By Ashley Johnson
As I was riding the bus this morning, with Ms. Badu’s But You Caint Use My Phone bumping in my ears, I was flooded with thoughts. How am I going to go to work and pretend that we don’t live in a racist society? How can I continue to prosper when the world is against me being Black and a woman? Is the money worth it? What can I do today that will advance my people and women into a state of equity? These are questions I ask myself every day as I head to school, work, or just out generally. I am always trying to find ways to move forward. As Shaun King, Black Lives Matter and Civil Rights activist constantly states, “stop wondering who you would have been in the Civil Rights Movement. Be that now!” Of course, when I was first waking up to the oppressive acts happening in the world, I easily would have told you that I was a radical. Idolizing Assata Shakur, I would have told you how I wouldn’t take shit sitting down, that I was the revolution and the government had so much more to fear when I came onto the scene. I would soon realize it isn’t that easy.
I am the revolution. I am radical. I am Black. I am a feminist… I am also 19.
I am also a college student and heavily dependent upon my parents.
There was even a time where I wondered if I would drop out of college to defend my people. If I were to really be as radical as I want to, I would end up in jail or dead. I don’t mean to be so heavy, but I have to be real; I would be viewed as a threat. I aspire to be a lawyer. If I end up in jail, that future is gone. Done. Finito. Does that necessarily mean I am stagnant in the movement? Of course not, but I feel very small when it comes to the movement.
Just the other day, my best friend, Marlon had to talk me out of my existential crisis. I was freaking out about how I might as well do nothing because anything I do would hold no meaning. How I was useless because I fear being pepper-sprayed, arrested or killed for peaceful protesting. How I was having no real place in the movement because of my lack of action. He informed me on how I actually was helping the movement by waking people up. He spoke on how before talking to me that he and so many others had no idea about these things. He went on to tell me that by me waking up one person, I could wake up so many more. And, that even though it was a minuscule thing to me, the impact would show to be so much greater in the long run. He also made sure to inform me that I was only 19 and that my hands were tied.
This is not to say that people of any age cannot participate in the movement in any way they see fit, it's just important to prioritize based on what works for you. It’s okay to help in whatever way you can. Be that educating yourself and educating others, participating in protests and boycotts, or writing to your government officials demanding answers. I had to realize that I shouldn’t feel trapped by the sense of urgency to do something more than what I’m able to. For now, I am comfortable in my lane of educating others.