As a young girl, I was educated in a system designed to teach Blackness as an inferiority complex for which Whiteness and being White-like was the cure. Unapologetically, I was taught to celebrate the European conquerors who discovered the already occupied land of native “Americans.” I was taught to bow my head and pledge allegiance to a country whose constitution was crafted by White men who never envisioned liberty and justice for my ancestors.
Over 17 years, I spoke Jefferson Davis’ name hundreds of times as I traveled on the highway for which he was named to obtain a miseducation. However, this misguided instruction never taught me that Jefferson Davis was the father of the Confederacy and the leader of an anarchist movement to defect from the United States. It wasn’t until I was grown that I learned his actions helped protect the inhumane institution of slavery from which mostly White men profited from Black prostration.
Though never explicitly told to fear White people, the elders in my community — burdened with the memory of Black codes and encumbered with recollections of Jim Crow — encouraged me to work three times as hard as White people in order to reach the Promised Land pastors preached about in pulpits. They pushed me to hustle in silence, conform without protest, and accept the unfinished accomplishments of African-American historical giants… not because they didn’t know courage but because they understood the consequences of White cowardice.
I obeyed without question until I listened — along with a nation — to a Black boy’s cry for help as a homegrown terrorist masquerading as neighborhood watch murdered Trayvon Martin then claimed himself as the victim. Along with Black people across the country, I felt a call to wake up and cast off the safe blanket of conformity in order to challenge a system that exonerated a killer.
And along with many fearless Black people… I joined in tweeting, organizing, fundraising, marching and placing Black bodies in danger while simultaneously demanding change from a country priding itself on the unfulfilled promised of the 14th amendment: equal protection for all.
During this time, I learned myself. My “self” not being who I was as an individual but as one thread in an intricately, woven brightly colored narrative of Black people whose uncompensated labor enabled this nation to become a super power. Specifically, a super power who exerted power on us but never shared it with us as descendants of Africans whose bodies, families and sacrifice made America possible.
Through discovering the historic truths of yesterday, I learned about slaves who fought for their freedom through entrepreneurship. I studied the economic liberty that the Reconstruction era briefly afforded Black people. I delved deep into the history of thriving economically viable Black enclaves like Raleigh, Jackson Ward, Tulsa and the District of Columbia.
Though I found atrocities, I also found an abundance of excellence: Black excellence. I found a people pregnant with purpose birth communities of exceptionalism, and deliver a progeny unshackled by enslavement and invigorated by the promise of freedom won by fearlessness.
So when two White men asked me was I afraid to walk through a Confederate Flag Rally to visit the spot where present-day, history maker — Bree Newsome — snatched down a symbol of racism and hate… my answer was “no.”
As my co-worker and I approached, we were not scared when the protesters yelled their misinformed opinions at us.
We were not scared when a small group of White men debated us in the midst of a sea of like-minded supremacists.
We were not scared when we enlightened them about how Confederate history represented a time when White men fought to protect the free labor of Black people, and how that flag symbolized the misguided opinions of a few and should not hang any place where a decision-making body was tasked to make laws for all.
We were not scared when a White man told us a Black power fist was not welcome in their space, and neither were “half-blacks.”
We were emboldened by the blood of my ancestors which fertilized the fields of a nation not yet free for all.
We were inspired by the Charleston 9 who welcomed a white supremacist into a holy space with love.
We were encouraged by the activists in Mississippi — the state in which Jefferson Davis was senator — who continue to fight for legislators to take down the Confederate flag. Their effort inspired us to stand that day and remind the Sons of the Confederacy that their people chose the wrong side of history and their defeat was necessary for us to build one nation under God.
When I posted the above image on Facebook it went viral receiving over 29,000 likes and nearly 5,000 shares. Some people were proud of the visit, and many asked was I afraid and my answer was no.
I was not afraid to walk with my afro out, my fist up and with a fearless spirit because in spite of the hate that enveloped my coworker and I that day… I knew yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil for my God, my ancestors and my people stand with me…