This month, Black Lives Matter protests have taken place across the country following the police killing of George Floyd — which was ruled a homicide by multiple medical examiner reports — and Breonna Taylor, who was shot dead by police in her home.
The protests have been a powerful outcry of energy that has put the nation on notice. The time has come for racism to be dismantled in institutions like the police that many claim still upholds a culture of brute force and stereotyping people of color.
Although the BLM protests are being amplified on a national scale, the power of the movement comes at the local level, where grassroots organizers are the spark that could instigate systemic change across the country.
These are eight local stories that have had an incredible impact on the BLM movement on a local level.
Los Angeles, California
Tyrone Nance is a BLM organizer in LA who has played an integral part in organizing rallies and events in the wake of the recent deaths of POC. In his own words:
"Organizing is art, organizing is people, organizing is understanding the moment. Organizing to me is much more than X's and O's, although details are important. It is creating a space for others to come together and unite for a common goal."
His vision is one that has been shared across the country in so many different places. The fight for freedom is about creating spaces for others to breathe.
A creator in Orlando, Jamie Arena has been on the front lines in Florida and has spoken about what the protests have really been like. In her piece, she writes, "The police continued to throw gas at us as we were running into the neighboring community and caring for anyone that got hurt."
The BLM protests have been a mixture of peaceful organizing and battling up against the police's use of force against protesters. Jamie's story is one that has been retold across many other platforms. But the reality of the lived experience of the protests shines a light onto the bigger issues of powerful entities across the country like the police.
In Columbus, creator Sarah Avdakov tells of this parallel of the police, "... across the country, cops knelt with protesters, and then later gassed and shot rubber bullets at them. The theme was the same in Columbus."
She aptly talks about how nothing can really change in terms of police brutality when brutal uses of force like rubber bullets and tear gas are actively being used to quell the marches.
And in Minneapolis, the city council has understood that point and taken it to heart. They pledged to dismantle the police following the death of George Floyd. A huge step in the recognition that police brutality and the death of Black people doesn't have to be the norm in our society. When we listen to Black people, hear their stories, we can start the process of creating a more equal society.
Syracuse, New York
Utica City Football Club's Logan Roberts is talking about just that: the only way to end systemic racism is to listen to Black people and hear their stories.
If, as a society, we never listen to the experiences of POC, how can we ever hope to change the systems of oppression that still exist?
The protests have not been the violent, hate-fueled spaces that some major news outlets would like to people to believe. In fact, they've been peaceful, filled with love and a passion to call for justice for all people that has been sorely missing in our society.
Odyssey creator Olivia Tussey talks about that in a piece on the BLM protests in Lexington.
But it is obvious that there is a lot of distress, sadness, and raw emotion that these protests bring up. Like in Atlanta, where protests turned violent after a day of peaceful marches.
"The violence," says creator Noor Abi Rached, "is just a side effect of a larger, more dangerous beast that is the systemic and prevalent racism we have seen across the country."
Unfortunately, the protests have not resulted in the end of implicit bias and racism. In Youngstown, a Black Taco Bell employee was fired for wearing a BLM mask, even though the company released a statement supporting the BLM movement.
The woman who fired this employee was claiming to just be "doing her job." And that's the problem, racism in our society is a function of people simply "doing their jobs"
More people are standing up and sharing their stories and their voices. Like Vivian Arthur Mensah, a young Black woman who is signing petitions, using her voice across social media, and doing what she can to help the movement move forward and spark real change.
So many people are tired of living in a world where they have to watch the death of Black people on Twitter because police officers were just "doing their job." And because of that, many are using their voices, marching in the middle of one of the deadliest pandemics in recent memory, and speaking out on the systemic racism they see and the racism that not everyone sees.
Even if you are not protesting, there are many ways you can help.
But one thing is for sure, the only way to change our culture is to band together and work together. Racism thrives in a society where others don't speak up, where people don't talk about implicit bias and their own racism, and where we turn a blind eye when justice is not being served.
Now, finally, people are standing up and speaking. And hopefully, we will see real change as a result of this movement.