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Black Lives Matter by Mwasi Mwitula

The purpose of these articles are to cover topics that would educate, inform, and celebrate the complexity of our global community.

In recent weeks, we have witnessed what I see as a modern-day Civil Rights Movement, BLACK LIVES MATTER. Indeed, this movement is not new, but I have to confess, the death of George Floyd has taken this movement to another level. George Floyd's death has moved the needle of this movement, beyond what we’ve seen with other recent injustices within the past seven years.The increase in protests and the amount of voices standing up against racial injustice definitely makes me feel like we are indeed living in a modern-day Civil Rights era.

Black Lives Matter is one of those statements that would make one proud or uncomfortable; although if “uncomfortable”, I would encourage them to exam themselves as to why?

I reside in a historical community in Chicago, known as Bronzeville. Bronzeville is one of the neighborhoods that is rich in African American history, culture and art. From its architectural structures, the arts, coffee shops, restaurants and more, I witness and live among black beauty, accomplishment, and joy, while at the same time giving notice to the many challenges and struggles of a once vibrant community.

As a business owner within this community, it’s my responsibility to share and shed light to those who are interested in making changes in the black communities or those who have desires to be part of the solution. Included within those groups are white consumers, peers and colleagues and those of other non-black minority groups residing in the United States. We all have a role to play in providing a solution towards the systemic injustices that remain woven within America’s DNA. '

The days of:

  • I don’t see color

  • Racism doesn’t exist

  • White privilege doesn’t exist (heard mostly from white folks and a small percentage of non black minorities groups who are still mentally colonized)

  • Tokenization of Black businesses (recruiting black business to give appearance of racial equality) ARE OVER!!

For example, Last year, ILAVA partnered with several social entrepreneurs for a short term pop-up shopping experience and we were among very limited Black business owners.

Initially, our experience was beautiful until we no longer fit the organizer's vision. It was evident that they tolerated us because ILAVA customers are loyal and incredibly supportive. We were assets, but the management could not wrap their minds around how this small business that was run by a Black woman who was also from Africa, who also sold products which were made in Africa could be an equal partner.

Thus, our ideas were undermined daily. Our merchandise was moved around because it did not fit the "white customers" image. What they failed to understand was that our white customers love ILAVA, not because we market to them, but because they respect and acknowledge our overall mission and purpose for existing. They wanted to "tokenize" us, and we had to make a tough decision of ending our contract prematurely.

As stated by the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, “We’re committed to struggling together and managing and creating a world free of anti-Blackness, where every Black person has the social, economic, and political power to thrive.” Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi.

We (Black people) want to thrive and be honest about the fact that the American system was never intended for Black people to thrive. It’s time to build a system that would truly see that "All men ARE created equal" without having to use that as a disclaimer. Let us create a society where anyone of us could be proud to shout that from a mountain top. BLACK LIVES MATTER. Also, if you're a non-black individual who can acknowledge you have been conditioned by the system to see Black people as a problem, charity, product, etc., then you can begin to work towards creating a system of equality.

In my neighborhood, I see growth in businesses: the Goree, Senegalese Restaurant Two Fish Restaurant; and Soul Shack; Gallery Guichard; Little Black Pearl Workshop; and a host of other Black-owned businesses. Black people are not looking for charity or handouts. We want the resources that our white counterparts are receiving. The same energy and resources that are spent in white communities needs to be invested in Black communities as well—hospitals, schools, after school programs, etc.

THE BLACK LIVES MATTER movement would not exist if we were not existing in the system that purposely creates the hierarchy of one race over another. Thus, acknowledging that the unrest we are seeing today is a product of the hate that was created from the beginning. Nevertheless, when we know better we can do better. Let’s work together to all know, do, and be better.


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