"I don't have a minute to hate, I'll pursue justice for the rest of my life."
Greetings CBV Fellows, Followers and Friends,
We've just stepped into a new month, so my initial inclination was to reflect on Independence Day... but the irony in that after hearing the news about #AltonSterling was over the top. I struggled with how to address this all-too-familiar conversation when I remembered something I previously sent out to the fellows.
[I wrote this letter last year after the tragedy in Charleston – almost one year to-the-date. I thought I might write something drastically different as an act of therapy. But why? Nothing has changed. No need to say the same thing differently.] …
So much to say, with such a broken heart to say it. But it's been broken. I'm not sure for how long. There is no "birthday" for the day that you realize the color of your skin makes you different in a way that is not valued in our country.
Maybe it was the time in high school when I was on the varsity baseball team. I came in as a substitute base-runner. I ran much faster than my teammate who had just gotten on base in a late inning situation. As I was coming in and my teammate was coming out, the opposing first baseman said, "They're gonna let that nigger run for you."
Maybe it was when I was in Miami for Spring Break. I was staying with a family friend. I was returning to their house around 1 am. I wasn't sure of the address, so I reached into my pocket for the piece of paper where the address was written. (This was in the days where having a cell phone was not a given). The cab driver, seemingly decided that I was reaching for a gun, rather than a piece of paper. He pulled over in a residential community. No street lights. No cabs. He told me to get out. He didn't move until I got out. Luckily, I am blessed with an amazing sense of direction and mentally navigated my way back home.
Or maybe it was the fact that growing up I had two black teachers--Mr. Roberson for 7th grade math and Ms. Johnson for 11th grade English. I never really thought about it too hard as a child, but as an adult I can I understand the myriad of ways they beat the system.
Events like the execution of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge are just a reminder of an unhealed wound - a history lesson that America was born with institutional racism in its DNA. A reminder of a birthday you know exists, but wish did not.
So what are we to do? I am left with the example of Mamie Till.
Mamie was Emmett Till's mother. Emmett was a 14 year-old boy who was murdered after allegedly flirting with a white woman. He was taken from a relative's home, beaten until they took one of his eye's out, shot through the head and dumped in the Tallahatchie River with a 70-pound cotton gin fan around his neck. His body was found several days later.
Despite pressure from the government, Mamie decided to have an open casket funeral for Emmett. As she stood at the pulpit, looking down at her only son's severely deformed body she said to mourners, "I don't have a minute to hate, I'll pursue justice for the rest of my life."
Camelback is my vision for pursuing justice. It's my medicine. It's my laughter to keep from crying. When I think about each of you fellows, I don't just see an idea, a corporate form, a team or technology. I see justice in action.
I see Larry pursuing justice so that we live in a society that values men – particularly black men – pursuing caring professions like teaching through Brothers Empowered to Teach.
I see Charla pursuing justice for students like her own children. Young people who need a school that cultivates and affirms their genius through Learning by Design Charter School.
I see Andrew pursuing justice by ensuring the "special education" teachers responsible for educating seven million young people – many of whom are young black boys – have the tools they need to provide them an equal education because of LiftED.
I see William pursuing justice by protecting Black Genius when he educates and empowers families with the tools to shield them from a culture that too often demonstrates it does not value their body let alone their mind.
I see Nicole pursuing justice by creating Yoga Foster which allows children in our poorest communities to cope with the PTSD that results from living in urban and rural poor America.
I see Blair pursuing justice by ensuring that every student – particular those in under-resourced schools – receive the feedback they deserve because of the The Graide Network.
I see Eric pursuing justice by ensuring that first-generation students who want to attend college never have to apply alone through Admit.Me.
I see Sunny pursuing justice by ensuring that families and children interact with a healthcare system that speaks to them, but not at them through Tiny Docs.
While my heart is still broken, I am focused and energized in our collective pursuit of justice for all.