Witnessing A Revolution Unfold (And How I Hope It Continues)

beautiful graffiti mural honoring george floyd from black lives matter protest. Revolution.

Photo by munshots on Unsplash

The past few days have been a whirlwind, to say the least.

As we have all seen or heard at this point in time, George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police when former officer Derek Chauvin put his knee on Floyd’s neck. Chauvin has since been arrested—initially on the charge of third-three murder, but the charge has since been raised to second-degree murder. The other three former officers, Thomas Kiernan Lane, Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, have also been arrested on aiding and abetting Floyd’s murder.

The escalation of charges, however, didn’t come without a fight. For an entire week, people marched in Minneapolis, around the country, and around the world, for Floyd’s killer and accomplices to be brought to justice. Part of those protests included a riot that ended with Minneapolis’ third precinct police station being burned down.

Throughout the riots, protests, and general unrest, I went through a myriad of emotions, to the point where I felt unable to write for this site. I still haven’t watched the video of Floyd’s death because for me, reading about the details, including Floyd calling for his deceased mother, was enough. If I watched the video, I knew I would be haunted by it for the rest of my life. I am already haunted by the lives of so many Black people who have been needlessly killed, and their stories were already compelling me without having to see them get killed on camera. I didn’t want to see the video that would only add insult to injury—the insult being that no one would care.

Or so I thought.

I should have figured something was different when I had people asking me how I was. That hadn’t ever happened before, not with any of the Black deaths that have become American hashtags. Despite this, I was still under the assumption that my pain was going to be mine and my people’s alone, a problem we’re going to have to sort through and stuff down, like we’ve stuffed down the emotions from so many other deaths so many other times. What was the point in telling people how I was really feeling if nothing was going to come of it?

Then I saw videos of solidarity on YouTube. People who don’t usually comment on politics or social issues were commenting, crying, providing links for donations. More and more videos kept being published on platforms. Then the Twitter posts, which led to Twitter campaigns. The Instagram posts, which led to Instagram campaigns. The entire world came together, finally, because Black Americans—and by extension, Black people around the world—were being mistreated by a racist, classist, patriarchal system.

We’ve seen two whole weeks of protests with no sign of stopping. Starting the Monday this is published, we will be nearing a full month of global protests, the largest anyone has ever seen so far. For me to call this moment in time a “whirlwind” is an understatement. The moment is a sea change. A call to action that is finally being heard.

It is a revolution.

Picture of a revolution. A young woman wearing a mask and black lives matter t-shirt marching in a #BlackLivesMatter public demonstration in Cincinnati. Photo by Julian Wan on Unsplash
A young woman wearing a mask and black lives matter t-shirt marching in a #BlackLivesMatter public demonstration in Cincinnati. Photo by Julian Wan on Unsplash

We, who have never seen a revolution on American soil before, have probably often wondered what such a thing looks like. If you’re a millennial or even in your 50s, you probably weren’t there when Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer and others were in their heyday, marching and speaking out. You probably don’t remember the uprising that happened when King was assassinated. If you’re my age, you were simply learned about romanticized versions of these events. Some movies and television shows romanticized things even further. You’ve probably wondered what you would do if you were alive during those times, how you would see those moments through your eyes.

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Well, we are now at that point where we are witnessing a revolution, and one thing I’ve realized is that a revolution doesn’t announce itself. It just happens when all of the elements are right for change to occur. It seems spontaneous in that way, despite it depending on so many factors lining up just right. You have to be in the midst of a revolution in progress to realize you are actually witnessing one. We’re all part of this awakening, and in a pandemic, no less.

I didn’t know that two weeks after we saw Floyd’s murder, we would be at a point where Black Lives Matter would become one of the most important political and social uprisings of the 21st century. In fact, it might be the first uprising America has seen this century. Two weeks ago, I didn’t think I would see the birth of a new nation, a nation that has finally had enough of things being wrong.

I didn’t think I’d see racist statues and monuments topple here and abroad. Or that Japan, South Korea, Britain, Germany, Australia and other countries would be out en masse protesting matters that they could have easily ignored. Or that I might see the beginning of the end of America’s police state, starting with Minnesota contemplating abolishing policing. I didn’t think I’d see America turn towards reforming how it governs its people. Frankly, I never thought America would acknowledge its wrongs. But it would appear that I’m seeing signs of that now.

What I hope is that these signs of revolution only get stronger. I don’t want this momentum to die down a few months from now, after it stops being “cool” or “trendy.” I want everyone who is committed to this fight to keep fighting. The powers that be didn’t think the day would ever come when the majority of Americans would come together. They bet on us always being against each other, so much so that many politicians have staked their entire careers on it. But hopefully, their days of gaining power through division are now officially numbered.

Seeing everyone on one accord has filled me with hope, even as I struggle with my emotions of fear, anger, and sadness. Better yet, I should say that what I’ve witnessed has replanted my seed of hope, something I was threatening to uproot because of societal problems and my own personal issues. It’s reaffirmed to me that life is full of abundant possibilities, even when it seems like all hope is lost. It’s probably in those moments, in fact, that abundance is right around the corner.

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Picture of a revolution. Lake View, Chicago, IL, USA. Photo by Max Bender on Unsplash
Lake View, Chicago, IL, USA. Photo by Max Bender on Unsplash

While saying all of this, it’s terrible knowing that a man had to die in order for this type of revolution to occur. George Floyd’s life did matter, and not just because he’s sparked a movement. His life mattered because he was alive. He was a son, an uncle, a cousin, a brother, a friend. He was a community pillar. He was a human being. He was always important—even if he wasn’t ever meant to spark a revolution, his life would have still been important.

While we thank Floyd for what he started in death, we should also say thanks to what he accomplished in life as well. We should say thanks to him for being a good role model to his family, for being a kind person to his community, for being a rock to so many people in his life. We shouldn’t forget the man at the center of the movement.

We also shouldn’t forget any of the others who have been killed unjustly by police or racist civilians with guns. Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Aiyana Jones and so many others have been taken, and we shouldn’t forget what they meant to their families while they were alive. They were valuable, precious and important because they enriched the lives of the people around them.

Over these past few days filled with protests, I’ve felt a bit of peace in my heart, a peace that has been slowly nurtured as I’ve seen more and more people speak out on Black people’s behalf. My peace comes from knowing that outside, there are people who are fighting this huge monster called racism for me—I don’t have to do it alone and my people don’t have to do it alone. I can add my part without feeling like no one will hear. This time, people are hearing us, and their response is growing louder and louder by the day. I hope it keeps getting louder, unfathomably loud, to the point where we have a new way of being in this country, and a new way of being with each other.

Black lives matter, and they’ve always mattered, even when people didn’t understand what that statement meant or how to help. But now that we are all on the same page, now that those outside the community are getting in the trenches with us in this revolution, let’s keep fighting that monster together until we all win.

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