It was a warm and sunny day in famously hot Columbia, South Carolina on June 14th of 2020. There was a slight breeze that came through every now and again as the afternoon began to approach 2300 Greene Street, where the historic Martin Luther King Jr. Park is located. Just below the trees swinging in the breeze, over one thousand people gathered, dressed to the nines as they prepared to lock arms and march toward the South Carolina State House where thousands of others would be waiting to greet them, The Million Man March of SC.

This demonstration, which was very reminiscent of the Million Man March of October 1995 on the National Mall in Washington, DC, was organized by CMetro Jones and his team in response to the frustration of a city, state, and nation of African Americans. We are fed up with black men and women dying at the hands of police as well as what seems to be a blatant disregard for black lives lost in racially charged crimes involving whites. While the recent deaths of African Americans by police officers is far from a new topic of discussion, the number of recent deaths spanning across several states has sent a resurgence of fear and anger through our black communities. One of the most recent cases of what is now being called “blue on black crime,” was the death of George Floyd which sparked a nationwide outcry for change. George Floyd, an unarmed 46-year-old black man of Minneapolis, Minnesota, was essentially murdered by a white police officer after being pinned to the ground by the officer’s knee for an entire 8 minute and 46 second period while pleading to the arresting officers that he could not breathe.

Following this tragic incident, a newly charged movement has been ignited demanding respect for the lives of African Americans, and during these times, especially the lives of our African American men. All across the nation, there have been similar occurrences and, in response, protests are being held on a weekly basis. Some of them, like the ones in Minneapolis, did become violent, turning into rioting and looting. This seems to scream of frustration. It seems to scream of people being fed up with feeling as though they are treated as second-class citizens simply because of their blackness. This speaks to the level of pain, frustration, and fear many are feeling and while we do not condone violence as a response to violence, this does seem to be very telling. The feeling of many right now seems to be that they are just “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

Since we know that violence is not the answer, what then, do we do about this? How can we effectively seek change when it seems like the odds are stacked against us? How can we create a lasting impact for the good of our people so that we leave a better and more just world to the children that we are bringing into it?

Let’s say start by getting involved. First, vote. This is a powerful use of your one voice on a much larger scale. This is where you get to help to choose your leaders, so make your voice heard during not just the presidential elections but also for your state and local elections. Once you’ve registered to vote, get into the ears of everyone that will listen and encourage them to register to vote as well. This is how your one voice turns into many. Also, join your local NAACP chapter. You can do that by clicking here. 

What else? Get educated. Whether that be college or trade school, business or entrepreneurship courses, certifications in a particular skill or field, whatever your led to, but arm yourself with knowledge.

I feel we must educate ourselves as well as our sons and daughters. It has been said many times before that knowledge is power. It is also a breaker of generational curses when this power is used for our greatest good.

Systemic racism is very real, perhaps more so in the south than other parts of our country, but certainly prevalent throughout the entire nation as proven by recent events that we’ve seen with our very own eyes and it begs this simple question. Why?

To live in a world where we may see a man that looks just like our fathers, sons, brothers, or uncles die in a way that probably would not have been had he not been guilty of being born black feels too close to home. It feels too close to be comfortable watching and waiting. So, again, what do we do? How do our black men stay empowered and “keep their heads” when they have invisible targets on their backs?

Just sending your young black sons out to the store to buy milk during these times can feel like sending him into a battlefield, which is not okay. The lives of our black men matter, and we should reinforce that in the black men in our lives every chance that we get and continue to make sure that this is heard and understood across our nation.

To the black man in America today from your whole community that has your back, your front, and your best interest in mind:

“Your life matters!”