If we backtracked to the root of the issue at hand we might land in Jamestown, Virginia. The year is 1619 and the value of a human life is equal to sugar, guns and maybe a few pieces of cloth. The labor of these brown lives is necessary for the cultivation of this “new” land.m
How about July 4, 1776? A group of men in Philadelphia decreed,”We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” Yes all men, but it’s still unclear exactly what kind of men they were we talking about?
89 years later, Dec. 6, 1865, the 13th Amendment of the Constitution was ratified. This addendum banned slavery in the United States, but just like plants, when a weed has taken root, any drop of water or ray of light will aid in its continued growth. The residue of hate would continue to flourish.
This year, in the month of June, we lost legendary boxer Muhammad Ali. Ali was a fighter both in and out of the ring. Where justice was absent, Ali’s voice filled the void and called for change. Americans will never forget his 1990 trip to Iraq when he aided in the release of 15 U.S. hostages.
Years earlier, Ali would refuse to enlist in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War despite the consequence of being banned from the sport he loved. His mentality was, “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?”
Boston Celtics legend, Bill Russell expressed his envy of Ali’s boldness:
“He has something I have never been able to attain and something very few people possess: He has absolute and sincere faith. I’m not worried about Muhammad Ali. He is better equipped than anyone I know to withstand the trials in store for him. What I’m worried about is the rest of us.”
In June of 1967 the “Ali Summit” was held in Ohio. This meeting-turned-news conference was organized by Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown in collaboration with the offices of the Negro Industrial Economic Union. After thoroughly evaluating his intentions, the most prominent Black athletes of that era chose to stand in solidarity with Ali and his decision to boycott the Vietnam War.
A year later, at the Olympics in Mexico City, Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised black-gloved fists during the United States national anthem. Though the balled fist has been commonly associated with the “Black Power” symbol. Smith later explained that the iconic image was meant to speak for human rights as a whole.
A lot has changed in the last 50 years. We use these things called cell phones to communicate with the world. Who knew that such a small piece of technology would have so much influence on our lives. We live in an age where a video can be shared around the world faster than you can tweet #AllLivesMatter. Activism as we know it has turned into hashtag activism; Less commitment, less drama.
On July 5 #AltonSterling was trending online, followed by video of him being fatally shot by two Baton Rouge police officers. Less than 24 hours later, another hashtag, #PhilandoCastile
His girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, took to Facebook Live as her only alibi, sharing her own version of the events that had just occurred. The social media world watched, along with Reynolds and her 4-year-old daughter as Castile passed away that night.
Two days later, in Texas, five Dallas police officers were killed after a former U.S. army reservist decided to avenge the deaths of Castile and Sterling.
As cliche as it may seem, Martin Luther King Junior’s words still ring true, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” The murder of those officers did not create closure but rather created more division among us.
New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony posted the iconic photo from the “Ali Summit” with the following caption:
First off let me start off by saying ” All Praise Due To The Most High.” Secondly, I’m all about rallying, protesting, fighting for OUR people. Look I’ll even lead the charge, By Any Means Necessary. We have to be smart about what we are doing though. We need to steer our anger in the right direction. The system is Broken. Point blank period. It has been this way forever. Martin Luther King marched. Malcolm X rebelled. Muhammad Ali literally fought for US. Our anger should be towards the system. If the system doesn’t change we will continue to turn on the TVs and see the same thing. We have to put the pressure on the people in charge in order to get this thing we call JUSTICE right. A march doesn’t work. We tried that. I’ve tried that. A couple social media post/tweet doesn’t work. We’ve all tried that. That didn’t work. Shooting 11 cops and killing 5 WILL NOT work. While I don’t have a solution, and I’m pretty sure a lot of people don’t have a solution, we need to come together more than anything at this time. We need each other. These politicians have to step up and fight for change. I’m calling for all my fellow ATHLETES to step up and take charge. Go to your local officials, leaders, congressman, assemblymen/assemblywoman and demand change. There’s NO more sitting back and being afraid of tackling and addressing political issues anymore. Those days are long gone. We have to step up and take charge. We can’t worry about what endorsements we gonna lose or whose going to look at us crazy. I need your voices to be heard. We can demand change. We just have to be willing to. THE TIME IS NOW. IM all in. Take Charge. Take Action. DEMAND CHANGE. Peace7 #StayMe7o
Anthony used his post to address the flawed “system”and demand action from those who have been allowed the same platform as he. This same system that declared the equality of all men, has repeatedly neglected to serve justice.
A library could be filled with stories of lives lost due to dark colored skin, but the message is simple:
History has repeated itself leaving a community broken, hurt, confused and fed up. Once again, “guns” and “human lives” are being bartered, but the exchange has left more debt than profit. Fans will ride or die for their favorite team, but once their quarterback starts addressing social issues the mood shifts and the trolls come out of the woodwork.
#BlackLivesMatter because almost 400 years of history has programmed the subconscious to believe that dark skin is a threat to our lives. From DeMarcus Ware to Serena Williams to LeBron James to Chiney Ogwumike, athletes across the country sent their 140 characters to mourn the lives that were loss last week. But was that enough?
The most influential men and women in these United States, tie up their laces on any given day to perform for a sports craved society. There is no show without the star, so how many athletes will it take to put the show on hold?
Hashtags only last until the next story trends on the Twitter. So no, don’t “stick to sports.” Stick to your gut and stand up for what is right despite what endorsements you may lose. Material goods come and go but lost lives can’t be brought back.
Trust, Monday Night football is not as fun when “Bloody Sunday” was the day before.