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  • Dr. Sandra Y. Lewis

We're Not There Yet

"Pour libation for your father and mother who rest in the valley of the dead. God will witness your action and accept it. Do this even when you are away from home. For as you do for your parents, your children will do for you."

This quote from ancient African (Kemetic/Egyptian) sacred texts is my offering to honor the lives of those who were murdered in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday, June 17, 2015. I call their names knowing that our memories of them will be a guiding light in the days ahead as we work to regain our footing and plot a course forward.

Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Rev. Sharonda Singleton, Myra Thompson, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lee Lance, Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr., Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Susie Jackson

The horrific act of racial terrorism that ended their lives has left many of us in varying degrees of post-traumatic stress.

  • People have cancelled meetings saying that their “nerves are shot”.

  • Sat staring out of windows, wondering how to overcome the despair.

  • Approached their social media pages with trepidation because of the tremendous number of posts expressing intense and painful emotions.

Anger, disgust, sadness, shock and a range of other emotions swell within, sometimes leaving us overwhelmed and breathless. We have flashbacks of other acts of terrorism against Black people as well as the groups and people that perpetrated them.

The brutal and pre-meditated way these nine people were murdered as they nurtured their relationship with the divine leaves us reeling. We look for solace and demand justice.

While stories of the many ways they touched their families and communities have warmed my heart, they also increase the weight of the loss. At the same time, I know that we must honor the truth of the good they delivered to the world. The testimonials about their lives confirm it.

So, I look for avenues that offer relief. I consider the contributions that I must make to build a better world where it’s not open season on people because of their ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality or any other quality.

I’m reminded that on Human Rights Day in December 2014, the United Nations declared the International Decade for People of African Descent. It builds on the International Year for people of African Descent observed in 2011. Yes. We need at least 10 times as long to address these issues. The website indicates this effort aims

“…to further underline the important contribution made by people of African descent to our societies and to propose concrete measures to promote their full inclusion and to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.”

“In proclaiming this Decade, the international community is recognizing that people of African descent represent a distinct group whose human rights must be promoted and protected.”

The slaughter of nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is but another confirmation that we are not there yet. Their murder stands as a clear sign that there is much more work to be done.

For me, Maat is one of Africa’s greatest contributions to humanity. Maat can guide our actions to build a better world. It’s why we are here. Let us speak truth and do truth as we answer the call to build a better world. Identify what steps are in order to foster human rights and bring justice to bear. Recognize that interdependence is a reflection of balance. As the proverb states, “I am because we are. Because we are, therefore, I am”. Reciprocity means that we leave a legacy of good. The work we do to uplift humanity, promote and protect human rights will outlive us.

“We must remember that people of African descent are among those most affected by racism. Too often, they face denial of basic rights such as access to quality health services and education. ”

~ Ban Ki-moon United Nations Secretary-General

© Sandra Y. Lewis

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