Multiplicity Commons No. 1

Social Justice Today

by Aprell May

Breonna Taylor. Delano Walker Jr. Dominic May. Mark Scalise. Lenny Brown. Benjamin Schoolfield. Sandra Bland. Rodney King. Melvin Jones. George Floyd. Ramona Africa. John Africa. Emmett Till. Colin Kaepernick. Darryl Moss. Philando Castile. Atatiana Koquice Jefferson. Kendrick Johnson. Ahmaud Arbery. Eric Garner. Ramsey Orta. Vauhxx Booker. Tamir Rice. Treyvon Martin. Botham Jean. Amadou Diallo. Fitzroy Gayle. Terence Dickerson. Michall Brown. Elijah McCain. Nelson Mandela. Angela Davis. Frank Embree. Daniel Prude. Tamron Hall. Leroy Martinez. Emmanuel Mumford.

As I reflect on these names of people living and dying with injustice, I am both sad and strengthened. I am sad for the bloodshed. I am sad for loss. I am sad for the pain and hurt suffered by the families of every human being on this incomplete list. Torn-apart families and communities for centuries on end. Each family missing parents, siblings, extended family, and friends. Their names are a representation of missing memories, of lost love and family traditions. Some names belong to my family. Some to my friends.

I am sad because of the number of the commenters on public news forums who seem indifferent to systematic oppression. Some of them saying that capital punishment without a jury is okay for misdemeanor crimes. Death being served with a warrant, as in Breonna’s case. Our people are still told to “get over it,” while our flesh is being crucified each day. How do we get over the first ones, tied and chained, the ones who did not make it off the coast? Those who were thrown off the ship? Those who chose death at the bottom of the Atlantic? How do we get over it now, when CBS News reports that more than 160 Black people in our country have been killed by police this year alone?

And yet I am strengthened to see my community stand up at protests. I am strengthened to see that, contrary to propaganda, people aren’t only crabs in the bucket, pulling their neighbors down, but some are lifting as they climb. Classmates creating art. Bosses sending out sincere emails telling staff to check on their Black coworkers. High-school teens organizing large protests amidst a pandemic. I am strengthened to see social justice groups forming all over the country. My cousin in East Hampden organized a social justice committee whose mission is to let the town know that “a knee is not enough” for some of its citizens.

I am encouraged when I see white moms banding arms because they were summoned when George called for his mom. Or the white man yelling, “white bodies to the front,” at the Springfield Black Lives Matter protest. Or the hearing-impaired girl who stood in front of me while we waited for the Springfield Police Department to take a knee in solidarity. She waited all night by herself and into morning to no avail. Professors creating political art and the president of my university attending a Juneteeth program.

I am strengthened to see the resilient people who hold values in social justice and equality.

I am strengthened to see this generation fighting for civil rights by “owning their now.”

About the Writer

Aprell May is currently a graduate student, completing her final year in the MFA in Creative Nonfiction at Bay Path University. A tribal member of the Native American Inter-Tribal Council of Western Massachusetts, she interns at the Springfield Library and Museums in collaboration with a collector to create a living community exhibit in the Native American Hall. She contributes to Bay Path’s Network News, the Voices of Resilience, and the Women on the Move conference. Aprell is at work on her first memoir, Classic Fly.