"Steady, Loving Confrontation": Dignity in the Face of Adversity

Kizzie Davis knew Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden. Though their business was not adversely affected by the destruction that followed some of the protests, they felt the emotional pressure of living through such a turbulent time. Charles Davis prayed "for some kind of justice for the family." Three days after the death of her son, McSpadden visited the Davis's restaurant. Until that point, she had not been able to eat. A mother's voice, a mother's grief, and the bond between friends found expression and validation in the pages of a high school publication.

Being on "the good side of history"

Other stories fill the McCluer North newspaper. When the officer responsible for Brown's death was acquitted, teenager Dominique remembers that though many more adults dominated the protests, she and other teenagers made their voices heard. She said, "It just felt good to be on the good side of history," adding that "it truly opened my eyes up to some of the realities in our society."

Fifty years on from Selma, the efforts of those who recall and enact history through their actions continue. In December 2014, Oakland residents Wazi Maret Davis, Zachary Murray, and Wild Tigers, the innovators of #BlackBrunch, and other young black adults and people of color channeled strategies of nonviolent resistance by interrupting the peaceful brunch atmosphere of upscale restaurants in the Bay Area and around the country. They held placards with the names and ages of black people whose lives were tragically cut short by members of law enforcement. They honored the lives of these victims of violence. Like those before them, many of the protesters sang Civil Rights songs and confronted injustice on their own terms. Some silently held their fists in the air in solidarity with the Black Power Movement. Some patrons of these restaurants applauded their efforts and others did not. Reflecting on her experience as a supporter of the #BlackBrunch initiative, activist, Deseree F. Justice, maintains that "#BlackBrunch direct actions are imaginative models of public critical intervention that nurture ways of being in relation to one another infused with meaning, hope, and love. As we rupture spaces where many have the privilege not to think about the realities of black lives, we find new strategies to express our sorrow, rage and dreams of liberation in ways that creatively shift the discourse of spatial uprising and dissent".

Fifty years on from the period when Selma became another flashpoint for peaceful and civil resistance, inequities still course through the veins of American society. Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness speaks eloquently on this matter. Much work has to be done surrounding the prevalence of racial inequity in America. Resistance against injustice is also a constant. Strategies for the uplift of many are as far ranging as they are effective. Let us recall the stories of history, and mine those in our present day, so we can adopt strategies of agency that conjoin dignity with "steady, loving, confrontation."

3/4/2015 5:00:00 AM
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