Thursday, September 20, 2007

what are you wearing today?

Today I am wearing a set of black slacks with blue pinstripes, and a black sweater showing my shirt's blue collar and cuffs. I wanted to wear all black, but I didn't have solid black to rock. But I got as close as I could, since today is a special day.

Today, black folks from all over the country are wearing black clothes, on purpose, together. It's a show of solidarity with the people who took off work, scraped some money together, got hotel rooms, printed flyers, made signs, and dedicated their time today to go to Jena, Louisiana, to protest the judicial system there. The district attorney there is in the process of prosecuting six black teenagers for jumping a white teenager in the aftermath of some racially-based fighting between whites and blacks in that town. The sentences these young men are facing are harsh. The background of the cases has led many to believe that the prosecution is unjustly excessive and racially based. Although the public outcry has not been as prominent in the news as say, Britney Spears' performance at the VMA awards, the rivalry between 50 Cent and Kanye West for sales, or OJ Simpson's latest arrest, somehow black people have spread the news. I heard about it via e-mail. Then a MySpace forward. Then the black internet blogs and message boards. All this before I heard any inkling of it in the mainstream television or print media. I hear that Michael Baisden was talking about it on his nationally syndicated afternoon radio show, and so was Tom Joyner in the morning. I knew about wearing black today because my best friend sent me a text message and because the DJ on the "Whispers in the Dark" radio program mentioned it before a commercial break.

I don't know what's going to happen to these young men. I hope they get a fair trial and sentencing. Merely wearing black en masse will not save these young men from unfair prosecution. Action will. May God grant the protesters safe passage during their trip, and the voice to make a change. But I do know, from seeing black people up and down Market Street wearing black this morning, that today we have proven ourselves capable of communicating effectively and acting with a joint purpose. I'm not going so far as to say that all is well among all black Americans. What I will say is that it is inspiring to see that we have the ability to communicate as well as we have on this matter. If we can do this, what more can we do given the many resources we have to communicate with each other? Imagine if, instead of stopping this massive grapevine after today, we decided to generate a list of companies to support in favor of their rivals who, let's say, have no minorities in their boardrooms but heavily target minorities for their profit? Imagine if we used this power to talk about the realities of how AIDS is coming hard for black women, affecting our families at an alarming rate? Imagine if we rebuilt New Orleans, improved child literacy, supported HBCUs, mobilized mentors for at-risk teens? Can you imagine what we could do if we acted collectively?

We don't have to imagine. What are you wearing today?

What will you - what will WE - do tomorrow?