A Reflection on Black Lives Matter: Activism & Art as Healing
Delanoe Johnson, Senior Associate on our Communications team, shares a journal of his experiences during the #BLM movement and marches of 2020 in Boston, the ways in which he used his voice to advocate, and the importance of self-care during a time of uncertainty.February 4, 2022
The following blog was written in June 2020 and represents my reflections and experience during Black Lives Matter movement that swept the nation following the slaying of George Floyd; a moment in time that will forever be mentioned when the topic of Black History and American History comes up in conversation.
June 5, 2020
This past week has been one of the most exhausting weeks of my life. I’ve watched the lynching of a Black man go viral and be shared worldwide for public consumption, I’ve attended multiple Black Lives Matter protests that have been physically and emotionally taxing, ran from the police, screamed, and marched with tears in my eyes.
I’ve had my white friends come to me looking for what seems to be a stamp of approval or maybe acknowledgment and reassurance that they aren’t racist. I’ve attempted to use my base knowledge of systemic racism as a tool to expose my truth along with millions of other Black men across the country. I’ve felt pressure to speak in moments where I felt overwhelmed, I’ve had multiple conversations with my mom about my health and well-being, I’ve been anxious, I’ve cried, I’ve been in fear, and I’ve been inspired. I’ve opened myself up to debate with friends that hold different beliefs than my own and I’ve been disappointed at some and their unwillingness to empathize.
The events that took place in Minneapolis were a tragic blow to the Black community and a reminder that the work is not done—across all 50 states, and 18 countries, the slaying of George Floyd has surfaced not only the issue of racial justice and equity, but a full intersection of other issues that have brought about anger, frustration, and sadness to people of all walks of life. Even still in all of this, I’ve been contacted by friends giving me statistics on black-on-black crime and murder, and the data on police officers killed by Black men and ask me the question, “Where is Black Lives Matter in this instance”?
It's evident to me that there are many people that still don't get it, the idea that for my life to matter would cause you to believe that I am saying that yours does not is truly sad.
Even though this is true, there are those that get it and have really stepped in to be allies not just for me, but for the cause of racial injustices nationwide. My heart leapt when I ran into a member of our senior leadership team at New Profit Eliza Greenberg at a rally in Boston’s Franklin Park. I know it takes more than showing up to a rally to be an ally, but it gave me a bit of warmth to know that I am seen by the people that make decisions in my place of work. It’s also pretty trippy that out of the thousands of people there, we crossed paths and were able to recognize each other while wearing masks. LOL.
I haven’t quite figured out how this will all play out and how to go about the journey towards my personal liberation and the role I must play to be an example to my peers and the youth that look up to me, but one thing is for sure…at this moment I am very exhausted, I am feeling an overwhelming burden of being the bridge for many of my friends that don’t identify as Black, and I feel a responsibility to be a beacon of light for my people.
To that end, I find that in order for me to carry light I must do things that bring me joy. Yesterday, I was invited by my friend and local Boston creative (IG @Jetpacksprat) to team up her squad over at the Apple store in Boston to paint a mural.
At first, it seemed a bit off target for the moment, but after doing a bit of reflection I thought that contributing to the cause in this way would be a great way for me to engage in self-care and sprinkle in some positivity in the midst of a time when the media is feeding us, pain, sorrow, and hurt. I want it to be known that we as a people exist for a reason and that reason, in my opinion, is to come together in glee and joy and equality. It was so much fun to take off my marching boots for a day and get in touch with what it is that fuels me, joy! The mural we developed features a rainbow flag as to pay homage to the Black LGBTQ community, acknowledging that while we are in a deep moment, we see you on the front lines with us. This month is also pride and so to not acknowledge the hurt and pain that the community has felt would be a miss. I offer you these reflections and this video of that mural experience as inspiration for you to dig deep and find small moments to be happy through these trying times. Yes, it is true, times are hard, but if we are to really accomplish our goal we need to stay energized, and vigilant as we push through to a better America.