We are gathered near Edwards Theatre in Fresno’s River Park. Where there is no river and no park, but plenty of things to buy. Everyone is in their Sunday best, looking in our direction. It is as if they have never seen a group of Brown and Black folks hanging out together. A security guard does donuts around us in those futuristic two-wheel scooters asking, “What are you guys up to?” I wonder if he would ask the same if we were a group of White people. I tell him, “We’re here to see the Terminator movie.” Our presence alone disrupted the normal flow of things. We proceed to the front of the theater.
“SAY HER NAME! SANDRA BLAND! SAY HER NAME! SANDRA BLAND!” We start chanting amid all the scared, angry and surprised looks on people’s faces. For a lot of us, it is our first time doing something like this so we are nervous. Taking up space and disrupting people’s Sunday evening, sure, but I am reminded that as people of color, our whole beings have been disrupted and our spaces taken; we come into these spaces only when invited.
It is like someone coming into your house, kicking you out, taking it from you and closing the door. Now you are waiting outside to be invited in. I think some folks call this “Manifest Destiny.” It is even worse if you are a woman. It is even worse if you are anything but heterosexual. It is even worse if you are anything but cis-gendered. It is even worse if you are undocumented. In general, it is worse if you are not Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders.
We march through yells of “GO HOME!” and clouds of exhaust coming out of huge Ford diesel trucks that peel out next to us. As if their ignorance was not killing us enough, now we have to breathe in their hate. A young White person drives by and yells, “What are you all protesting?” as we rally in a circle with BLACK LIVES MATTER signs.
“There is no business as usual when women cannot walk down the street without being harassed or even pulled over by cops. There is no business as usual when you do not believe if you will come home that night to your children.
“‘Black Lives Matter.’ What does that mean to me? It means I challenge anything that tells me otherwise. I challenge people in my family who tell me that Black lives don’t matter. I challenge my teachers who tell me Black lives don’t matter. I challenge a system that shows me every day that Black people don’t matter. Black Lives Matter means that we don’t just tweet a hashtag. It means that we show up for our Black brothers and sisters,” Jasmine Leiva said during the rally.
There is no business as usual when K.C. Haggard is stabbed in the neck and people walk over her as she bleeds to death. When Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims continues to separate families and refuses to meet directly with the community she is oppressing. When Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer boasts about the Fresno Police Department’s new Real Time Crime Center, a mass surveillance system sold to us as “safety” when it is really “control.” There is no business as usual when many White progressive liberals say “All Lives Matter.”
There is no business as usual this Black August, a month of revolutionary rage and uprisings. It’s been time to shut it all down.