—by D’Angelo Smith

I attended the “Movement for Black Lives” gathering this past weekend in Cleveland, Ohio. It was a very emotional experience for me and propelled me back to the plight of our ancestors and the struggles they faced. All of those who have gone before us, who had a foundation of peace, love, and justice at the core of their struggle, are with us here and now. Ashe’! We stand on their shoulders, for they have lifted us higher in the struggle. Ashe’!

In this struggle we must have the willingness to wrestle with, interact with, and work through the various contradictions within our society to achieve equity and fairness for everyone. When struggles are unified and mobilized it causes us to take a leap forward in the evolution of all humankind – “REVOLUTION.”

When people do not struggle there is stagnation in the process of evolution. I was awakened to these contradictions within our culture and society even more at this gathering. I met so many Black people working across this nation for the advancement and liberation of all Black lives here and afar. These Black people were not just citizens of the United States of America, but from all over the African Diaspora. Many struggles were lifted up in the space that was created for only individuals that identify as Black, to acknowledge where we are, to embrace where we have been, and to unify on the next steps moving forward. I have so much to say about my experience, yet I will just tell of the moment that incited the commitment I now have to the movement of “Revolution.”

On the very last day of the gathering, we witnessed a 14-year-old black teen, who was assumed to be under the influence of alcohol because he had an open container, being slammed to the ground and handcuffed. Now you all know things got “real” because we were not going to let these transit police criminalize our little black brother! We demanded that his mother be notified and that he be released into her custody. They did not adhere to our demands at first because they placed him in a police car. The “NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE” chant filled the street and a human barricade was formed. We surrounded that police car with locked arms standing as a shield to protect this young black boy and to keep him from being booked into the “system.” We were told that this was an unlawful assembly and that we should disburse or action would be taken. That same transit officer rushed the human shield and in failing to break it, he pepper sprayed us.

cleveland-cop-pepper-spray-m4blSome of us were sprayed in the face and others, like me, in the mouth. We did not back down but enforced the barricade to block the car from leaving. They said the mother was on the scene and that she wanted us to move back, and we did, but not far enough to allow the car to drive away. We did not know if the request was coming from the mother and we wanted our little brother released! They then moved him from the police car and placed him in an ambulance, still handcuffed. We demanded that the handcuffs be taken off and we surrounded the ambulance! We chanted, “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win! We must love and protect each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

After some chanting for a while, a car pulled up and our little brother was released to his mother because we stood up showing BLACK LOVE through the POWER OF PEOPLE! There is much work to be done, but we are thriving, winning, and dismantling systems of oppression! I LOVE MY BLACK PEOPLE! We are here to stay and we ain’t going nowhere. This victory showed me that we can and we will do this. The fight is not over, but the glory is ours through the SPIRIT!

I thank you all for making it possible to have such an experience, through supporting our church with your great ideas, your cheerful giving, and your loving presence. I charge every member of this church to open up, even more, to the struggles within your own realm of individual experiences, and within our collective as a community of believers. We must honor and value every member of our community with training, programming, encouragement and support through assessment on what is needed for each individual struggle and as a collective body. There were ten guiding principles for the gathering and the following is one that I believe will speak to where we are in the life of this church:

“Mostly Directly Affected people are experts at their own lives and should be in leadership, at the center of our movement, and telling their stories directly.”
It is through our solidarity that we envision a world beyond the current manifestations of insensitivity, and numbness to unfairness, that we will capture the heart of all struggles within the movement for social justice. We have been hearing with our ears and seeing with our eyes the injustice and inequity in our society. Now let us listen with our hearts, act as we must, care for ourselves, protect one another, and stay committed to the movement for social justice, which is an instrument for revolutionary minded communities like you, UNIVERSITY CHURCH!

Leaping forward in evolution with you all hand in hand,
D’Angelo Smith