It’s January 2015. The New Year. And, as we welcome our 60th class of trainees to Caroline Center this month, I’ve been thinking a lot about #Black Lives Matter and the important conversations it is generating across the media.
#Black Lives Matter was co-founded in 2012 by Opal Ayo, Patrice Cullors, and Alicia Garza, to express their outrage and concern about the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in Miami Gardens, Florida. In 2015, the details of the shooting of Trayvon Martin and the controversial acquittal of George Zimmerman on the charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter remain fresh in our minds. In the months following Trayvon Martin’s death, all the way up to the present time, we have witnessed eerily similar scenarios playing out across the country with the killings of Michael Brown, John Crawford, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and other black men at the hands of law enforcement officials.
Check out BlackLivesMatter.com. The facts and numbers will make you wince. They are alarming, harsh, and, sadly, all-too-familiar to everyone in our Caroline Center community:
- Every 28 hours a black man, woman, or child is killed by a law enforcement official
- Black women experience poverty at a rate higher than any other ethnic group in the country – 25.1%
- 500,000 black people are languishing as undocumented persons in the United States
- If you counted today, you would find 5.8 million black men and women in America’sprisons
Further, black people whose vulnerabilities and potential for exploitation are heightened because of age, gender identity, or abilities differences routinely find themselves on the sharpest edges of life’s margins, where violence, in its many forms, diminishes and oftentimes prematurely ends their lives.
“Living with Violence,” an earlier posting in The Breakroom, endeavored to call attention to these issues. But, what a difference a little more time and education can make. A couple of years ago, “Living with Violence” provided a solid commentary on the resiliency, tenacity, and hopefulness of Caroline Center trainees and alumnae who had either witnessed or experienced personal violence.
#Black Lives Matter reminds us that violence takes many forms beyond what people can inflict on each other – each of them insidious and capable of eroding the quality and value of life – and, all of them experienced in alarmingly disproportionate measure by black people. Poverty. Genocide. Over-incarceration. Human and civil rights violations. If we don’t wake up and smell the coffee, humanity truly will be in a dangerous place.
#Black Lives Matter is more than an anthem for individual loss. It is a movement that is revealing, day by day, the hope and change that can happen when a hashtag breaks out of social media and lands squarely in the streets in the form of protest and civil action. We are witnessing this change when Harvard University medical students stage a “die-in” to bring attention to violent policing as a public health hazard. We are seeing this hope when John Legend and Chrissy Teigen affirm that #Black Lives Matter by bringing a food truck into the heart of a demonstration in New York City. Across the country, there also have been many smaller, but no less significant civil actions – all showing that the full import and meaning of #Black Lives Matter is still growing and has yet to be fully realized.
At Caroline Center, we are strongly committed to working for justice and equity by helping women prepare for meaningful careers and better lives. With every lesson learned, with every skill mastered, we hope that we are providing an education that will help stop the violence that eats away at the potential, meaning, and promise that individual lives hold.
At Caroline Center, we don’t mind going to the sharpest and farthest edges of life’s margins, if that is what it takes to restore justice. Caroline Center is committed to women and committed to work. Because #Black Lives Matter.