By Dr. Dorrance Kennedy
For African Americans, recent events have been filled with great historic meaning. The one year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota has been a painful memorial for people across the nation.
The one hundred year anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre which includes the destruction of Black Wall Street is even more horrific to remember. The annual celebration of Juneteenth, the oldest African American holiday in the country, highlights America’s possibilities and contradictions. These three events symbolize so much about the past, present, and future of African American people in the United States.
In the case of George Floyd, there was a great sense of relief that Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of his murder. However, there is so much work that remains to be done. Broad based, comprehensive police reform has not yet been achieved.
Will the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act be passed by Congress? This bill seeks to ban chokeholds and carotid holds, end the use of no knock warrants, and discontinue qualified immunity which protects police officers from personal liability in questionable, deadly shootings. There is resistance in Washington but we must continue the fight for justice.
The Tulsa Massacre also highlights unanswered claims for justice. During the destruction of Black Wall Street, thirty five square blocks and twelve hundred homes were destroyed. Ten thousand people were made homeless and up to three hundred people were killed. For the first time in our history, bombs were dropped on an American city. Recently, the three remaining survivors of this event testified before the House Judiciary Committee and a lawsuit has been filed on their behalf.
Thus far, Oklahoma has refused to provide reparations. Will the survivors and the Tulsa community get some form of justice before they die? Meanwhile, the HR 40 bill awaits a vote in Congress. Can racial justice be achieved without America apologizing for her original sin?
The holiday of Juneteenth represents the end of slavery in America. In 1865, African Americans in Texas were finally notified about their freedom by General Gordon Granger. But racism still exists and we have not yet escaped the vestiges of servitude.
Redlining, subprime lending, substandard public education, health disparities, police brutality, poverty, and unemployment represent lasting reminders of inequality. Voter suppression bills have been initiated in several states. Fifty six years after the murder of civil rights activist Jimmie Lee Jackson in Alabama, we still struggle for the unrestricted right to vote.
The African American freedom struggle has always been internal and external. While we must protest for our rights, we must also develop ourselves internally within our communities. In order to achieve justice, we must build strong moral character and integrity in our youth, especially young men who are deemed a threat to society.
In my new book, Wisdom from My Father’s Porch, I provide guidance and life lessons for young African American men who are devalued and disregarded. This book is based on conversations I had with my late father and other male role models. It is also influenced by my experiences raising my own son. Strong faith, courage, stable families, positive relationships, educational attainment, health, and financial literacy are essential keys to our struggle. By using the wisdom of the past, we can overcome the current challenges we face.
Dr. Dorrance Kennedy is a college professor, social worker, ordained minister, and motivational speaker. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.eypnc.org