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  • Writer's pictureThe Eagle

Editorial: Black Lives Matter Movement Raises Awareness

Updated: Nov 24, 2020

Bridgette Craighead stands with police officers during a protest at the Farmer's Market in July. (Courtesy Photo)

Black Lives Matter.

What is it?

What does it really mean?

Why should I care?

What is it?

Black Lives Matter is a social movement founded by three black female activists, Alicia Carza, Patrisse Cullovs, and Opal Tometi. This movement was started in 2013 in response to the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. Black Lives Matter helps voice the concerns of black individuals and the systematic oppression they experience. This movement doesn’t only include the voices of black lives. It also gives a voice to any man, woman, and non-binary people, as well as the LGBTQ and transgender communities.

Bridgette Craighead helps lead a Black Lives Matter protest in front of the courthouse this past summer. (Courtesy Photo)

In Ferguson, in 2014, after the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown, this movement truly took off. In 15 days, two brave women organized a national ride dubbed “The Black Lives Matter Ride”. Many citizens were inspired to create Black Lives Matter chapters in their own cities. This organization has grown exponentially, with 40+ chapters, one of which is now blooming in Franklin County.

"My cousin, Katosha Poindexter, and I started organizing protests. We had no idea that it was going to be as successful as it was," said Bridgette Craighead, Franklin County BLM founder. "We decided to call our group Black Lives Matter Revolution, because at that time, we didn’t know what we had to do to become an official chapter. Once we learned what we had to do, Black Lives Matter Franklin County was established on Sept. 1, 2020. Our main focus has been removal of the Confederate monument in front of our courthouse, to bring awareness to how people of color are being treated unfairly in our community, and registering people to vote."

Franklin County has been fairly positive toward this chapter's steps in bettering our community.

“For the most part, it’s been pretty positive. People are actually happy that we are shining a light on issues that are usually swept under the rug. Of course there are some negative comments, but that’s expected. Not everyone is going to agree, but we are hoping our love will be loud enough,” Craighead states.

After 2015, the BLM movement went relatively dormant but changed this year. On February 23, Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed while jogging in Glynn County, GA. Less than a month later, 23 year old Breonna Taylor was shot and killed in her sleep. Then, the death of George Floyd occurred two months later.

Little did we know that this would flip the world upside down. With COVID-19 on the rise, quarantined Americans were able to watch the circulating video, digesting the gravity of what was happening and what was coming. This perfect storm of events woke up many white people and inspired many people of color to speak up. Protests and hashtags filled the media, demanding justice for all of the innocent black lives being lost. Protests continued.

What does this mean?

Well, Black Lives Matter fights against systemic racism in America and all over the world. People from Brazil to Australia have joined this movement to fight stigmas and police brutality. The media has dramatized protests to be depicted as violent; some have gone as far as to label BLM as a terrorist organization. It is important to note that most of the protests for this movement have been peaceful and empowering. People who truly support this movement understand the goal of equality and are completely against looting, violence, and rioting.

Why should I care?

Systematic racism is not just something that affects largely populated areas, it also has its effects locally. People from our hometown have had first-hand experiences with racism.

"As a black female in a predominantly white area, I have had to work five times as hard to find and utilize all the opportunities that are available," said Jaliyah Hairston, a senior. "I say this because many of my fellow Caucasian peers have been taught what classes to take, why, and how by family members, family friends, parents who are teachers, and more. I had absolutely no knowledge about higher level classes like APs/DE until I took the time to go out and do the research about them. I feel that this lack of information to a variety of people has a very large impact. Since freshman year, I have observed myself being the only black person or person of color in some of the higher-level classes, and I truly believe that that comes from the lack of information spread to all types of people."

Society has put a pressure on people of color to act toward a certain stereotype.

As a mixed person, especially in Franklin County, it’s so hard to find where I fit in. To black people, I’m ‘too white’ or ‘too preppy,’ and to white people, I’m ‘too black,’ or ‘ghetto.’ It feels like there’s no room for me at the table, at all,” said junior Kobe Levisy.

Although this is saddening, many white allies have come to help their black friends in the fight to end racism.

“I have been to protests, where I have gotten to donate money and just got to chant with people to raise awareness. Also, I’ve been just signing as many petitions as I can,” stated senior Jaden Bernard.

Other allies tend to spread awareness in other ways.

I've found that one of easiest ways to support Black Lives matter is to just simply start conversations with friends and family about what systemic racism is and how we can help. I have done this through conversations with my family, friends, and through social media posts,” said Sam Krauss, senior.

Krauss has discovered the purpose of educating.

“My parents definitely have similar views as me," Krauss said. "They struggled to understand Black Lives Matter at first, but after I explained some of the daily struggles black Americans go through that we could never understand, and what Black Lives Matter is all about, they definitely supported it as well. As for social media posts, I’ve received mostly positive responses. I’ve had a few ‘all lives matter’ responses. I usually try to respond to these respectfully and try to explain why ‘all lives matter’ is actually harmful to the movement.

The deaths of innocent black citizens such as George Floyd and Breonna Taylor have impacted many white students as well.

It’s opened my eyes to the true injustice happening in the world. Personally, I empathize with people, so my friends being upset about it has made me realize I would truly do anything in my power to fight for their rights,” stated senior Alyssa Barbour.

It’s very easy to counter these statements with a “but not all black people experience death nor near-death experiences” rebuttal. Although some may not experience it, it does not mean that it doesn’t affect them personally or emotionally.

“Emotionally, I hurt. I know I am extremely blessed to not have had to experience racism and police brutality in my life, but the same cannot be said about others who look the same as me," said Eagle alum Chloe Newbill. "This racial tension isn’t just an individualized issue, it’s a community issue, and just because I don’t experience it ‘as bad’ as others doesn’t mean my feelings are invalid. For example, there have been countless times where white people have made racially charged snide comments to me about the way I look, talk, and act, but luckily, I’ve never dealt with a severe enough incident to draw attention to the matter."

How can I help?

Helping out this heartbroken community can be easy. Educate. Educate yourselves, your friends, and your family. The first step of understanding a problem you don’t experience personally is finding out more about it.

Realizing that having black friends doesn’t make you immune to being racist can be eye-opening and convicting at first. It is important not to get defensive and to listen rather than talk over already suppressed voices. Signing petitions, donating money, and attending protests are also amazing ways to assist in this world-changing movement.

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