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I am a man and my life matters

Opinion-Editorial

By MICHAEL ALEXANDER BLAKE | 8/21/2014, 5:50 p.m.
I have only heard of Birmingham...the marches...the protests. I wasn’t there. But now we have Ferguson.
Ferguson Courtesy of St. Louis American — Wiley Price and Lawrence Bryant

I have only heard of Birmingham...the marches...the protests. I wasn’t there. But now we have Ferguson. I’ve never seen the visual of officers and troopers looking at our citizens as the enemy. But now we have Ferguson. I never marched during the 1960s; I never had the honor. But, I did walk in solidarity through the streets of New York City with those demanading justice last year after George Zimmerman was allowed to walk free after killing young Trayvon Martin.

But now we have Ferguson.

Yes, this kind of pain happens in the Bronx or Chicago every day, but we are all unified in our focus because now we have Ferguson.

This all makes me reflect on what was the spirit, the aura, the energy present during those painful times in the 60s, and I revert to the signage that so powerfully strikes me every time I see it when I go to Memphis—I Am a Man.

The signs that the sanitation workers were holding during their protests for a higher wage were their demands for economic justice. They realized that race, poverty and manhood were intertwined negatively. Dr. King unfortunately lost his life for this justice, for this equal manhood, and more protests and marches ensued. Unfortunately, we are still marching to a seemingly unreachable Zion in pursuit of what should be an attainable dream of “All men are created equal.”

But now we have Ferguson…and Mike Brown...and Darren Wilson, and we are reminded that the dream still hasn’t been realized. Instead of putting his hand up to ask a question at college, Mike Brown put his hands up before being shot down.

The attack against young men of color in this country is inhumane, unjust and must end immediately, not only because of the loss of life and the destruction happening right now but also because of the devastating long-term impact it’s having on our communities by creating the perception that being a young man of color equates you to being a thug, criminal or a less-equal member of society. The continual injustice against young men of color at the hands of a few bad officers (most of our officers are law-abiding citizens who are keeping us safe) appears to only occur because of the color of their skin. I serve a God who I believe does not see color, and I would expect that the unjust officers doing these acts would follow the same accord.

From Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. to Ezell Ford in Los Angeles, Calif.; from Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. to Jordan Davis in Jacksonville, Fla.; from Lloyd Morgan in the Bronx to Eric Garner on Staten Island, we are losing Black males because a bullet is the first option and a chokehold the second, rather than a conversation and peaceful discourse.

As a former director of African-American outreach at the White House under President Barack Obama, where I witnessed the highs and lows across our country because of voter suppression and voter jubilation and also as a Bronx, N. Y. native who regularly sees how the community is fearful rather than prideful to engage with police officers,