The Bridge Between: Protests are the product of 450 years of anger

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No, it’s not an earthquake, it’s not a tornado. It’s us.

A collective human voice screaming at the top of our lungs, shaking every building, stepping on every piece of solid ground, waking up those who haven’t. Our voice echoes from downtown Portland to the street in Minneapolis, to Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, D.C. 

No longer asking for change, no longer waiting for change, no longer willing to be bystanders.

We are here demanding change, too angry to remain silent.

Our anger didn’t start today or yesterday but it has been a daily emotion for the past 450 years. 

Not asking for equal rights but simply asking for a basic one: The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Easy enough in its description that it doesn’t require any explanation.

Waking up to protest at 6 a.m. was never a plan for my ancestors. But knowing the change they were about to create, made them get up even earlier.

Protesting with their full bodies and souls only to be faced with tear gas and many other elements of fear. Looking for many ways to make us disappear.

But we are still here.

When my parents decided to leave our beloved country of Sudan, they did so in pursuit of justice and freedom. Not to shy away from who we are, but to accept and love who we are: Proud Sudanese Muslim Americans, children of the Sudanese immigrants, aunties and uncles of beautiful black nieces and nephews.

When aspects of us are not accepted by others, we must challenge the world to see all parts of us because we, too, are a part of the human race and are entitled to be seen and liberated. 

I challenge my teachers at school and I challenge myself to learn the history that they didn’t want to teach me.

Throughout this country’s history, the hallmarks of American democracy – opportunity, freedom, and prosperity – have been largely reserved for white people through the intentional exclusion and oppression of people of color. The deep racial and ethnic inequities that exist today are a direct result of structural racism: the historical and contemporary policies, practices, and norms that create and maintain white supremacy.

Structural racism continues to disproportionately segregate communities of color from access to opportunity and upward mobility by making it more difficult for them to secure quality education, jobs, housing, health care, and equal treatment in the criminal justice system.

For decades, the black community and its allies have called attention to the role of race and racism in our public and private institutions and offered evidence-based solutions for how to address these inequities. As a human race, we all play a crucial role as we continue to elevate the public discourse around race and racism in America. 

Protesting is not new. And in the words of Will Smith, “racism is not getting worse, racism is getting recorded.”

But who is listening?

Ekhlas Ahmed is a human rights activist and educator who lives in Windham. She is vice president and co-founder of the nonprofit Chance to Advance, which raises awareness about Darfur and implements initiatives to make education more feasible for all. Follow her on Facebook and contact her at ekhlas.ahmed@yahoo.com.