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Black Lives Have Always Mattered by Jasmine Ponder

Photo by Bach Nguyen

I want to leave it all on the page.

The world is currently a dumpster fire. There’s a global pandemic, a war on racism and oppression, murder hornets, Ebola is back, and I have no idea what else is happening that we don’t know about. 2020 is clearly the last level of Jumanji and I would give my last dollar to be on Space X with the astronauts and not dealing with this.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I can’t begin to express the profound amount of pride, and sadness that I have with the state of affairs in the world. I’ll start by saying, y’all are doing the damn thing at these peaceful protests. I’m so bummed that I can’t participate because of my close contact with immunocompromised loved ones since COVID is still out here. Watching you guys show up for us all on the front lines is completely awe-inspiring. You guys are my heroes right now, and your contribution to the cause will always be remembered. At the same exact time, I’m cycling through the motions of grief by the volume of loss of black lives; those that were hashtags, and the countless ones that were not. I share with you in this pain that freedom and justice continue to elude us in the most frustrating manner. The George Floyd murder hurt so deeply, along with those of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Amhaud Arbery — because these were such bright lights who were cut down too soon for no reason at all; and to be truthful, it scares me so much that any one of them could’ve been any of us.

In reflecting on my experience navigating life as a Black woman, the gravity of multigenerational systemic oppression is one that we each carry within us every day. While these continued violations of our human rights are a reflection of the history and the present in this country, still hope is not lost forme that things have the potential to be better. Initially, and sometimes still, I feel hopeless about where we go from here and what freedom looks like, but I know that it’s possible for things to be better. Although Black people are unable to singularly dismantle a system that we did not build, we can continue to make our voices heard at the protests and the polls, through our various forms of art, and use our buying power to support more black businesses. Along with our allies, we must work together. In this fight, it is the responsibility of those outside of the community to do the necessary work through education on systemic oppression, having difficult conversations, and advocacy on true equality and justice. It’s not negotiable at this point. We are no longer asking. We are demanding the freedom we deserve.

Bearing witness to so many traumatic experiences in rapid succession has absolutely taken a toll on my mental health. After being inundated with constant updates about the protests, charging of involved officers and so much loss of life — I’ve been consistently drained and left with little energy. To combat this, I’ve decreased my screen time, spent time reading my Bible, and vented with my friends. I felt so much weight leave my chest, but I still, every day, have an increased amount of anxiety as the news continues to worsen; from peaceful protestors being met with violence and illegally detained to more hashtags of black lives lost and the quality of our political leadership during such social turbulence. To this end, I’ve fallen out of touch with my therapy and am so glad that there are many advocates and groups offering sessions during this time because it’s been hard.

Personally, I feel all over the place — mostly exhausted, but one minute I want to be busy to take my mind off of everything, and the next minute I want to turn my hopelessness into ideas that will be useful to make change. I always recognize the validity of all these emotions and the importance of disconnecting when I’ve reached my limits. What’s most important to me right now is staying informed at a non-emotionally destructive pace, sharing resources, and just having the wherewithal to get up and do it all again the next day. As we continue to navigate these challenging times, I know that our hope cannot be dimmed and the power in unity is infinite.

Photo by Ashley Byrd

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