We Still Here

It’s the Independence Day holiday weekend in the U.S. Each year, I try to use this opportunity to open my copy of The Declaration of Independence and read through the words of this country’s founding fathers as they prepared for the ultimate turn-up in their protest movement back in 1776.

The Declaration really is an impressive document. It is a profoundly detailed break-up letter, battle rap, and protest manifesto. With each read-through, I am sobered by the reminder that the same people who crafted these powerful words of liberation were so beholden to the twin religions of economic expediency and racial supremacy that they were unwilling to apply their own words to the condition of the enslaved humans existing without Liberty or The Pursuit of Happiness in their own homes.


For the majority of 239 years since The Declaration, people of African descent living in these United States have spent overwhelming portions of their mental, physical, spiritual, social, and psychological energies fighting for rights that are supposed to “unalienable”, and for truths that are supposed to be “self-evident”.

At this halfway point in 2015, the year has already brought more than a year’s worth of incidents that have led many in the Black community to echo these words from The Declaration:

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.


I am not going to rehash the past six months of nationally publicized pain, tragedy, and injustice that has taken place in various locations across our country. Instead, I want to celebrate and revel in the indomitable spirit of our community.

After everything, we are still here.

We have witnessed a high tide season for a variety of scripted shows on network TV that feature Black characters. But we haven’t witnessed anything like Empire in quite some time. Not even Scandal, which remains a cultural force in its own right, matches the inter-generational, inter-gender, inter-class appeal of Empire. Not since the cameo appearances on The Cosby Show and A Different World have we seen one show employ so many Black entertainers. I don’t think it’s a reach to say that Empire has been a stimulus package for Black actors. Just watch how many “Lucious” and “Cookie” first names will be appearing on Pre-K rosters in four years!


We have witnessed sustained excellence and greatness from Serena Williams this year. I’m not sure if a Lifetime Achievement Award can be given while a person is still active in their profession, but I’m willing to make an exception in this case. As I write this, she is fresh off one of the most epic comeback performances of the year, handing the predominately British crowd at Wimbledon a heart-breaking loss on the eve of July 4th. Serena and her sister have stood and performed in the face of both subtle and blatant disrespect from different elements in the tennis world over the course of the past 15 years. Never take greatness for granted…you will tell your grandchildren about Serena and Venus.


We have relived the power of the 1965 marches for freedom and justice that took place in Selma, Alabama through the outstanding efforts of film director Ava DuVernay and the exceptional cast of actors in the film, Selma. Here’s hoping for a steady march of young Black women directors to follow right behind to keep open the door Ava has swung open.


We have witnessed the resuscitation of Black music this year. After so much ink was spilled during the past 12 months to check appropriators and rage against award committees, we may need to hold an NCAA-like tournament bracket competition to pick hip-hop and R&B awards winners this year! Since we now live in a world where all but six artists have to hustle like independent artists, the line between commercial and underground is thin and the music awards at the end of the year should reflect that. A few honorable mentions so far in 2015: Kendrick, Lupe, D’Angelo, Oddisee, Chance, Wale, Lil’ Simz, Dej Loaf, The Internet.


We have witnessed the takeover of Riley Curry…along with the normalized images of Black fatherhood in the form of her NBA-champion, league-MVP daddy, Stephen.


We have witnessed a hands-on demonstration – courtesy of Bree Newsome – of the first law of Freedom Physics: What goes up, must come down.


Seven months ago we witnessed our country’s favorite pastime – shopping – temporarily shut down by young people armed only with each other and righteous indignation. A few months ago, we witnessed America’s second favorite pastime – baseball – also get temporarily shut down by young people who had no formalized or weaponized power (contrary to some media portrayals of them). Which leaves the country to ponder the question, “If Take Me Out To The Ballgame is played in a stadium with no fans to hear it…does it make a sound?”


Most importantly, we have witnessed the sustained energy, passion, and movement building among our young people. Whether you agree with all of their positions and tactics does not really matter. It is the role of the young in our society to push against what is not working for them, and to push for something that will. What does matter is that this movement is being led and fueled by a generation who have collectively received more consumer marketing, helicopter parenting, personalized socializing and customized living directed towards them than any other generation of young people in our country.

Yet they still had enough of the ancestors’ spirit to birth this movement. We did not train them to do what they are now doing. We did not prepare them for what they are now learning. #TheyDidThat


And that’s a good reason to be hopeful about the second half of this year.

– Day G.

Host, Class of Hope & Change