What I learned at a Black Lives Matter protest

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When the video of the death of George Floyd became national news, it had the effect of lighting a powder keg. Never in my 21 years on this flawed earth had I seen such unanimous outrage pouring out on behalf of Black people and the worth of our lives.

It was striking and broke my emotions into a somber pile of smithereens. Going through the psychological breakdown of grief, I personally felt an initial hit of intense anger, followed by confusion and in turn, the ugly face of depression.

From Trayvon Martin to Breonna Taylor, it feels as if white America hasn’t been convinced by the reality of police brutality. The gaslighting by police and our country’s judicial system has strongly prevailed in the past. Admittedly, I thought that the history of white people not acknowledging past atrocities with vigor would continue and would soon be solidified as an insidious tradition. But, to my surprise, it appears as if white America has broken away from her deadly sleep and ignited a flame.

My decision to attend a Black Lives Matter protest wasn’t questioned for a second — in fact, it was probably the most instinctive choice I’ve ever made. Before hopping in my fiery cousin’s car and jumping on the freeway, I was sifting through prior memories that had an odd parallel to why we are currently at this place in this country.

Around November, I as a Black woman impulsively chose to go to a Trump rally in the conservative state of Kentucky. I felt extremely tense and out of place, surrounded by bright red MAGA hats and pale faces. The Black Lives Matter protest was held almost exactly where I went to see President Donald Trump’s rally, but the sentiments people expressed at the Black Lives Matter protest were the exact opposite of those at the Trump love fest.

After climbing into the back of my cousin’s whip like a clumsy koala, I was thrilled. When we pulled into the area where we would be walking from and parked in the lot, there was a group of police officers waiting.

After getting out and utilizing a scarf as a makeshift mask, I did feel slightly intimidated. I was scared at the possibilities of anarchy and confrontations between those protesting and those protecting. But, as we began to break ground and chant invigorating sayings, there was this sense of pure peace. Incredible love and compassion poured out from all around me.

As the walking began, we made a stop in front of a barricade of cops standing straight and unbothered in a precise line. The police officers were carrying themselves rigidly, akin to how the queen’s guards aren’t allowed to flinch, until an absolutely stunning moment transpired.

A group of fellow protestors was shouting out with profound emotion. They were connected in personal loss at the hand of police officers and a resolve of complete frustration with a corrupt, systemically racist justice and policing system that was created and is composed with the intent to keep Black people in a state of loss.

While these one-sided conversations were taking place, I heard a rumble begin to stir the crowd, and it wasn’t of struggle. No, this was a current of energy that dripped with joy as the police officers took a knee.

There are really no words in the English language that would describe that beauty. As each officer knelt down, the roars of passion were lifted high. In the midst of it all, I lost myself, and was even in some way separated from my soul. I’d never seen anything like that before. It made a powerful dent in my perception of my country.

When things started to calm down, I ran to find my cousin among the crowd. Although in other circumstances it would create a sense of fear to walk alone searching for a loved one in the dark, in this case I felt tranquil. The aftermath was sweet and honest. Ego and pride weren’t present. That, my friend, that was bliss.

When I finally found my cousin, she asked me, “How do you feel?” I responded, “I’m not sure.” When experiencing something like this — a snapshot that will be sewn into U.S. history — it’s hard to comprehend your thoughts.

Thoughts surfaced as soon as we made it back to the parking area. We came across a new set of faces attached to police uniforms, standing in a more relaxed and approachable manner. While driving away, I decided to poke my curious eyes out the window and extended a wave, which was returned.

After I had time to digest the gravity of this experience completely, I realized that we all have a duty to continue the fight when the dust settles. This movement will not end. What we crave more than ever is societal reform, which will seep into how police officers confront personal biases. When we classify, ostracize and protest against those who promote racist ideals, then we can start rebuilding.

If you want to know how to be a part of this historic moment, go find the closest protest. Read honest books on the constructs of this country, and don’t be afraid to admit your own personal faults when it comes to prejudice. When individuals start to work inwardly, we can all heal.

Kena Dijiba is the author of “Millennial Vegan” and owner of TheeBeezNeez.com