Justice First

If the walls could talk, they would say Breonna deserves justice. Justice first.

Recapping everything that has occurred since my last post seems futile. It almost feels as if the character Thanos from the Avengers is snapping his fingers, however his fingers are wet so he just keeps snapping because he’s not getting the full effect. We’re not seeing a loss of half of humanity. Yet, with every inaudible snap there is more loss and more injustice to dismantle. 

Supreme Court Justice and voice for justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, died on September 18th. Five days later, Attorney General Daniel Cameron in Louisville, Kentucky delivered another blow to justice: Not one of the 3 officers responsible for the death of Breonna Taylor would be charged with her murder. Breonnna Taylor was a First Responder who was asleep in her home when officers tore through her home shooting, looking for someone they already had in custody. One officer was indicted on first-degree wanton endangerment charges; he was accused of blindly firing shots that went through Breonna Taylor’s home and penetrated the walls of a neighbor’s apartment.

If the walls could talk, they would say Breonna deserves justice. They would manage just fine with some stucco and a good paint job.

Devastation, heartbreak, hopelessness and betrayal encapsulate only a few of the feelings of grief expressed as Daniel Cameron, a Black man by birth, regurgitated the decision for the world to hear. Calls for his resignation and cancellation were swift, given his affiliation with those who have a proven record of activating injustice against the Black community specifically and communities of color in general. Personally, I was grappling with how I was going to explain this decision to my 10-year old daughter who had just returned home from being with her father on the East Coast for a month. In a world that has been abundantly clear what “they” think about us (that Black Lives do not Matter and are detested, defiled and are expendable); I, like so many grown-ups are trying to turn the Truth Narrative volume up even louder in order to drown out all that hate noise. Black Lives Matter. They always have and they always will.

Something else I was wrestling with is how I too have unintentionally caused harm to my own community in the form of seeking solidarity as a form of justice. Or working to have Black Folx included in organizations and institutions that I know full well are so toxic that you can feel your humanity draining from you when you step through the door. No, I have never done a D. Cameron. However, I have inadvertently done damage.

Sis, you actually gon’ put that in writing for people to read? Are you trying not to work again or…?

I have always intended for my blog to be about love and liberation. Part of that goal is realized by excavating how and what we learn, challenging unhealthy thoughts and actions, while leading ourselves and others out of oppression and into liberation, both personally and professionally. You know, the stuff our Ancestors fought and died for and want for their descendants. So yes, this requires me being honest with you AFTER I have been honest with myself, because we know that substantive healing happens in community with others. 

So yeah, I messed up during what I will call my “Emergence from the Sunken Place:” 1 Part leaving a toxic relationship and 1 Part re-learning that Justice, true Justice is the foundation of DEI work.

Justice first.

Once, I thought I was being useful by trying to help bring Black and Brown students to work together in solidarity to combat White Supremacist Delusions (see @sonyareneetaylor on IG for her brilliant views on W.S.D.). I was a part of solidarity work during my time at USD where we conducted these educative, cathartic and life changing experiences with a diverse group of student leaders called Human Relations Workshops (HRWs). They were dope! Surely bringing these students leaders together after a botched student election to re-imagine leadership and liberation on this campus would be just what the institution needed, right? 

Crash and burn. I learned that before solidarity can ever be truly realized, there must be…

Justice first.

The 2nd time came when I was asked to support a department-wide conversation examining the impact of Anti-Black racism perpetuated by the department and the institution at-large. Due to my strong familiarity with the institution (my way of qualifying that I intimately know the pain caused to Black minds, bodies and spirits by said institution), I was slow to re-injure Black community members on that campus by talking with them first about their pain. “I know their pain and I know it is valid. Let’s get to work so we can make sure they are heard and give the organization their marching orders. The department needs to get busy in order to transform the experiences of Black community members, which will also make a better living/learning/working experience for everyone else.”  

Yes, I said that *bleep* out loud.

Add to my decision to not talk with members of the Black community being a single mom and being strapped for time, you can imagine the reception during the community discussion. 

Sidebar: Something I tell all of my emerging and seasoned leaders to make time for are Listening Tours. “Listening tours are not about you” I say. “They are all about you making space for those who have been voiceless, they must be heard and seen.” Listening, seeing, and loving on others is a form of…

Justice first.

Yes you guessed it, that discussion was cringe. Luckily, the Associate I had working with me was so amazing that she was able to create a brave space for the community that was in real pain, while I was able to observe the leadership to provide next steps to lead the department into the new millennium.

Breonna, your life and dreams were stolen from you. You would have been an amazing nurse, Sis. We will continue to fight for what was rightfully yours. #JusticeforBreonnaTaylor #JusticeFirst. | Image: Family of Breonna Taylor, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Back in my early 30’s, I remember being reprimanded for providing too much support to Black students on a university campus (I kid you not) and not providing enough support to our Asian/Asian American students. My supervisor at the time was someone who identified as a woman of Asian/Pacific Islander heritage. She led an office that was designed to support students from various cultural backgrounds. I recall a particularly contentious meeting where she informed me that there were “places for people like me” whose primary focus was supporting Black students.

“Word?” I thought. “There’s a place for people like you who have a problem with people like me. It is very, very, VERY hot there. Let me help you pack a sack lunch for the ride.”

I eventually quit that job.

We all have our biases. And, if our biases get in the way of justice for those who experience the most extreme forms of injustice, then we have to rethink our relationship to social justice, possibly time for a new line of work. As The Notorious B.I.G. astutely pointed out “UPS is hiring.” Go do that; don’t call yourself a social justice activist if you are not about…

Justice first.

To be clear, my goal in this post is not to try and garner sympathy. I have sown enough good seed in my community during the past 3+ decades that I haven’t been cancelled. Maybe I was on a “Cultural Time Out.” Nonetheless, my goal is to have you, the reader, think critically and honestly about ways that you may have unintentionally and/or intentionally worked against justice: Justice within your own family, community, places of worship, work environments, the gas station…wherever. A few questions you may consider asking yourself:

  • Do I know what justice is for myself? My community? Those communities different than my own?
  • Do I know what injustice looks like for the various communities around me?
  • What is hindering me from being able to actively hear, understand, appreciate and bridge the Justice Gap for those who may not be empowered or privileged in areas where I have power and privilege?
  • What stories have I been taught about what might happen if a particular group receives justice?
  • Am I doing true justice work, or am I engaging in covert-oppression exercises for those who have historically been in power?
  • If I am really about that Justice Life, am I learning and doing more to support the work that needs to be done?

One of my favorite quotes by Dr. Cornel West (that I often transpose) is “Justice is what love looks like in public.” Justice is still calling out too many names of loved ones whose lives have been taken, unjustly. #JusticeforBreonnaTaylor #JusticeforGeorgeFloyd #JusticeforTooManytoName #JusticeforReal #JusticeFirst.

Voting Resources: 

  • Check your state and local election sites for registration deadlines and voting details. 
  • There are a number of states that offer ballot tracking technology