My name is Chloe Edwards, I am the staff lead for Racial Truth & Reconciliation Virginia. On August 2ndthrough August 8th, you joined us in creating history by participating in Virginia’s first-ever Racial Truth & Reconciliation Week, which is now an annual initiative that was officially proclaimed by Governor Ralph Northam. The mission of Racial Truth & Reconciliation Virginia is to empower the voices and experiences of marginalized communities in acknowledgment of truth to promote healing, reconciliation, and justice.
Today, I am pleased to follow the footsteps of my ancestors in sharing with you one of many remarks that will contribute to today’s modern civil rights movement and history in support of August 28ths Unity Walk in solidarity with those standing up for justice and racial healing. Today, we have the opportunity to contribute to and correct history, once again. Let’s take a moment to paint the pictures of history.
In 1788, the United States Constitution was officially adopted. In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed. It would be referred to as “a rebuke and a stumbling-block to tyranny and oppression.” These documents represent key fundamental American values, including, the individual rights to life, liberty, and property, public good, justice, equality of opportunity, diversity, truth, and patriotism. Yet, no Black or Brown body was able to contribute to the crafting of America’s legacy as an inclusive nation
On January 1st, 1860 the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. It declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” Yet, Black Americans were unable to celebrate the abolishment of slavery until June 19th, 1865, known as Juneteenth, an annual holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States and a holiday that is now recognized in Virginia as a state holiday.
The United States of America was built off of the backs of slaves that first arrived to Virginia over 400 years ago; yet, while the nation as a whole gained access to economic and political prosperity… equity, equality, prosperity, and justice have still not been reimbursed, reconciled, or repaired on behalf of the ancestors and generations of Black and Brown bodies who await to see the day in which the voices of angels hovering over the slaves of the past will finally be seen, listened to, and heard.
I echo Dr. Martin Luther King’s sentiments. Even today, 160 years following the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, Black and Brown Americans are still not free. Yet, while we are depicted as oppressed, crippled, marginalized, vulnerablized, and disparaged, we are brave.
Brave was Ruby Bridges, the first Black child to desegregate William Frantz Elementary School. At six years old, Ruby’s bravery helped pave the way for Civil Rights action in the American South. Brave are children like Emmet Till who dared to be a child in a society where Blackness is depicted as intolerable and as a legalized circumstance in which warranted the brutal murder of a fourteen-year-old-boy, who dared to live and be innocent. Now, 65 years after 14-year-old Emmett Till was lynched in Mississippi, congress has approved legislation designating lynching as a hate crime under federal law. Yet today, we still scream for justice on behalf of Elijah McClain who died at 23 and other youth like Trayvon Martin who died at 17. There is still more work to be done.
Brave are the youth who stand with organizations like Girls for a Change advocating for schools in which they are not pushed out of because of their Blackness. Brave are the youth who stand with Virginia Excels to advocate for school funding and access to an equitable education. Brave are the youth who stand with organizations, such as Performing Statistics, breaking the intergenerational trauma of modern-day slavery that comes in the form of the prison industrial complex and the school-to-prison pipeline.
Brave are the youth who stand with organizations like Voices for Virginia’s Children advocating for the improvement of child welfare systems and to create a trauma-informed Virginia that recognizes the inadvertent impacts of cultural, racial, and historical trauma.
Brave is the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, public officials and leaders of color who must represent entire communities of color in making decisions to improve equitable policies on their behalf.
Brave is a girl who ran away from home one day to escape abuse and was told by a white male police officer, “I used to be a rebellious child like you one day. I learned to be quiet.”
Today, it would be a further injustice to sit quietly and performatively as a state and a nation by overlooking the products of the exacerbation of racism as a multidisciplinary trauma and public health crises. Systematic racism is derived from historical racism, but this racism is further exacerbated by institutions, structures, and environmental disparities. Eliminating racism in parallel with racial trauma requires interventions at all levels, from individuals to the family, community and nation.
Privilege is the option to choose to be comfortable and to ignore the everyday experiences of Black and Brown Americans and community members who cannot.
Today, I challenge you to accept the torch that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. handed to all Americans and community members back in 1963. I challenge you with the adoption of the implementation of that dream, whether it is marching alongside Black and Brown community members, whether it is enacting public policies that combat inequalities, whether it is advocacy…reaching out to your public officials in allyship to ensure the voices of at-promised communities are seen and heard, whether it is through the rewriting of history in academia, and whether it is through public good and servitude.
Today, we dare to dream on behalf of the past, present, and future generations of all of humankind who chose and do choose bravery.”
As the Virginia legislature convenes for Special Session. Today, I challenge you to choose to co-create and design systems that ensure equity and justice for all. Visit VaKids.org to view our Special Session Policy Agenda. Participate in the virtual #Care4Kids Rally.
Join Racial Truth & Reconciliation Virginia and attend the Unity Walk on August 28th. More importantly choose to ignite change in your community. Like, Comment, & Share this speech on social media. Tell everyone how you will choose bravery.