Here’s why the “Black Lives Matter” movement matters

     The explainer had become a debate rather quickly.
     I posted a note on Facebook about the meaning of the Black Lives Matter movement, activism which has come under fire by those who feel wronged or left out of its purpose.
Immediately on my posting was grumbling by two white friends about thugs killing cops and a movement pushing black as the superior race.
     But that’s just it: the movement isn’t about uplifting or highlighting anybody specific. Its purpose it to ensure black people are seen as humans and equals in a time many feel black people are wrongly targeted for crimes at disproportionate rates.
     But how do you explain that to someone who isn’t in the head space to receive it?
     Since 2012, there’s been Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. Jordan Davis and Eric Gardner. Freddie Gray. Walter Scott. Sandra Bland. The story plays out the same way: black person, dead at the hands of someone white, or of some authority, unsure if the force used was necessary. Even when it’s clear the use of force was excessive, charges rarely come.
How is that right?
      The reaction locally plays out of feelings left to fester from years of a relationship gone awry. In North St. Louis County, Mo., officers in municipal police forces go untrained, often because of a lack of funds or resources. The goal for many of them is to gain employment in the larger agency, either the St. Louis City or the St. Louis County police. People feel there’s little buy-in from the officers with the community. Bottom line is when you don’t care, you don’t care. 
     So when Michael Brown was shot to death on Aug. 9, 2013, activists began developing a plan to attack what they saw as a gross mistreatment of black people at the hands of authority figures. Others reacted from their own place of hatred for a police force they never felt was with them.
     Opponents of the movement group the marching and debating with the looting and vitriol about getting back at cops and white people. If it’s done in the name of (insert victim’s name here), surely it was for the same effect, no?
     And they hang onto that as a way of discrediting a movement meant to shine light on the disparities in how often a black person loses his or her life in an incident with law enforcement that, on the surface, never elevated to the level of force used.
     Sadly, some people will never understand the motivation behind a movement meant to remind others of our equal value. It’s as if they never saw the law on the books that only counts black Americans as three-fifths a person, or that our right to vote will some day have to be renewed again.
     Viola Davis said it best Sunday night, while accepting the Emmy for best leading actress in a drama: “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win Emmys from roles that are simply not there.”

     Black Lives Matter seeks to open eyes to the fact that even in 2015, with a black president leading this country, disparities in opportunities and how we’re treated by others persist.

Marlon A. Walker is a K-12 education reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has covered communities, municipal government, crime and higher education for several newspapers and magazines during his 10-year career.


Serena and Venus vs. everybody: A win for sisterhood


I love watching Venus and Serena Williams smack those tennis balls around. These beautiful women are fierce competitors, sisters and best friends who always have each other’s back.

Much was at stake when Venus, 35, and Serena, 33, hit center court at Arthur Ashe Stadium for the U.S. Open Tuesday night. This week Serena is playing for history. If she wins the U.S. Open this week, she will have achieved the first Grand Slam in 25 years.   The Grand Slam is to tennis what the Triple Crown is to horse racing.  It is made up of four major tournaments: The Australian Open, The French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. It’s huge to win all four because they are played in different countries at different times of the year on different types of courts.

Last night, commentators wouldn’t let us forget that these sisters each wanted to win, like that was a surprise. Of course they wanted to win! They are and have been among the top women in tennis for nearly two decades. Not only is tennis their occupation, it’s their passion.

I was baffled to hear sportscasters talk about whether Serena was happy or sad to beat her older sister — who gave little sis a great match.  The two have played one another 27 times in tournaments and countless other times in life. They know better than anyone their strengths and weaknesses, and use that knowledge to develop their respective strategies in high stakes matches.

After her win, Serena was classy as always, calling her sister the best player and the best person she knows. The two are also doubles partners. 

Venus, ever the gracious and protective big sister, exited the court quickly to the cheers of the crowd.  Getting beat by her sister didn’t seem to faze her one bit.

What I love about these women is that for 20 plus years they have dominated in a sport that still remains largely white. They have endured the slights, the shade and the straight up racist remarks.   I remember when they rocked braids and beads. Other players sometimes complained that their beads were falling off and littering the courts.

Most recently, Serena has faced criticism about her muscular  physique, which my husband and many other men I know adore.

Through it all the Williams sisters from Compton, California are true to themselves and true to each other. They have worked incredibly hard all their lives and reached the highest levels of their sport. They’ve done so while expressing their individuality without apology. They don’t conform, they transform.   They are shining examples of sisterhood, friendship and excellence.