This post originally ran on The Black Expat site on January 30, 2016 following the then Baltimore riots following the death of Freddie Gray. Unfortunately, it still holds relevance today.
As a school counselor at an international school in China, there have been a myriad of unexpected difficulties and obstacles that I have faced in my time overseas. However, having to watch the Black Lives Matter campaign through Facebook postings and online news sites has been one of the most challenging situations that I’ve faced since moving abroad. It has been difficult because while black people have marched, bled, and died in the streets of America, my white coworkers have neither talked about nor seemed phased by the everyday violence. I began to have flashbacks of photographs and documentaries on the Civil Rights Movement that my mom made me watch as a kid.
In 2015, things like brutal and unpunished killings shouldn’t happen any more. At least I thought so.
I clearly remember sitting nervously in my office watching the Baltimore riots. I don’t know why, but I looked around to see if anyone could see me through my glass door and then I wept. So many emotions and thoughts seemed to surge through my body and mind. The one thing I remember feeling was guilt. I began to feel guilty because while my people were engaged in a battle for survival, here I was sitting in my beautiful office overlooking palm trees that blew in the sweet warm summer breeze of Guangzhou. I couldn’t contribute anything to my people.
The more I watched, the more I wanted to lace up my boots, put on my Black Panther garb, turn my dreads into the biggest and blackest afro and stand on the front line with my people. I had waited for this moment my entire life because I could finally be brave and fight for something I believed in, like many of my heroes from the civil rights movement era. I should be protesting and marching, not sitting in some office helping Chinese kids figure out their futures. But this was my reality.
That evening I had a long conversation with my Aunt Coreen and I shared some of my feelings of helplessness with her. She told me that there were many ways to demonstrate solidarity and that there is a time for violence and a time to fight simply by being present. This was my time to be present as a black woman in China and to show them why Black Lives Matter.
This conversation allowed me to see that my presence here in China was bigger than my frustration. By waking up each morning and going to work, I was conquering stereotypes about black people in so many ways. My daily interactions with the Chinese continued to show them that we are more than just athletes or singers. When I go to work each morning, my Chinese students know that I am a school counselor that loves my job. This love manifests itself with each college recommendation letter I write, each class that I teach, and with each parent conference that I lead. I am representative of how educated, kind, passionate, and loving we are and how we have the same dreams and aspirations as anyone else.
Black Lives Matter is more than just a movement; it has become a mission statement for the world to celebrate our heritage and to recognize our current struggles. Allowing the world to take a second, third, fourth, and fifth look at our community if need be. It has given us a sound platform to educate our global society to ensure there is a legacy and a future for the generations to come.
So does Black Lives Matter?
Indeed it does.