In Lexington, Kentucky, the largest Black Lives Matter protest took place on May 31, 2020. Hundreds of ordinary folks showed up to call out white supremacy, to demand an end to police brutality against Black Americans, and to insist that Black lives matter.
The weeks and months of protests which followed, both locally and around the country, have woven Black Lives Matter into the fabric of our pandemic year. A powerful reminder of our interconnectedness, the Black Lives Matter movement has become both a test of our humanity and our hope for collective survival.
Tonight Kurt and I offer you the stories of eleven Black Lexingtonians speaking about what the Black Lives Matter movement means to them. We begin with Sarah Williams and April Taylor, leaders of the local Black Lives Matter protests.
Sarah: “What the Black Lives Matter Movement Means to Me, October 16, 2020
Sharing what the movement means to me has proven to be a difficult undertaking. To find the words I wanted to express, I played videos of our ancestors speaking to guide the way. The words of James Baldwin in a speech given at the National Press Club in 1986, affirmed through divine synchronicities what I had already begun to write.
What the Black Lives Matter movement means to me is caught somewhere between unspoken thoughts mixed with silent witnessing and the trauma that has spilled into the streets, laced with f bombs and ego killing insults. Beyond the anger and contempt at police for the modern day lynchings at the hands of law enforcement aka modern-day slave patrol, there is a deep, burning frustration with a society and culture that has continually failed to address the root of this country’s ‘racial dilemma.’ You see, white supremacy/racism is not simply a few bad apples within local police departments murdering black and brown people, or simply racist prosecutors or judges responsible for the new Jim Crow of mass incarceration. White supremacy/racism is not limited to the targeting of protestors and truth tellers by police. Nor is white supremacy/racism limited to our schools in our neighborhoods being subpar, designed like detention facilities, and providing money to the prison industrial complex through the school to prison pipeline. Nor is white supremacy/racism simply a difference of opinion in political ideology between Republicans and Democrats in what is supposed to be a democracy.
White supremacy/racism is a system of thoughts, ideas, and beliefs that has sustained centuries of illusion that the ends justify the means. In other words, the myth of progress in this society and culture is so good or important that the ‘strange and bitter crop’ of whiteness as a social construct is justified by the wealth, power, and domination achieved by racism/white supremacy.
White supremacy/racism involves the deceitful manipulation of constructed illusions (veiled with words of freedom, equity, and inclusion)
used to disguise grotesque exploitations
That for centuries
Continues to degrade humanity
What racism/white supremacy does to me
Is really a curse to those who bring it to be
Those whose entire sense of self-worth is based upon an illusion constructed to create delusions entire cultures believe.
The struggle within this deceitful manipulation of white supremacy/racism to name a reality that remains an illusion in the minds of indoctrinated mindsets across the globe, is where I find myself in writing about what the movement means to me.
What the movement means to me is that the work, the real, hard, spirit-testing work, is to develop a shared vision for which many of us lack the vocabulary and imagination to conceive—the interconnectedness of all life both human and nature, seen and unseen.
Beyond acknowledging the humanitarian crisis of this current Anthropocene, we must envision a future where, ‘justice is what love looks like in public.’ When we have lived for generations upon generations in a society and culture in which love hinges upon a concept of whiteness and white ethnicity that ‘is buried in the myths that white people have about themselves,’ it makes imagining and birthing Love seem like a violent, impossible undertaking that rattles the foundations of racist/white supremacist mindsets. Nothing in history or current events has inflicted such pervasive and grotesque violence and genocide in efforts to defend and sustain its illusion than white supremacy/racism. What we lack as a community, as a society, as a culture is the ability to see and Love all life fully.
James Baldwin said, ‘If my testimony is true, then the American dream is a lie.’ It is this truth that many people of all racial and social backgrounds struggle to fully acknowledge. This gap, this ‘racial dilemma’ that has inflicted its violence for centuries upon everything it sees as less than them, is an illusion itself. Baldwin also points out in shining the light of truth, ‘if I know I have black and white ancestors, then so do you and no one in this country can prove they’re white…we are, whether we like it or not, connected. And that connection should be our triumph and our glory instead of our shame.’
In all that has been done in this city to this point following 44 days of sustained protests, none of the responses by public officials or various community organizations has been sufficient in ensuring that we curate, carry, and birth the shared vision and understanding that we are all connected—racism/white supremacy remains a mindset and ideology deeply embedded within the laws, institutions, and the actors within the structures of this society. A shift in the mindsets, hearts, and spirits of those whose ancestors and descendants decided over four centuries ago that anyone and anything it deemed less than Eurocentric whiteness is what this movement means to me. And yet, with the harshness of the aforementioned truth, is the nonviolent, peaceful truth that the revolution is ultimately spiritual. The revolution is not burning buildings, violence, and death. ‘The revolution will not be televised,’ because the revolution must occur in the hearts, minds, and spirits of the people. The revolution is Love.
The moment that sums up what this movement means to me, is the Sunday, May 31, 2020 evening protest when hundreds of people in this community, including many clergy of all faiths, stood together to say ‘Black Lives Matter’ and demand LPD Accountability. Being towards the front the crowd peacefully marching through the streets of downtown Lexington, I had no idea the vast number of people present until we were marching past the bus terminal and the chants of hundreds of people in unison reverberated off the walls back to us. As I turned around to the crowd, being informed that there were people spray painting at the courthouse, I searched for wisdom to speak to the crowd that would keep us on one accord despite the chaos ensuing around us. As we came to a stop, Spirit reminded me and everyone present, that ‘we are one collective unit.’ This phrase, this understanding, this way of being would be repeated throughout the 44 days of sustained protest in this city.
What has been lost between the daily communal gathering in the streets for nonviolent protests and public officials’ inadequate and inept response, is the reminder and remembrance that this city is a collective unit. Change begins on the most local of levels, and nothing in this city has shifted towards the acknowledgement of the collective humanity of every person living in this city. ‘Let Justice roll down like waters in a mighty stream’ and let it begin in the hearts, minds, and spirits of every person in this city. Drops of water join to create a ripple to become a wave. ‘Yes, we can’ awaken to Love. Beyond the perceived illusions of a construct of love tainted with the blood and hate of white supremacy/racism, is Love that acknowledges and respects everything that is and gives life.
This shift begins in how we see each other and life around us and then shifts our ways of being in this world. The foundation of community meetings I have facilitated in the past 6 years, building on what this movement means to me, begin with acknowledging and moving forward with the concept and greeting of Sawubona, meaning ‘we see you.’ The response, Yebo sawubona, ‘we see you too.’ The context in which this greeting is spoken acknowledges that every person present in this moment is a manifestation of all the ancestors that have come before them, they are all present in this moment, and we, in our interconnected living, are under a mutual agreement to examine and carry out how it is we must live so that we can be free. If we are not free within ourselves, from all the illusions that hold us back from acknowledging Love within each of us, connected to All that Is, then we will remain in this repeated cycle of violence and uprising without the spiritual, transformative change fundamental to breaking the chains of racism/white supremacy and all forms of domination that impede transcending our current ways of being. This, is what the movement means to me.
Visit www.peoplesblueprint.org to read more about the movement here in Lexington, KY. We are building The People’s Blueprint for dismantling systemic racism in this city.
 Cornel West
 James Baldwin, 1986, National Press Club Speech.
 James Baldwin, 1986, Speech at the National Press Club
 James Baldwin, 1986, National Press Club Speech.”