On Monday, January 16th, Proctor Academy welcomed me into their community as a keynote on MLK Day. The theme, "Cultivating a Beloved Community" struck me, and I was inspired to share with these young people my own beloved community of Lawrence. Lawrence embodies the spirit of activism and protest. It is a city where I found my footing as a writer, artivist, and change agent.
In my poem, "This is the Year" one stanza really heightens my personal belief on change: "this is the year we can’t look away." In the last few years of my professional career, I met many who simply, looked away. Looked away from violence. Looked away from injustice. Looked away from the news. Looked away from their students. Looked away from any message that racism and white supremacy still pulses through the United States. The willfull ignorance of "looking away" is racist. The willful ignorance of "looking away" continues to thwart progress and change. Period.
BIPOC have never had the luxury of "looking away." Two years ago this month, the United States capitol was besieged by a barrage of rioters aiming to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election. I remember I was in my classroom with my 9th graders and we all had the news up on our respective screens. It was a grotesque scene of violence and white supremacy, masked as patriotism and civil disobedience. It was an aching reminder of why the work of equity, anti-racism, inclusion, and racial justice is paramount to changing the systemic violence people of color, and other marginalized and oppressed groups experience in the United States. It is an aching reminder of the work that still must be done to end white supremacy and its legacies. But we must ache and reckon. When we reckon with our history, we honor the legacy of Dr. King, and repudiate the notion that change is slow, impossible, or inefficient.
I hope my message can inspire students to become activists in their beloved community. To see how their voice can make lasting positive change in our world.