During the past two years I’ve spoken to audiences large and small about the painful journey my African ancestors began in 1619 when they were first snatched from the Motherland. They survived the Atlantic crossing, slavery and flights to Freedom. With the passing of the 13th Amendment on December 6, 1865, my ancestors were granted citizenship. Or so they believed.
Although the 13th Amendment granted “Freedom” many of my ancestors chose to stay in their cabins on the plantation. It offered shelter and the opportunity for them to seek extra income in nearby towns or villages. This decision often resulted in their arrest for “loitering” and then jail. Slavery was abolished but chain gangs were born. Plantations that “lost” their field labor were now able to get it back. For free.
250 years later the prison industrial complex as we now know it flourishes. According to the 2016 Pennsylvania League of Women Voters Criminal Justice Study, statistics of 2010 noted that 40% of the incarcerated in prison are African American–this while we are only 13% of the nation’s population. Not much has changed since then.
Now comes presidential nominee Donald Trump, pandering to my Brothers and Sisters to vote for him. He’s a huckster selling snake oil out of the back of a horse drawn wagon. “What have you got to lose?”, so he says.
You can’t lose what you’ve never completely gained.
Unarmed Black men continue to be targets for death by law enforcement. It’s obvious that Trump is clueless about the thousands of African Americans whose Right to Vote was denied or stolen: Redistricting, photo voter ID and limited polling sites are at the top of crushing my people’s Right To Vote. And don’t get me started about the African Americans who were denied housing in Trump buildings in 1963 after the Civil Rights Law was passed.
Today one media outlet stated that polling now reported 30% of my people are planning to vote for him!
This weekend in Washington, DC the African American Museum will formally open. I will be there along with some of my relatives, who like me embrace our African ancestral roots.
To those 30% bamboozled by the lies spewing out of Trump’s mouth, I hope you will visit this building that embodies our pain, our struggles and our spirit.