BY JEANETTE LENOIR
May Day Speech
Thank you for having me. I’m honored to stand here before you this evening, a member of the Resistance to the many injustices that are unfolding right in front of our eyes all across the country.
But make no mistake…racism, sexism, bigotry, homophobia, police brutality that largely impact people of color, and all other forms of discrimination isn’t necessarily getting worse.
It‘s getting filmed. It’s not hard to surmise that our humanity is at stake. We are living through an all-out war on decency, truth and reason. But, we must remain hopeful.
Let me take you back for a moment…
African Americans, free and enslaved, have been part of U.S. history from the start of European settlement. Their forced labor under bondage, pain and suffering, created an economic boom that propelled us to become the most powerful nation in the world. Slaves drove this country’s economy. From the tobacco, rice and cotton fields… black people built this country under the cracks of whips, and enduring some of the most brutal conditions inflicted by white people. Slaves even built the White House that now stands as a symbol of our Unity, Strength, and a Beacon of Hope for the rest of the world.
And yet, here we are, almost 400 hundred years later, still struggling to bring about racial justice and equality for all Americans. The recent opening of the Lynching Memorial is a stark reminder of the collective pain and harsh existence of black people in America. But, like those in the struggle before us, we must remain hopeful. I share this historical account with you because for us as Americans, a diverse people, to truly come together and overcome like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned, we must first recognize the pain and suffering of black people in this country. Other minority and disenfranchised groups have suffered as well, but none have borne the brunt of this country’s brutality than African Americans.
America has to face the ugly truth of race relations in our country. And racism isn’t a Waffle House problem. It’s not a Starbucks problem. It’s not a Cracker Barrel problem. It’s an American problem. Dr. King said, “Peace is not simply the absence of conflict, but the existence of justice for all people.” In the midst of all the media uproar surrounding the White House Press Secretary’s hurt feelings about her eye shadow made of lies, I want to tell you about iconic Journalist Simeon Booker who brought the 1955 murder of Emmett Till to the forefront of national news. He was born during segregation.
The year before his birth in 1918, thousands of African Americans marched in silence down New York’s Fifth Avenue to protest lynching and racial oppression. The group was met with counter protests and riots by white people. These riots, attacking innocent black people, swept across the country and lasted until 1921. These are historical facts. Simeon Booker was born into a hostile world. And yet he grew up to become a pioneering journalist, author and chronicler of the Civil Rights Movement. His life is a testament to the strength and resolve we must all hold on to, as we continue the work toward creating a more just country and world for all of us. Especially now, when those in power want us to believe that; wrong is right, lies are alternative facts, war is peace and slavery is freedom.
The media plays a big role in our collective culture and humanity. The media has a responsibility to project the real Man in the mirror.
Because Truth Matters. Chronicling the truth like Anne Frank and speaking truth to power matters. James Baldwin said, “The image of America we grown up with looks ideal in movies and pictures … for white people.” Unfortunately, the portrayal of black Americans is not only false, but morally damaging and demeaning to the people that helped built this country through the brutal practice of slave labor.
So, we have to show up and truthfully capture the story of our struggle like Simeon Booker did.
We have to show up and be counted in this struggle, forever securing a place in history like Dr. King did.
We have to show up and demand change like Malcom X did.
We have to show up and use the power of love like Ghandi did.
We have to show up and fight for each other, despite our differences, like JFK and Bobby Kennedy did.
We have to show up like the South Koreans did, united on common goals, when they took to the streets in mass numbers to demand change.
And, we have to show up like Comedian Michelle Wolf did at the White House Correspondence Dinner when she spoke the truth about all the lies coming from this administration and shining a light on the Media that benefits from it all.
It’s going to take all of us. Good people from all walks of life, all over the country, to bring about the change we’ve been after for too many years; racial and economic justice.
We can no longer afford to find comfort on the sidelines of history by not participating in the greatest democracy ever known to man. When the Speaker of the House callously fires the House Chaplain for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, reminding those in power of the benefits of social and economic equality and looking after those less fortunate, as they cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans … Folks, you know we’re in trouble.
James Baldwin said, “Ignorance allied with Power is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”
So, we have to show up like Baldwin did.
Simply minding your own business, keeping you head down and your mouth shut can no longer be an option. Not when the days of Hitler and McCarthyism are once again upon us like a bad reoccurring nightmare.
We have to collectively combat all forms of hate.
That’s why we protest like Colin Kaepernick.
The journey has been long and hard, but we must remain hopeful and inspired because there’s no turning back to the “Make America Great Again” days this administration is aiming for. Instead, let’s aim for the America Langston Hughes talks about in his poem; Let America Be America Again, “The land that never has been yet—And yet must be—the land where every man is free.”
It’s time to break through.
We cannot overlook the urgency of this moment because our country needs healing. We need fairness and, we need justice. How ironic and perhaps spiritual, that to overcome our struggles, is to reach back to the days of Sitting Bull, guided by the 12 Lakota Virtues:
- Generosity and Wisdom
…To finally bring about lasting peace to all corners of America. From the Valleys, Mountain tops and all across the Plains of our beautiful country. Dr. King said, “Let Freedom Ring … For There will be neither rest or tranquility in America until that happens.”