“Saying ‘I love me’ NEVER automatically means ‘Therefore I hate YOU.'”
Dr. Derrick-Lewis Noble
The racial tension in America has reached a new high. The killing of Michael Brown (an unarmed black youth) in Ferguson, Missouri by a white police officer sparked a media frenzy and further highlighted a condition that many would like to ignore. The distrust that some blacks have for law enforcement is rooted in a long history of injustice inflicted upon that community by those who took an oath to protect and serve. However, despite the many officers who have misused their badge to carry out their own agenda, there are still some who properly enforce the law. Nonetheless, that is not the premise of this blog. Today’s story goes deeper than that. It discusses an issues that lay within the black community and why it is so challenging to get everyone on one accord as it relates to unity and the ending of black-on-black crime.
Last week a friend and I (William Howard Bowman) began a social media campaign titled “I Value Black Life”. The two videos stemmed from the situation in Ferguson; but, they are also a result countless observations of blacks-on-black crime and a desire for those occurrences to stop. Our goal is to establish an atmosphere of change and renewed affirmation of self within the black community. In doing so we hope to generate a positive shift that will forever change how Black communities are perceived. Although we felt it would garner nationwide attention, neither of us were prepared for some of the backlash we would get for making such an affirmative challenge. We assumed that with all that is going on it would hit the spirit of every black person and be an easy campaign to promote. That was not the case. Many black were not so gung-ho about the idea. However, despite the negative comments and questions we have definitely received some solid support; which proves that a lot of us are anxious for change.
I would like to take time to share a few of the questions we were asked: “Why do you want us to say ‘I value black life’, shouldn’t we say ‘I value all life’?” It amazed us how it is assumed that we don’t care about everyone: as though we are trying to create some type of militia against the nation. Indeed we value all life but why is their apprehension about showing pride for ones race. Yet, in all fairness I gave it some attention. After pondering on it I paused on the thought of white supremacist groups and how their campaigns for white power/pride usually are associated with the annihilation of a race. From that vantage point I can see how one would be concerned that we were trying to create a new nation of radicals ready to wage war against the system (which ain’t a bad idea); but we are not.
“It is amazing how blacks always want to rally together after a white person kills one of them, but say nothing when one of their own does it.” That notion is a definite lie and I will be the first to say that blacks do come together and try to combat black-on-black crime, but it often doesn’t get the mass media attention it deserves. Efforts go unnoticed and whereas it may seem as though we don’t care, many of us actually do. Black cities across America rally and hold vigils promoting peace and unity within their communities. They write articles, create social media groups and try to make their voices heard. But, there is still a disconnect. Something is keeping us from coming completely together as one. What is it?
“I Value Black Life” is a very simple campaign that requires a minimum effort. In a world where everyone posts pictures of themselves all we ask is for other blacks to join us by either making a video declaring why they value Black life, or post a selfie with the words ‘I Value Black Life’ emblazoned across it. Simple, right? Not for some. Unfortunately, it is hard for social justice issues to compete with pop culture, reality television, and the other vanities leading the current generation. In an era where black celebrities can reach billionaire status, and creating a sex-tape can make you an overnight sensation, the draw to march for equality just doesn’t have the same excitement. I am not mad just sharing an observation.
I would like to challenge my black peers on social media. If after reading this you realize that the things you post, share and comment on are doing a disservice to your community, think about stopping. If you notice that you have become a self-titled gossip columnist and your posts aid in humiliating black culture, think about stopping. Review what you promote and if you conclude that your messaging is furthering the negative way we are viewed as a people, consider changing what you support. I know it can be difficult because we all want a good laugh every now and then but even I had to check myself. I used to operate under the notion of “It’s only social media, what’s the big deal”. Now that I’ve reflected on the bigger picture, I must admit that I was guilty of falling into that same “as long as it ain’t about me” mindset that justifies our spread of malicious rumor and gossip. We must not forget that words can be as lethal a weapon as a gun, so be careful who you aim them at.
By accepting the challenge of “I Value Black Life”, you are agreeing to uplift the black community and help promote positive images. It means that the messages you post on social media will elevate the black community and bring us together instead of tearing us apart. If you truly value Black life then you should be embarrassed by the behaviors of those who negatively represent our people. You will hold them accountable for their actions and not rally in support of their negligent behavior. If you value black life then the way you interact with you own should be healthy and affirming; instead of toxic and hostile. You won’t walk by and ignore, instead you will be elated by the presence of someone who understands what it means to be black; in whatever capacity that may mean for them; and not make them feel less than based upon zip-code.
This campaign is 100% about unity. It is about promoting self-awareness and self-love within the black community so a decrease in black-on-black crimes will arise. I Value Black Life is about reminding black people of the sacrifices made by our elders. The lives that were lost in the fight so that we could have the opportunities we do. Killing each other was not in Malcolm or Martin’s plan and in continuing to do so we are destroying a legacy. We ask that you join us and help promote this very affirming initiative.
Type the hashtag #ivalueblacklife on Facebook and Instagram to see what others have posted.
“I Value Black Life” T-Shirts also available for purchase. Click here to order.