Friday, December 30, 2016

Power to the People

“To be honest Anissa, I thought you were half black,” a floormate of mine confessed to me as I was brushing my teeth before bed. I asked her why she assumed such a thing considering I don’t have any black physical features (whatever that should mean). She responded with, “It’s because you’re always talking about black social issues ... and well ... your pajama shirt has a picture of the Selma march.” After my initial reaction of laughter, I understood where she was coming from since I am a vocal supporter of the Black Lives Matter Movement and I am engaged in such organizations as “Sojourn to the Past,” an immersion program that takes high school students along the path of the Civil Rights Movement. During my junior year of high school, Jeff Steinberg, the director of Sojourn to the Past, came to present the trip to my class. After hearing about this trip, where I’d have the privilege of traveling to Georgia, Alabama, and Arkansas to meet Civil Rights leaders and go to several key locations of the movement, I knew I had to go on this trip. After school that day I asked my mama if I could attend the trip, promising her that I would raise the money, but since it cost well over our financial ability ($2500) she had to say no. I was devastated. Therefore, I went “behind my parents back” by asking my high school’s activities director for financial assistance. My high school ended up giving me $1250! I think the reason I was offered so much help was because they could see how eager I was to go on this trip. In the end, I wrote a letter and sent it out to family and friends asking for donations … I ended up only paying $200 for the trip! To this day, I am so proud of myself for accomplishing that!
Anyways …
Sojourn to the Past was a life-changing trip that has caused me to be who I am today: An activist and supporter of the Black Lives Matter Movement who believes in getting in “good trouble” and using nonviolent tactics to end violence. On the trip, I met my favorite man in the world: Congressman John Lewis. He was dubbed one of the Big Six leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, as he was named chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), was a leader of the Selma march which helped hasten the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and was a part of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. (man oh man how I love that man … if you haven’t watched the movie Selma what are you doing?? But in all seriousness, take the time to watch it). On the trip, I also got to meet leaders of the Children March, Simeon Wright (cousin of Emmett Till), Medgar Evers's wife and children (Medgar Evers was assassinated by members of the White Citizen’s Council because he fought to enact social justice and voting rights), Minnijean Brown and Elizabeth Eckford (two courageous members of the Little Rock Nine who were the first to segregate an all white high school), and the sister of Denise McNair (who was assassinated in the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing in 1963).  
I can talk for hours about the Civil Rights Movement … I am so passionate about it … just by writing this and remembering all the things that I have learned about the movement has got my heart beating! So if you’re interested in the Civil Rights Movement or need to write a paper about anyone involved in the movement, feel free to hmu! In fact, I helped my roommate write her final term paper for her Afro class this semester because … well… I know my shit!
Anyways …

I can already envision my mama’s grimace when I tell her that I’m considering minoring in African American studies and or Criminology. She has never fully supported my passion for helping to solve social issues affecting our black community because I know she’s thinking, “Those aren’t your kind.” But what does that mean? Black men and women might not “look like me” but that doesn’t mean I don’t consider them to be my brothers and sisters. Afterall, as Congressman John Lewis once said, “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?” I believe that justice will prevail, but we must bind together and fight for our fellow brothers and sisters. 
Love yall. Attached is my essay that fortunately got me into CAL, it is titled "Flutterfly" and I hope you enjoy it. 
Despite it being a day when my heart has grown heavier and heavier with the things that I’ve seen, the things that I’ve heard, and the things that I’ve been forced to acknowledge, I am surprised to feel the familiar flutter. As I hold hands with my newfound family of Sojourners around the Civil Rights Memorial, my first inclination is to nip the feeling because it doesn’t seem appropriate at this time. Although I feel drained and disappointed with the vivid history we retraced throughout the day, I feel a flutter of excitement.

My first memory of fluttering was when I was four years old. It was a rainy day, and I noticed some ants huddled under a leaf. I thought it was unfair that the ants had no home so I became inundated with visions of myself building each ant a stable hut to outwit the rain. I became so lost in this vision of catering to the ants that I didn’t notice when my hands began to move rapidly until my mom interrupted my daydream mid flap. According to my parents, flapping my hands, or what they affectionately called fluttering, was a big part of my childhood. I can’t say I remember how often it occurred and even the hand flapping is a blur, but what I do remember is the flutter within and the sense of euphoria that came with it. A simple flutter evoked images and ideas into my mind, bringing a moment of clarity as well as a sense of wonder. My parents never let on that they were concerned, even nicknaming me their “flutterfly”, but I now know that they were. I was seen by doctors, psychologists, and neurologists, but because I continued to meet all developmental and social goals, it was concluded that I was not on the spectrum and that more than likely it would all disappear with time. They were both right and wrong. Over time, I no longer felt the need to flap my hands, but the flutter was mine to keep.

In the chill of the night with no one around except my hundred and fifty fellow Sojourners, the flutter is still present as our hands intertwine and we begin to sing in unison, “Darlin’, here in our hearts, we do believe, we shall overcome someday.” Our individual voices sound soft and subtle, but together we are so powerful that I am transported to another place and time and to memories not of my own, but of children who watched their fathers beaten to death for peacefully protesting their right to be served in local diners, and of educated black women who were denied the right to vote for being unable to calculate the “correct” number of bubbles in a bar of soap. At this very moment, I am surrounded by a hundred and fifty souls who although have different backgrounds, have all faced individual struggles and discrimination. I am hand in hand with future members of Congress, teachers, lawyers, and social workers who want nothing more than to carry out the sense of unity brought on by singing the Civil Rights anthem. I anticipate going home to tell not only my family and friends about what I learned on this trip, but also to people I don’t know, so we can have a conversation about how this history directly connects to our present societal struggles. I then see myself as an intern at Sojourn to the Past and a grassroots activist in college taking part in making people realize that despite their age, gender, or background they too can make a change in their community. As we begin to sway to the music, it is clear that the flutter I’m feeling tonight is different in its purpose and confidence, for this time my hands are steady because they are in the hands of the future.

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