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Community voices: The murder of George Floyd and where we must go from here

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Papa Dia

The mission of the African Leadership Group is to help African immigrants integrate and prosper in America, and specifically in Colorado. Far too often, our community members—like so many of our American-born brothers and sisters—experience various forms of bias, discrimination, inequity, and injustice.

Too many of our families are struggling, suffering and mourning because many people in positions of power do not value black lives. Now, however, the nation’s long and ugly history of systemic racism is being called out and confronted by a national groundswell of people united and determined to end this legacy of oppression.

That is why we take a stand in support of the Black Lives Matter movement to compel America to learn from its past, demand that America live up to its calling and creed of equality, and inspire America to embrace and celebrate its most valuable asset—diversity.

The words of Rev. Martin Luther King remind us “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” With the whole world watching, we must continue to work toward—and peacefully fight for—the removal of that threat.

This is a collection of personal stories, reflections, and perspectives on this critical time in America by members, friends and allies of the ALG community.

Jamal K. Bowen, M.A.

As an educator and entrepreneur, my obligation has always been to educate our community. As a community, we have seen schools and businesses go from face-to-face to remote (online), which has been a challenge for most of us.

We have dealt with so much adversity during this time. There has been unrest around the world. It is a trying time for all of us. We all hope that justice will be served. We have lost so many due to the COVID19 pandemic and more still to social injustice.

We must work together and provide resources and tools to help our communities excel. I must continue to teach my sons: There will be obstacles in life, based on the color of your skin, but you must continue to strive. You must not use that as an excuse that holds you back, but use it instead to become leaders of change.

Covid19 has impacted businesses, and the pandemic has also exacerbated existing economic disparities and raised fresh concerns about the survival of companies. There have been many resources such as the Personal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which was meant to provide small businesses with loans to keep employees on their payrolls during the COVID-19 crisis.

I also encourage all business owners to do their research on different grants that are available. Also, find ways to get involved in your community, through volunteering or other activities. Support local businesses. Local businesses are an essential part of local communities and are always under pressure from bigger national and multinational competitors.

Through this all, we must all stand with one of another.

Dr. Anne Keke

Black America is crying and refuses to be consoled because her children are being mistreated, beaten, and killed.

Everywhere in the world, if blacks are not disrespected, they are denied the basic human rights of equality and justice, or they are being mistreated and killed. This is not an African American problem; this is an AMERICAN problem. We are talking about George Floyd, but this is beyond George Floyd.

Why should a group of people be judged, mistreated, condemned, and rejected because of the color of their skin, even before they open their mouth, act, or talk? Enough is enough. That is the message we are delivering today in the cities all over America and in certain parts of the world. Black people want equality, justice, and equity. It is time to overhaul the American system that has been built to disfavor minorities. The only race there is humanity. No race is superior to another.

What we see causes us to reflect on the current state of things in the U.S. Everyone, and especially immigrants of African descent, are here to support our black brothers in the U.S. and fight alongside them to demand social justice. We need to help wipe away the tears of black American women who are crying for the loss of their sons, their husbands, and their brothers, for they are ours too.

Because we are in part the cause of their problems and sufferings. The derogatory term “African American” exists because Africans gave their brothers away to make the America we see today. Yes, this country was built on their backs.

Let us use this opportunity, to speak out, be part of the conversation, and make our vote count for a better future.

We are all in this together.

Darryl and Lori Collier

Racism is like a leaky faucet. You see the drip but the real problem lies deep underneath, where you cannot see.

The leaky faucet is the police and the deeper problem is our country’s leadership and judicial system.

The song “People Make the World Go Round” says it all. By nature, people are flawed. No one is perfect. Racism, however, is a learned behavior. There is no racism gene. It is taught by the person’s family, friends, and environment.

When these racially flawed individuals ascend into roles of the presidency, the Senate/ House, judicial branch (as high as the Supreme Court) and police departments across the country, it is no surprise that inequities of the most heinous types happen.

Until the passing of the older white generation, which carries a covert racial agenda of putting blacks in their place and holding a knee to our throats to starve us educationally and economically, we will not see change. The future is with our youth, who have, for the most part, grown up in a more integrated world.

Their vision is much more aligned with equity, not just equality. When will districts attorney be brave enough to prosecute police who murder in plain sight? Years ago, Klan members murdered blacks in plain sight and were acquitted by a jury of their peers, Klan members. Fast forward to today with video evidence and still police who murder walk free.

The change comes by raising our children to value the person not the color and to love one another, for we are more alike than different. All races are protesting and they are the youth of this country. Gradually they will replace the old leadership and change the political process, laws and police practices of this country.

It is now just a matter of time!

Gaelle Kouanda

As an immigrant, I can honestly say the first time I felt black was upon arriving in America. You may not understand what I mean by this if you have not lived in a predominantly black country. I walked down the streets of America and I noticed people looked at me differently. Over time, I learned about our dark history and how our ancestors sacrificed everything for us to have freedom today.

We receive an education: THEY DON’T SEE US. We acquire political positions: THEY DON’T SEE US. We became president: THEY DIDN’T SEE US. We protest peacefully: THEY DON’T HEAR US. We burn SHIT DOWN: They call us violent. What can we do to be seen and heard?

Our successes are often reduced to the product of affirmative action. We take the same test and climb a steeper hill. Yet our accomplishments are not validated.

In broad daylight, we are hunted and killed, and they expect us to sit down and smile like all is fine. They look at us with hatred even when we reciprocate with love. We don’t want to be treated special; we just want to be treated as equal.

Glenda Tendo

It hurts me to hear constantly that another person is losing their life due to the color of their skin. As a black child myself I fear for the future if our country keeps going down this path.

We have reached a point where it has to stop and should have stopped long ago. This is painful and it hurts my heart to see this. I truly don’t understand the reason for hating someone because they look different than you. I want to live in a world where there is one race: the human race. Whether or not we look different on the outside we are still people and deserve to be treated the same.

One of the things that upsets me the most is that it is the people who are supposed to protect us who are killing us. It’s scary leaving the house knowing that there are people out there who are armed and can choose to use it against someone innocent.

One thing we have to remember is that not everyone is racist and that there will be those who stand by us. We have come far from where we used to be but not far enough and we most definitely need to continue to fight against racist acts.

The killing of George Floyd was so brutal, inhumane; a horrifying crime. We have had so many black deaths happen in our communities and nothing has been done to bring justice. Of course looting and tearing down businesses is absolutely wrong, but given the circumstances it might be the best strategy to gain maximum attention for a justified cause. The black community in America encounters all sorts of injustice. We are treated very inhumanely compared to others. I pray that this can come to and end soon.

The peaceful protests and urban riots of the last few weeks should come as no surprise to white people of privilege, because an oppressed people can only live under the hammer of violent dehumanization for so long before they rise up to throw off the oppression and confront by any means necessary the systems and structures that are causing their unjust suffering and death.

Even outside agitators causing disruptions and violence during peaceful protests are nothing new in the struggle for black and brown peoples’ liberation.

Rev. Dr. Tracy L. Hughes

Today’s systemic racism has deep roots reaching back to 1619 when the first ship of stolen and enslaved Africans landed upon the shores of this land, and the genocide of the indigenous peoples who called this land home for generations before it was “discovered” by Europeans.

It was during the early days of the enslavement of African peoples that the social construct of “race” was developed and used to create the racist structures and systems that have upheld the fallacy of white supremacy; that white skinned people are superior. The forms of systemic racism have morphed over the years from enslavement, Jim Crow laws, redlining, unjust judicial systems, underfunded education, food deserts, militarized policing in urban centers, low wages, and voter suppression.

This list of ways in which the systems and structures of the United States of America have upheld white racial superiority – white supremacy – is not complete.

Let us not forget that the Constitution of the USA stated that black men/women are ¾ humans. It is upon this lie and blasphemy of all sacred scripture that this country was founded. And, Christians, like me, must never forget that the Bible and the tenants of our faith were used to enforce slavery and uphold racist ideals in the USA.

It has been, and will always be, the work of the Christian Church and community to repent this great sin, deconstruct the racist systems and structures we uphold, and work towards reparations for the death and dehumanization we have caused throughout our nation’s history.

I know that my white privilege was given to me upon my birth because of the color of my skin, and that all structures and systems in this country, even policing, have been created to support this unearned privilege. I have learned to follow the leadership of black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) in how I accompany them in their struggle for liberation. I also know, deep in the marrow of my bones, that my liberation from being an oppressor is tied up in the liberation of those who are oppressed.

Rev. Charles Ansah, chair, ALG Board of Directors

America, wake up and change.

In just a month, a trilogy of events, beginning with the cold-blooded murder of *Ahmaud Aubrey,* *Amy Cooper’s* failed attempt to incite racial tensions and *George Floyd’s* horrible death at the hands of white police officers, have triggered a renewed focus on America’s ‘original sin:’ *RACISM.*

I was immersed in a very similar crisis – i.e. the *LOS ANGELES RACE RIOTS of 1992,* riots precipitated by the videotaped beating of a helpless black motorist, *Rodney King,* by four white police officers, after a botched traffic stop spiraled into a high speed pursuit.

Subsequently, the list of young unarmed black men (and women) killed at the hands of white police officers is rather mind-boggling. (The ones caught on camera are only the ones we know about). Just think about it: How many unjust killings of minorities have gone on without notice or justice being served? The very people who have been authorized to protect us and uphold the law of the land are killing with impunity.

Yes indeed, killing with impunity because there are no consistent, laid- out repercussions for police officers who kill a black person or people of color. It is a scary thought.

Not surprising is the silence of some of America’s white and black population during this national crisis of inequality and injustice. But we can not stay silent anymore. We need to stop this systemic genocide of black and brown Americans by our own police officers, paid for with our tax dollars. This is absolute madness and it must stop now for peace to be restored in this nation. We need a reformed criminal justice system that is equitable and fair for all in this nation.

Silence, indeed, mirrors the silence of humanity during the Jewish holocaust, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, and the Rwandan Genocide (1994).

I would like to humbly speak truth to power, in a quest for racial justice, healing, and reconciliation. In the words of Dr King, “in the end we’ll remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, (Hitler’s nemesis) speaks similar sentiments in these words: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil…Not to speak is to speak; not to act is to act.”

It is our hope that our voice and our actions will help galvanize efforts aimed at building a more just, united and loving America: *”ONE NATION UNDER GOD, INDIVISIBLE, WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL” – so help us God.

Van Schoales

As I reflect on my feelings today, I pause to recognize the individuals peacefully marching around the world in solidarity with George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and other black Americans murdered because of American racist systems. I unequivocally believe Black Lives Matter.

I stand outraged and heartbroken alongside the protesters who have had enough and are demanding immediate change. In sharing my outrage, I must acknowledge I am a white man of privilege who economically and educationally benefited from systems literally built on the backs of slaves. I have the enormous privilege of never having to worry when being pulled over for a traffic violation, unlike my black friends.

The protests and outrage do bring me some hope that we are at one of those rare historic inflection points when enough of us have had enough. We may finally be able to lurch forward to create greater understanding to change the practices, policies, and politics of this nation to live up to the ideals of equitable opportunity and justice for all.

Mel Hooks

I have cried every day for the past seven days. My cries have been of anger, disbelief, and disappointment; but I have wiped my tears and I am now witnessing a hope for change.

As a mother, wife, and auntie to a host of nephews, nieces, cousins, and friends to many in my community, I have witnessed systemic racism every day from education, housing, healthcare, employment, and the justice system. The injustice we have suffered in the black community is insurmountable and the time for change is NOW.

The change must come within our community; we will not let the memories of black lives lost fade. We must always remember and keep hope alive. We must continue to bring all communities together in a peaceful and respectful way, and when we do, change will be inevitable.

No longer can we sit numb and let another one of us be brutally mistreated and/or murdered by the police; we must take a united stand that we will say something when we see injustice being done to ANY human being.

The changes in policies within our government should not be just talk; real action with real policy changes is essential from lawmakers to ensure the safety of our community as well as bridging the gap between the people and the police. Accountability from lawmakers and from those who serve and protect is non-negotiable; if you see something wrong, step up and say something! Don’t be afraid to save a life.

This change will come with some resistance from those who want to keep us oppressed, but the hope I have in my heart is that we will not let that deter us and we will keep marching on, for justice and equality for all.

I have hope we will not witness another Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, or George Floyd: no more lives unnecessary taken away.

Beatriz Gonzalez

America is burning and hurting because for too long diverse voices have been ignored, disrespected, choked off, and silenced.

I can’t express the sadness I felt watching the video of George Floyd’s death, which is merely an echo of the pain being felt across our communities. But what I know is America cannot continue to exclude the voices that make a diverse society great.

Ours is one of the most diverse countries on the planet, but we will only realize the power of diversity when every voice is heard and heeded. Whether it’s a different voice, a contradictory voice, an assertive voice, or the voice of George Floyd pleading, “I can’t breathe.”

Nothing will reverse what happened on that street in Minneapolis, but to move forward all voices need to be heard and given the respect all of us want and deserve.

Jusu Matthew Sawi

As an immigrant black man living in the U.S., my heart is not only broken by the killing of George Floyd but also very fearful that it might happen to me or to a close relative, including my nine year old son.

I am horrified that American which is arguably the greatest country on earth, has still not learned how to deal with and respect black people. That people can still rush to a conclusion about you only because of the color of your skin is sickening. As much as I am fearful, I have not lost hope.

I call for a stop to the unnecessary killing of black people. I call for a better dialogue and understanding between the black community and law enforcement. I call for an end to the high-handedness of law enforcement against people of color. I call upon law enforcement to treat every life as valuable.

As much as we do recognize that it is your responsibility to enforce the law, we ask that it be done with fairness. We have families that love us, care for us, and expect us to return whenever we step out of our homes.

Fish Abrhaley

I would like to start by conveying my deepest condolences to the families who have lost their loved ones at the hands of bad policing.

You do not need to be black, white or any other color or race to understand what has been done to George Floyd: He has been deprived of the air to breathe which is a God given gift to every human being. To understand, you just need to be a normal human being and abide by the golden rules of life.

The Golden Rule is the principle of treating others as you want to be treated. It is a maxim that is found in many religions and cultures. It can be considered an ethic of reciprocity in some religions, although different religions treat it differently.

I was angry, crying; I could not eat or sleep. I, as a human being, was in disbelief when I watched the video of police brutality taking the precious life of George Floyd in broad daylight. Thanks to social media, we have all seen the video, which reflects our identity as Americans with deeply rooted racism.

“Racism in the United States has existed since the colonial era, when white Americans were given legally or socially sanctioned privileges and rights while these same rights were denied to other races and minorities.”

Racism is a systematized form of oppression which is developed by members of one race in order to persecute members of another race.

We have to accept the reality that racism exists in the United States; formal racial discrimination even though it was largely legally banned by the mid-20th century and over time, it came to be perceived as both socially and morally unacceptable. Racial politics remains a major phenomenon, and racism continues to be reflected in socioeconomic inequality. Racial stratification continues to occur in employment, housing, education, lending, the health care system, in the political system, in the justice system, and governmental systems.

As a member of the board of directors of the African Leadership Group (ALG), as an African immigrant, and as human being, and, more than anything else, as child of God, I stand with the African American community in the fight against racial injustice, police brutality, and in general socioeconomic inequality.

We need to acknowledge and condemn as Americans the years of oppression, still ongoing, by the majority culture against minorities, and specifically African Americans. Not nearly enough has been done to mitigate and resolve the real issues of racism and discrimination at every level of life.

We need to take time to understand each other as human beings, become skin-color blind. God created us equally and we must try to abide by one of the golden rules in life “Do unto others as you want others to do unto you.”

Let’s work together by being responsible and accountable. Let’s create real educational, economic, social, and justice impact as we have been doing for years in the African Leadership Group. Let’s make sure our main vision and mission statements are reflected in action, not just words.

Solomon and Maya Muwanga

My daughter and I decided to pen our thoughts on the current moment and voice our support for the current protests.

As an African Immigrant, a naturalized American citizen, and father of two biracial children, over my last 28 years in this country, recurring incidents have demonstrated to me the trials faced by black people in America. Our family firmly believes that a familiarity with and an understanding of America’s history is of paramount importance to begin comprehending the movement we are seeing today. There is a lot of noise and different perspectives on the current agitation, but the level of surprise and alarm that a person exhibits when addressing these protests relates directly to their understanding of this country’s history.
Those of us who have taken the time to know- -because we have to– how a legacy of slavery and structural racism has shaped the black experience in America, are not surprised at these expressions of frustration.

We see that they are reminiscent of past outbursts, that they are part of an inheritance of outrage: Outrage stemming from how unchanging and persistent racism has been in this country. We recognize that the only surprising thing is that there have not been more instances such as these, given the consistent violence and injustices inflicted upon black bodies in this country.

Those who are surprised, or confused, or thought progress had been made, have some reading to do. Reading on past and present instances of both the interpersonal and systemic racism that is as American as apple pie.

Many people think the legacy of discrimination is limited to the South, or must have died with the end of the Civil War, or the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, or the election of a black president. But racism in this country is still widespread, and because it was a key factor in how this country was built, it is not going anywhere anytime soon.

The United States as a whole has never fully, deeply reckoned with its original sin, and how the racism stemming from that sin continues to carry consequences we can see reflected in black people’s economic, political, and social realities. There has been uneasiness with the current protests, with some focusing on the riots that have accompanied peaceful protestors. But riots as a response to oppression are nothing new, a fact perhaps we have forgotten. Furthermore, riots do not come without reason–and these certainly have a reason–a fact that the media and some voices seem to have obscured.

So how do we feel right now? We feel as if we are at an inflection point. People are taking to the streets, demanding that this country’s history and current practices be addressed, be redressed. People are asking that we make an active effort to ensure that this country lives up to the promise that all people are created equal, that all citizens be treated equally before the law. Arbitrary factors, like the skin you are born in, should not impact the quality of life you live. That is a simple plea, and one which the current nationwide movement seeks to see realized.

We should all stand in solidarity with our American born African descendants who carry with them the painful legacy and brutal history of slavery. We should acknowledge that many of the privileges and freedoms we enjoy, that allow us to be successful, were built on the blood, sweat, and tears of our African American brethren fighting for their rights through protests and riots similar to the ones we are currently experiencing.

We acknowledge this and stand in solidarity. Like our brothers in Mozambique used to say during their fight for independence, Aluta Continua!

Cheikh Omar Doumbia

Every generation has its own mission and tasks. We wanted our generation to be focused on political and economic empowerment. We assumed that the years of marching were history, so we were ready for new steps.
Unfortunately hate, ignorance and second-class citizenship came and woke us up from our dream, only to lead us into a nightmare.

We are not looking for domination, we aren’t looking for a fight, we aren’t looking for division. All we want is the natural respect due to every human being, and we want it for all. This isn’t about race, it’s about values. This is about justice, equity, equality but as I said earlier it’s also about respect and consideration.

To my brothers and sisters in America and around the world facing injustice: Know that the African continent is not staying silent either. That we here on the continent stand with them and for all of us.

Let love, respect and inclusion be the foundation for a new beginning.

Tarsha Miller

The murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis law enforcement was a cruel reminder of the undercurrent of systemic racism and other injustices that have continued to plague America for far too long.

But the newest wave of modern-day activism that has arisen in response to this tragedy — from worldwide street protests to global social media campaigns — has reignited the spirit of our civil rights era leaders and is an inspiring indication that we, now equipped with new weapons, are finally ready to advance the fight that they began a generation ago.

The time is long overdue to demand swift justice for the wrongfully persecuted, to uphold access for all to the civil liberties granted by the Constitution, and to fight for our God-given right to peacefully
exist.

But our demands will not be met without a widespread sense of personal and civic responsibility towards eradicating injustice, particularly by those who have the most to gain from our nation’s inequities. A focused, sustained effort must be adopted by everyone, white, black, or otherwise, who understands that an injustice towards one is unjust for all.

Our house can no longer stand, fractured and crumbling, atop a foundation of colonizers’ lies and our ancestors’ blood. We must collectively divest, both economically and socially, from the institutions and social structures that uphold white supremacy by subjugating, pathologizing, and criminalizing blackness.

We must remain relentlessly vigilant and vocal, privately, and publicly, to all instances of violence towards people of color — from workplace microaggressions to televised lynchings. We must do these things with a sense of urgency, and yet with a faith that the blood and tears of our ancestors were not shed in vain.

As we now clean up the fallout incurred by sowing seeds of hate, let us thoughtfully consider how best to go forth to rebuild.

Velver Askew

I’m pleased and honored to have a forum here to speak against injustice and racism in this country.

As a young African American woman born and raised in Denver, Colorado, in the 1980s, I have endured racism and prejudice from birth. I grew up in east Denver in a two-parent household, where both parents worked full-time jobs to make ends meet. Growing up in east Denver, I felt heritage and hope.

Despite all the setbacks, the east Denver black community had kept the faith alive. I attend schools such as Park Hill Elementary, Gove Middle School, South High School, and, finally, George Washington High school, which were all predominantly black schools.

I felt the injustice in our schools when they created a program like D.A.R.E to keep kids off of drugs. This program was only in the inner-city schools, which were predominantly black. Why? I ask myself, why only do these programs exist in inner-city schools? Because there were drugs placed in the black communities, and the government needed to cover and justify the building of prisons.

So this is why my heart bleeds for my people and why my eyes will never stay closed.

Wow. Fast-forward 20 years, and life is still the same as if it were 400 years ago, just enclosed in a different wrapper. Ladies and gentlemen, I wake up now with tears in my eyes and fear in my heart. I don’t know when America will change or how it will change. All I do know is that it needs to change!

#I WANT TO LIVE!

Judith Donaldson

I feel great sadness, anger, frustration and desperation as a result of the recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, whose lives and so many lives before them were senselessly taken away.

How many more will have to suffer and die at the hands of those who feel empowered/entitled to oppress black people? When does this all stop, I ask myself. But it probably never will.

This bitterness has ignited a fire in me to take action, be a part of the solution. I will not be paralyzed by fear and anger, nor will I submit to being silenced to quell someone else’s discomfort. I have noted the ignorance, the sound of silence of those so entrenched in their own mental slavery that they have chosen to look the other way.

I also feel hopeful and encouraged to see communities coming together to demand change. We are starting to witness the breaking of the chain of racial barriers that have incapacitated so many for far too long. The time is now, to take whatever actions are necessary to demand and expect fairness and equality for ALL. It begins in our homes, schools, workplaces and with our community leaders. Let’s put our dialogue in motion.

ENOUGH TALKING!

Coffi Alfred Fuloge Ninguin

Since the beginning of time, our world has experienced a lot of pain. Pain in our hearts, in our families, friendships, and finances.

Pain has brought nothing but hate and suffering among the people of this world, but without pain, we are not able to experience the good things in life such as love, peace, humility and more.

Pain brings sadness, depression, and many other negative emotions.On the opposite side of pain is love. When people are not feeling hurt, they are feeling loved. Love is a mixture of different positive emotions.

It is an indescribable feeling that keeps the mind at peace and the body at rest.

People feel loved when they are celebrated, or when someone does something they admire. Love is beautiful. Love is kind. Love is generous and love is patient. Love brings happiness and joy but most importantly, love brings peace.

Pain and love are at different ends of the spectrum of emotions, but it is easy for someone in pain to bring pain onto those who are feeling loved, and easy for those in love to bring love onto those who are in pain. In order to balance both emotions, one must have peace within oneself.

When your mind is at peace, it is harder for others to hurt you and bring pain into your life, and it is easier to love and spread love. A peaceful heart teaches people to be nice and treat others with respect.

Peace is the state that keeps one’s body healthy.

There is so much pain and love in our world, but not enough peace. In order for the people in our world to experience peace, we must stop the pain and learn to love each other for who we are. We need violence and hate to stop for us to be able to enjoy love.

Once that is accomplished, we will have peace.

Tonya Cooper

I am heartbroken by the death of George Floyd and the countless black men and women who have died during incidents related to racism. My soul aches; tragedy of this sort should not happen to anyone.

As I reflect inward, I think back to my personal experience of driving while black, which occurred in Columbia, South Carolina. My son and I were going to visit my sister in Atlanta.

The state trooper pulled me over, asked where I was going and if I had anything illegal in my car trunk. I was scared and filled with emotions but mustered up the strength to answer respectfully, thinking ‘I don’t take part in any illegal activities, what would be in my trunk?. Are you assuming I’m a drug dealer because I’m black?’ I was driving within the speed limits but nonetheless was told by the officer to just slow down.

The experience was traumatic and degrading, yet humbling. Shaken to my soul I had to find the courage to talk to my12 year-old son and tell him that sometimes we are stopped because of our skin color. I had to teach him the protocol of what to do and say if he’s ever stopped driving while black.

While we can’t change the past, we have an opportunity to create history by uniting to change the future. As our community unites we have an opportunity to educate others on racism, change cultures, change law enforcement procedures, change policies, and hold those in charge accountable.

We are just getting started and a lot of work has to be done. Let’s start the conversations. We are so much more powerful and stronger when we stand together for justice’s sake.

With love, faith, respect and compassion we can make this right.

Tayo Okunade

My heart and soul hurt, along with those of my fellow black and African American people and our communities.

The callous and senseless murder of George Floyd and the mistreatment of countless others, which do not make the news, remind us yet again of the painful and long history of discrimination against black and brown people and communities; discrimination that still exists today. Discrimination and inequities remain evident within our education and justice systems, and the disparity of services and opportunities available. While some laws have changed, the basic rights and protections afforded under these laws are still unfairly applied, and the reality remains that more remains to be done.

I stand together with our brothers and sisters in their anger, frustration and sadness (and all other emotions) that we are all experiencing right now, and remain passionate and committed to continue to work together with our community to fight against any and all displays of anti-blackness; ensure the total elimination of all forms of discrimination based on race or ethnic origin, and ensure basic rights and fair application of the laws of our society.

For my part, I continue to pledge my support to the organizations that are committed to elevating the lives of black people and minorities here in Colorado and beyond, including the African Leadership Group and the Colorado Freedom Fund, among others.

We are together in this and I remain hopeful in the wave of the shared condemnation of these unjust acts. We must also continue the dialogue, beyond this moment, that will lead to actions that drive real change in discriminatory institutional policies and practices.

Omar Montgomery

The Aurora Branch of the NAACP stands with our National Office in declaring, “We are Done Dying.”

Simply put: #BlackLivesMatter, but the treatment of black lives by our institutions, nationally and locally, seldom reflects this statement in action. Today’s national outcry to end the continued murder of unarmed African Americans by law enforcement officers — an experience perpetuated since the Jim Crow era — reflects the urgency of our current moment.

The Aurora Branch of the NAACP is committed to working with community partners and allies for systemic change in the criminal justice system.

Ibrahima Gueye

Here are a few words that I hope will help.

We all witnessed the senseless and horrific killing of George Floyd, killed just because he is a black man.
Even though these types of police crimes against black people have happened through the course of U.S. history, they are now being streamed and filmed live. After more than 25 years living in the U.S., I know that America has a dark history when it comes to racism that we do not want to discuss but NOW IS THE TIME.

We can no longer tolerate policing the black community differently and then claim this same community is part of the social contract to which we all are bound. Every time I go out for a jog in my neighborhood, I first make sure I do not wear a hoodie, and I also make sure I pick my route carefully, avoiding houses with high fences. I am scared of being singled out because I am black.

Being black in America and raising children are challenging endeavors.

Ikunda Buretta

As a mother with a son, and a sister to young men, it is very difficult to live in these times.

The fact is, I have to live in fear for their lives every day! It is 2020 and I have to have a conversation with them every time they go out on how to act, respond, speak, and even who to choose as friends, just because we are black. Our white friends don’t have to have that same conversation with their boys.

I feel that as a nation we have failed miserably in how we have treated black people, Native Americans, Latinos. It is time to change. Our boys, young men and our men should be safe out there. Enough is enough.

The blood shed must stop! The tears must end! The killing must stop.

Carlos and Elizabeth Ojeda

America is the land of opportunity. America is the land of freedom. It is the shining beacon of the Statue of Liberty that has attracted immigrants to her shores for hundreds of years. These are the reasons that we, as direct immigrants, or the children of immigrants, have chosen this land.

But now, once again, America faces a crisis. The actions of some bad law enforcement officials have caused a reaction in many diverse communities across the nation. The cry of an outraged public in protest is an American right that is the cornerstone of the Constitution. Enjoy these sacred rights; the right to peaceably assemble, the right to free speech, and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

One must, however, remember that with these rights comes the responsibility of their proper use. There is great and limitless power when a people organize and work towards the same goal. To that end, it is important that the message being delivered be done so peaceably and without destruction. Once violence is employed, the essence of the message is lost. A carefully written sign cannot be read through the haze of smoke from fires set by agitators or tear-gas fired by police.

For once, there is a unifying moment in which the whole country, and even the whole world, can agree. An injustice was committed and must be corrected. Do not lose the opportunity by allowing violence to rule your emotions, for that is the fastest way to lose your overwhelming majority.

No justice, no peace?

Maybe instead it should be:

Know peace to know justice.

Max Diop

Leadership is everything. That’s why I’m going to take just a few words to just thank Papa Dia and the ALG family for giving me the opportunity to voice my concern in these moments of crisis.

America: Listen, listen, listen!

Here’s are a couple of questions: if you are lying in a hospital bed about to undergo life or death surgery:
1) Would you ask if the surgeon is white, black, Latino, Asian, or Native American?
2) if you need blood to live, would you ask where it comes from?

America tries to tell me, when we are in distress, that race and origin don’t matter anymore. Right. So, then, America, respect the minority.

What happened to George Floyd was wrong. I am hoping there will be fair trials for the police officers involved, and this will become a new and good chapter in American history; one that the next generation and minorities in this country can look back on with pride.

We can live in harmony, respect each other, share values. Look: on our hands we have five fingers, each a different size. If you put them together you get something called a fist, which gives you more strength than any one finger.

So let’s join our good energy, our thoughts, values, dignity, and visions, and leave a great legacy to our kids and our grandkids, and the countless generations beyond.

Alain Sinai Diatta

Hello, my name is Alain Sinai Diatta.

I am from Senegal, and I arrived in the U.S in April 2019. I majored in Management of Local Development and International Corporations, and I now have six years of experience in that field. I am a member of the African Leadership Group (ALG), DECLIC (Development Citoyennete Leadership Integre communautaire), and I also work for the YMCA in Senegal. All of these organizations/businesses are non-government organizations. As of now, I am currently a trainee at the YMCA of the Rockies in Colorado where I am part of the HR team.

From 2014-2018 I supervised a program called International Citizen Service. This involved helping young people from foreign countries contribute to their personal/professional development, to fight against poverty through programs/projects, and to help them maintain active citizenship.

All these experiences give me the passion and love to work with all young people around the world in order to create a better world. I was inspired by how human beings need to work together in order to change the world; without any discrimination against race, religion, (etc.).

That is why I decided to open up to the world. I came to the United States so that I would learn a new culture and develop myself both personally and professionally, and so I may understand how people think and work (in order to connect better with the world). This opportunity made me grow immensely thanks to the activities I have been involved in.

Recently, so many things have been happening in the world, creating confusion. My perspective today is to create a positive mindset for humanity so that people can live in a better world. As a young African leader, I commit myself with all the experience I have, to keep inspiring young people to build a better world – through kindness and gratitude in their families, work place, and community.

I personally condemn any kind of discrimination toward any human being, which can have consequences for our health and the whole world.

Charment Mousssa

As an African immigrant, and a father of three children, living and sharing the life experience of black people in America, I could not remain silent and unreactive to the death of George Floyd.

The inhumane killing of George, which the world has witnessed live on television and social media, has not only ruptured every fiber of my inner being — body, mind, and spirit. It has also reminded me of all the cruel brutality, injustice, and denial of rights of freedom that black people have endured for 400 years.

Hence, I stand with all the people of all racial backgrounds who have actively expressed the desire to speak out and do something to end systemic racism in America. I strongly condemn biases, such as beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and perceptions that continue to fuel racism. I also denounce all stereotypes that equate black people’s lives to criminality, violence, and hostility.

I hear your cries and voices speaking through me as a black man, I say to George Floyd, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and many other victims of police brutality. I hear the voices of all the black people, who, for 400 years, have been saying as Professor James Jones wrote: “We’ve been telling y’all; y’all ain’t hearing it. It is time for you to step up and do something.”

I have heard from you. Although tired but hopeful like other black people, I feel the social responsibility to unite with my white friends, African Americans, African immigrant communities, and other racial/ethnic groups to use this precious tipping moment of American history to create some meaningful changes in our society.

No one’s life is better than another. No one color of the skin is inferior to another. No one person has the right to end another man’s life. All lives are equal. Black Lives Matter!

I am more than aware of all the social injustices that blacks have been facing for centuries. I am also more than aware of the racial health disparities that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed recently in our beloved country, the United States of America.

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