—!” signs. It was invigorating to see how many people honked, cheered, and walked by with at least a sliver of hope in their eyes... It may not have been grand, but it gave me pride. Pride in my friends, in my city, in this throng of complete strangers making their truth known. And, for the first time in a while, I was actually proud of myself. A feeling that hesitantly lingered.

I hope to be around to see the end result of the modern movement. The result of its resilience to the pandemic, to push back, to downfall. Of the hard work, commitment, and sacrifice of fearless protesters, fragmented families, and tortured souls. To not be reduced to another name or face painted on thick oak boards beside a square filled with more living, breathing pioneers of the modern age. No matter how many times my name will be chanted, no matter how long I trend on social media, no matter how or who it may benefit. But to instead be sitting on my Big Mama's black leather couch, eyes set on the TV screen, with a fist brazenly raised towards the sky. Celebrating the party’s end of four hundred years of spiritual enslavement. Because no matter how uncertain the times that we live in are, Black Lives Matter. They did, they do, and they'll forever matter more than shattered glass or stolen phones.

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