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“At this point in my life, I’m less confident that we can rely on generations prior to work for the benefit of my peers,” writes VOX ATL’s Adam Dickerson. “When they’re gone, we’ll be dealing with this mess alone.”

Photo of the Sankofa bird by Adam Dickerson

According to Sankofa.org, the “Sankofa” is a metaphorical symbol used by the Akan people of Ghana, generally depicted as a bird with its head turned backward taking an egg from its back. It expresses the importance of reaching back to knowledge gained in the past and bringing it into the present in order to make positive progress.

Protest Without Change?: Next Steps for African-American Citizens [Opinion]

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These protests need to stop. I know that just three months ago, I’d written about how the intensity of the protests following the murder of George Floyd were necessary for America to understand that the black citizens of this country were fed up. But now it’s happening again, and the intensity feels the same. Nothing more or less. For what it’s worth—after the jury’s decision to indict just one officer responsible for the wanton endangerment of Breonna Taylor’s neighbors, like the woman they killed was an afterthought—I expected more than another stretch of protests.

I expected violence, retaliation, and shootings. But I expected more than protests. The more I’ve been returning to society during COVID, the more I’ve seen Black people purchasing firearms, walking down the street with sidearms strapped to their hips, going to the gun range. I’ve seen Black people organizing with militant intent, having serious conversations about separatism and nation building. I’ve watched pistols being casually passed between Black hands, lessons taught on how to properly hold a firearm and when to be ready to pull the trigger.

Though I’m not advocating for another civil war or anything, I can say that a lot of Black people are done with the contradictions and lies of the United States. They’re tired, and they’re ready to retaliate when the moment presents itself. Let me be clear: the moment will present itself. Go back and watch any footage of police (or people who think they’re the police) wrongfully attacking and/or killing Black people. All of those would have warranted lethal response from black militants. On September 28, during a protest-turned-riot, was not one of those moments.

Twenty-six-year-old Larynzo Johnson, a Louisville native, was arrested and charged for firing on two LMPD officers hours after the indictment of Breonna Taylor’s killers. He has no criminal record, hasn’t been accused of being under the influence of any substances. His taking aim on police may be viewed as irrational by the media outlets we have at our disposal, but to be honest, civilian violence against police has been a long time coming. Johnson would have accomplished something commendable, if those officers had shot at him first.

Let’s use the scenario that led up to the murder of Taylor as an example. Kenneth Walker was under the assumption that someone was breaking into his home, and therefore use of force was justified. It’s important for citizens to know that they have the legal right to defend themselves from police officers using lethal force, especially if the party on defense is unaware the assailants are law enforcement. Of course, the jury decided to spin this by stating that because Walker shot first, the officers responsible for killing Taylor had the right to shoot back.

If LMPD was using excessive force against Johnson, he had the right to use lethal force to defend himself. Would he have been charged for killing two officers? Probably, but my reason for making this distinction is informative. When someone shoots a gun at anyone, they may be accused of opening fire with total disregard for the value of human life. Whenever an officer shoots to kill a black person, they are opening fire with total disregard for the lives of Black men, women, and children. If a black person shoots back in self-defense, they are opening fire with total regard for their own lives. Of course, don’t just take my word for it and properly research your state or county’s self defense laws.

Until Black people are ready to declare separatism against this country, it is imperative that self defense regarding lethal force is used sparingly and intelligently. Shooting at law enforcement during protests just gives them more reason to justify trigger-happy police. Back in June, protestors set fire to the Minneapolis police precinct and were marked as thugs and looters, and the National Guard was sent in to control the riots. After shooting at members of the same police department who let an innocent woman’s killers walk free, Johnson now sits in jail under two charges of first degree assault and fourteen for wanton endangerment. That’s the justice system of the United States. The more people who participate in protests, the further this country gets from real change. Because cries for justice and reform and “black lives matter” are falling on deaf ears.

I can’t help but think about the Atlanta race riots of 1906, when white civilians wreaked havoc on the Black population. White people weren’t in the streets of Atlanta marching and protesting when they thought Black men were raping white women. They went up in arms and tried to maim and kill every person of color they saw. That was 114 years ago. In the present, we have legitimate proof that African-American citizens are still being subjugated. It’s evident in this country’s educational system, where history and economy are still extremely Eurocentric. It’s blatantly overlooked in Atlanta, as the spread of the Beltline displaces poor Black communities at what should be considered an alarming rate. It’s been out in the open all summer with federal police coming into protesting cities and targeting those marching for change. 

How much longer must all this continue until we stop allowing the miseducation of the youth, until we declare our own social and professional values? How long until we realize this government does not have our best interests at heart? In order for us to not just get by but excel as a people, we need to change the way we do things, especially how we respond to external violence. At this point in my life, I’m less confident that we can rely on older generations to work for the benefit of my peers. When they’re gone, we’ll be dealing with this mess alone. Instead of waiting around for it to be passed on to us, here’s what can be done now to prepare us for the remainder of what is already a turbulent century.


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  • Read, and read Afrocentric literature. Across the globe, people of the African diaspora are taught Eurocentric history and ideals by European instructors. This accomplishes nothing for our people except the perpetuation of a slave mentality and widespread inferiority complex. I started reading Baba Ifa Karade’s “The Handbook of Yoruba Religious Concepts” before I went to college and I can say with that certainty it altered the way I navigated academia at a PWI. There were myriad Black cultures and histories before slavery, and unless we’re properly educating ourselves that knowledge will never be in commonplace. But as always, go to your nearest Black-owned bookstore (because I promise you Barnes & Noble doesn’t typically carry them) and see for yourself.

 

  • Do extensive research before voting. While I myself am an advocate for Black separatism from the United States, the best way for us to move toward that eventual goal is to vote for and elect who we deem has the best interests for our people, whether they’re Democratic or Republican. Siding with one or the other further pushes the agenda of the United States and in turn prevents us from progressing ourselves.

 

  • Study the Constitution, economy, and global markets, and use them to your advantage. I stated earlier in this article that citizens of the United States have a legal right to defend themselves against excessive force by police. However, without a detailed understanding of the country’s legal system, our rights can be skewed out of our favor. Understanding the economy and how the American majority holds value of property by location will give Black Americans an advantage to defend ourselves against mentacide and nutricide.
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  • Instead of moving to “nicer” areas, stay and improve the communities you are from. This ties into the previous bullet of knowing the economy. Since integration in the 1960s, our people have disproportionately patronized and supported white businesses and wealth, because these foreign businesses have better funding and are held in higher regard. That mindset is what has led to the deterioration and rarity of successful Black neighborhoods, schools, or businesses. My mother is looking for a house right now in Atlanta, and I’ll admit it’s disturbing how casually she and her real estate agent (also Black) talk about how soon neighborhoods with low property values will be “improved.” I can’t even converse with her about what’s written here, because once again, our elders seem less concerned with the cultural integrity of the diaspora and more with continued assimilation with a broken society.

 

  • Build generational wealth. Speaking from experience, millennials and “Zeds” (or as I’ve termed us “Generation Zero”) tend to live day-by-day. I think this behavior has caused a sort of chain reaction, especially among Black Americans, to not think so deeply about saving. In high school, the phrase, “I’m here for a good time, not a long time,”  was not unusual. That’s the point, though. Getting the young, pivotal generations to live in the present to the point where the future is just a problem for another day is what has allowed poverty, violence, drugs, and neglect to infect Black communities. It’s what keeps us from preparing for the next police shooting or regressive political era, and it’s why we’re always doing the same thing over and over and over again. Generational wealth not only means monetary but also intellectual wealth. We need to preserve the knowledge of what our people have collectively had to develop through, so the many generations ahead are guaranteed a brighter future, as is our tradition.
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