SFY Stay Home blog: #2 Black Lives Matter

It’s been nearly 3 months since my first/last Stay Home blog post and so much has happened in the world since then, I would be remiss not to write about it. 

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was brutally murdered by Minneapolis police. I had a really difficult time watching the full video however I knew it was my job and everyone else’s to not only witness his death, but to raise my voice and take any actions within my power to amplify the demand for justice for George Floyd and the other innocent Black lives cruelly taken by law enforcement officers, and racist civilians, all who seem to think they would get away with televised homicide simply because their victims were Black. 

The day after George was murdered, I posted a message on my social media platforms letting folks know I was going to be taking a break to allow a long moment of silence in memory of his horrible death. While my plants tend to be a great source of comfort and distraction, I just lost interest in them, and all of my attention and energy was focused on following the news of the protests and movements that had quickly sprung up after the video was released. 

And then we started seeing the police violence against protesters, journalists, and medics. Students and others critically injured and blinded with ‘less lethal’ rubber bullets and bean bags after being shot at point blank range in the head; reporters arrested on live TV; crowds of human bodies plowed into by police vehicles; chemical tear gas and pepper spray directed at peaceful citizens by the very people they were protesting against. All along, we heard and continue to hear the president encourage the use of force and domination against the bodies of the citizens who joined the protests. 

I was watching the press conference in the Rose Garden the day Trump decided to walk over to St. John’s Episcopal church and heard two loud explosions before he appeared behind the podium. Not only had he ordered the protestors to be dispersed with force for a photo op, the clergy were expelled from inside and around their own church with tear gas and concussion grenades. 

This Tuesday, George Floyd was laid to rest by his mother, the same ‘Mama’ he cried out for as his life was being choked out of him for 8 minutes and 46 seconds before our eyes though she passed away in 2018. He is buried in Houston — my hometown, his hometown — though we grew up in two very different neighborhoods. I watched most of the live coverage of his funeral and the procession to the cemetery because I needed to see the celebration of his life after carrying the terrible memory of his murder in my head and heart for two weeks. I pray his family and loved ones are comforted by the ceremony honoring his life, and the continued worldwide outrage and demand for his justice. 

As a White woman, I get to go about my day without worrying if the color of my skin puts me at greater risk for being targeted by the police. I can walk through my own neighborhood without a fellow neighbor calling the cops on me for ‘looking suspicious,’ or go for a jog without being chased down by racist white men in trucks with guns and shot to death. I’m not followed around by security or store managers who think I may steal something. I can assume if I get pulled over I’ll only be given a ticket, and not be pulled out of my car and searched without consent. If I really wanted to, I could even walk down the street with a purse over one shoulder and a semi-automatic weapon swinging on the other without any harassment from the police. These are just a tiny sample of the privileges I inherited at birth, simply for being White. 

As a White American, the very least I can do is share the space on the platforms I’ve built to amplify the urgency of the need for the drastic changes necessary to ensure equality and justice for all people who are oppressed by the systemic racism our country has been saturated with for centuries. Enough is enough. 

The widespread demands for police and policy reform are already seeing results. Chokeholds are ‘officially’ being banned in several cities. Louisville, Kentucky just passed ‘Breonna’s Law,’ banning no-knock warrants and requiring active body cameras while executing any search warrant. Breonna Taylor, an EMT, was killed by plain clothed officers during a wrongful no-knock search at her Louisville home this past March. None of them have been charged. Today, the Minneapolis City Council just passed a unanimous resolution to replace the police department with a community-based public safety system. 

Several other cities will be cutting their police department budgets and reallocating funds to public services that are better suited to handle situations like mental health, homelessness, drug addiction, and youth intervention. 

We’re finally seeing the statues of slave owners around the world being removed (if protestors didn’t get to them first). The Confederate flag is being banned from the Navy’s military bases,  by the Marine Corps ‘in any form, and even by NASCAR. 

Progress is happening but this is just the beginning. ‘Big’ media plays a huge role in keeping our collective attention on a topic and we’re starting to see less coverage of the continuing protests, so it’s up to us as individuals to stay focused, stay active, and keep listening to and learning from the voices who are rightfully exhausted but still strongly calling out to be heard.

I’ve signed a ton of petitions, donated, watched and read countless articles, shared all the posts and hashtags, and it definitely helped me feel less helpless, but I’m not finished. You can follow my personal account @Porchlandrea on Twitter if you’d like but fair warning…I don’t post much about plants there. 

You can find a list of petitions to sign here and a list of organizations to donate to here.  

I do plan on resuming to post more plant-related content but please know that my heart is still heavy, and its hard to muster up the enthusiasm I used to have. It’s in me somewhere and writing this has already helped a bit, but I need to remain honed in on the current events and do what I can to where I can, and I hope you do too. 

To my Black friends I follow and learn from, and those who follow Sucs for You, I am always here to listen and to support you. I have your back and front and both sides and will never turn away from the fight. I give you my voice and love and this promise.

Andrea Afra

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