(Photograph of Marlowe Rogers at a Black Lives Matter protest in Washington, D.C.)

I was recently asked about my opinion of the Black Lives Matter movement. To me Black Lives Matter is more than just a phrase. It is a movement that embodies the very essence of being unapologetically Black and unapologetically bold. Black Lives Matter is a reminder to not fold to societal pressures while standing your ground and making your voice heard. The movement is a representation that Black is not just a staple piece to culture everywhere, but the beginning, middle, and end. Black culture is all around us, as we know the world loves our culture while not showing genuine appreciation to the bodies that created that very culture. Blackness has transcended amongst generations, as Black bodies built entire countries, raised and breast fed notable leaders, and generated wealth, all while the lives of those same Black people were diminished and ignored like gravel.

Too often are Black bodies policed in cruel and unjust ways, as we watch our brothers and sisters be slain by the hands of a system not created to protect them. Imagine being raised under a system that teaches you that the only life that matters is the one of your white counterparts, and even more so if that white body is male. A system that tells you if you are too bold, you’re wrong. If you are too loud, you’re wrong. If you have a voice, you’re wrong. If you live unapologetically, you’re wrong. If you can think, read, and write, you’re wrong. If you are Black, you’re wrong. Too often have Black people been told to take the backseat and be patient while allowing others time to do the right thing and see us for the beautiful masterpieces we are as a people, in hopes to one day be seen as equals. Equality has often gone untouched when putting a Black life up against a white one. Black people have attempted to thrive in a system where its inner workings were generated and crafted to only benefit the face of one man, the white man. We have watched as countless Black men and women have lost their lives or were thrown in jail cells because we as a people were always seen as less than or inhumane. Throughout history, we were often compared to and described as beasts from a foreign land, seen as a culture that was unkempt and lacked class. Who the hell told white people that they were the only or right way, as if our darker bodies were ever the problem? White people developed these self-idolized ideas that their s*** doesn’t stink and white was the only right. Imagine creating a system where people aren’t supposed to question right from wrong, only to remain ignorant to pretentiously contradicting ideologies that ultimately led those same people they wanted to control to revolt.

We are sick, we are tired, we are angry, and we have had enough. Black Lives Matter is a movement that challenges the system and reminds people that they will no longer be able to get away with their racist and prejudice actions carried out against Black people . They attempted to control us and diminish our lives for far too long but they have trampled on the last generation. All over the world, Black people have suffered at the hands of the oppressor. We were raised in systems never created to benefit us, so deeply rooted in systemic racism that the only option at this point is to dismantle the system. The call to defund law enforcement agencies is a voice that has gone too long unheard. The call to undo entire systems while aiming to rebuild them to be inclusive to the very bodies that aided those systems in being created in the first place should not even have to be a discussion. The crazy part is that society has always been taught to fear us, meanwhile, I’ve always been afraid of them. I never knew when a white woman would call the police on me, or when a white man would become unkempt due to my presence and act out with an anti-Black agenda to end my life. I get anxious when I see a police car, Black police officers included. This issue has always stuck out to me because I am the son of a law enforcement officer and yet still afraid of the police. Let that sink in for a second. I grew up calling with a father that was a state police officer and am still afraid to be in the presence of other police officers. That is a problem!

Growing up, I was taught about the injustices that often plagued my community. “Don’t do this and act like that,” they said. Meanwhile, doing and acting outside of myself created a rift of uncertainty which led to conformity to the system. I was to remember my place as a second-class citizen because yet again, the life of some little Black boy didn’t matter. Schools in my community were underfunded and overcrowded in comparison to the schools that were located in other areas of the city. White schools were always given more resources and better opportunities. I’ll never forget traveling for track meets and band and show choir competitions to white schools and being amazed at what the schools looked like in comparison to my own. It was like being in a different world. In college, I had to push against social constructs and the idea that I was to be complicity silent while in the presence of others. If I were too loud, I was ghetto. If I were too smart, I was a cheater. If I were to be vocal, I was angry. If my hair or beard looked a certain way, I was unprofessional. If I dressed a certain way, I was a thug. I was so conflicted on how to act and represent myself as a Black man in this world because I was afraid that if I displayed too much of one thing I would not be taken seriously enough. Like how I have decided to live my own life, the Black lives matter movement is a reminder to live unapologetically while remaining true to who we are. Black people are multifaceted. We do not come in one way, shape, or form. We are not to be labeled and placed in a box. We are more than images based upon the schemas society has reinforced others to believe. We are not any angrier than other races or any less civilized than anyone else. We are who we are, beautifully intelligent, and organic representations of life. We are true to the world as the colors of our bodies come in many forms and variations, like nature and energy all around us.

The issue lies deep within the framework of society. Black people are still being taught about the makings of the system, only learning the falsified history that was created for us to see. We have to self-educate ourselves most of the time in order to find out the real truth about who built the U.S. and generated the wealth we see all around us. White families have had wealth handed down from them, generation to generation. The wealth that was created from enslaving others at the bend of their will. I mean, what the hell did white men in history actually do other than feed off of the backs of those who built their counties? Black Lives Matter is the reminder that their lives were never better than our lives. It is a reminder that although you may try to erase us, demean us, and ignore us, we are here. We as a people have been here since the beginning of mankind and we are not going anywhere. To ignore inequality and the unjust system is to tell others their lives don’t matter. This is the reason why we are where we are now. We asked for change nicely. We marched for change. We wrote about change. We displayed the idea of change in movies, music, and other art forms, and yet things have been the same for generations. And yes, there have been minor changes that have occurred overtime but until we acknowledge that the entire system has to change to really make any difference, we will continue to have the same problems. Laws were written to benefit white men and then later updated to “supposedly” benefit anyone else that doesn’t identity or present as a cis gender white man. A lot of those changes have not been seen, as we the people are still fighting for equality and representation. Black Lives Matter is apart of the change that needs to occur. We the people are the ones who keep the movement alive as we fight against the very system that our ancestors ultimately fed and poured their blood, sweat, and tears into. The Black Lives Matter movement is here! It is in your face. It is loud. It is bold. And it is not to be messed with! The change starts with us. #BlackLivesMatterToo

(Photograph of Kimelle Ash at a Black Lives Matter protest in the student center on the campus of West Virginia University.)