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The past few days, my heart has been heavy and the words have been few.

My dad is black.

My four brothers are black.

My two sisters are black.

I have cousins and uncles who are black.

I have brother in-laws who

My best friends are raising black boys.

Some of my best friends are black men.

Every day that I hear of an accident, shooting, robbery, or something taking place that would involve the police, I sit in silence, praying and hoping that my phone doesn’t ring to tell me that one of them has been a victim of a senseless murder.

Growing up my parents taught us how to get arrested, in a way that was non-threatening.

We were simply babes being taught that not all who vow to protect and serve would do that.

Childhoods and innocence lost for having to grow up too fast and too early because of the hatred that exists in the heart of others.

I‘ve seen crosses burned by white supremacists lighting up the fall sky.

I’ve been profiled and nearly arrested for sitting outside of the house of a friend on a calm summer night laughing and enjoying life.

I’ve been a passenger in a car with a broken tail light and suddenly 5 cop cars swarm us at a traffic light, searching the car for anything illegal (and finding none).

I’ve been followed in malls and grocery stores by security.

I’ve been told that the item that I was looking to purchase was not on sale and that I should come back in two weeks.

I’ve been told that I should be proud for being “better” than the other black women that someone may know.

I’ve been celebrated for being light skin as if I have won a prize worthy to be celebrated.

I have been petted like I’m an animal, by someone checking to see if my hair is real because “All the black girls I know buy their hair.”

I weep for the young boys who are growing up faster than they should because one cannot control the hatred that has been brewing deep within the valleys in someone’s soul.

I weep for the man who was murder by a law enforcement officer.

Who took his last breath, pleading and begging for someone to help him.

My heart is heavy with the pain that his absence is leaving on his family, friends and all who knew him.

I hurt for the man that he was proud of who he became.

I ache for dreams that were never realized.

The man who lived to be 46 years old, only to have his last breath become something so painful.

I lay awake at night wondering what was running through his mind at the exact moment that he knew his fate had been sealed like all of those who we were murdered before him.

I choose to believe that there is pride in his eyes currently knowing that His people are fighting for him.

That we are crying out and uniting to have his name not be forgotten.

That we are going to look out for his family, friends, and loved ones.

That we will carry his name in our hearts and celebrate him just like those who were stolen from us before their time.

Our culture is ripped from us, our lives mimicked, our pain made fun of.

Our journeys are discounted, our accomplishments redacted, and our success minimized.

We send our children to school just to re-teach them when they get home.

So that they have pride in the amazing, groundbreaking, and earth changing things that their ancestors have created.

We carve out time to celebrate the brilliance, ingenuity, and excellence of our young boys.

We tell them to reach for the stars all while teaching them resilience, grit, and to work harder than their non-black peers.

We understand that their journey into manhood is going to be painful, embarrassing, and ridiculed.

We fight every single day to make it home to our families alive, unbeaten, unharmed, and breathing. Celebrating each day that it happens as a miracle.

I wish that I could say that I am shocked or that I was prepared for this tragedy, but I’m not.

I am anticipating it, expecting it, and holding on for dear life each time the news breaks.

Yet, the pain of each murder gets heavier, dirtier, and more cumbersome to carry.

I’m praying, hoping and believing that there will be justice or maybe even closure but there is none.

I work hard to ignore the chants and rallies that contradict the importance of our lives mattering.

So to Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Michael (Mike) Brown Jr., Tamar Rice, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Sean Reed, Terrance Franklin, Botham Shem, William Green, Alton Sterling, Ahmad Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd- and all of the others who we have buried too soon- we make this promise:

We will stand tall for you, we will cry for you, we will scream for you, we will not forget you.

We will teach our young boys how to become young men and ultimately fathers who will pass on the legacy of their ancestors.

To Brandon, Tee-jay, Jaymes, Glenn, Jibran, Uri, Baby Bear (Jose), Elijah, D.J. and Scott- I vow to love on you, celebrate you, and cherish you.

You are a strong, intelligent, courageous, resilent, and important cornerstone of our society and our culture.

Without you, innovations, breakthroughs, discoveries and change would not be accomplished.

I am not here to absolve the guilty conscience nor am I here to ease the discomfort that any person who is filled with ignorance of these monstrosities’ may be feeling.

That is not the role that I play in your life as a black woman.

My role is to be proud, strong, vocal, loving, and supportive of my culture, my ancestors, and my rich history without diminishing you as a person in the process.

My role is to teach you, educate you, and love you as you learn to embrace the very thing that you may have been taught to hate.

My role is to stand up for all of the black boys and men that need a voice and to be unwavering as I lend them mine.

My role is to love unconditionally in spite of the roadblocks that have intentionally been placed in front of me to keep me from knowing success.

But ultimately, my role is to love, day in and day out, regardless of the hate that I receive.

So say their names, share their accomplishments, and stand up for them.

And, when all else fails, LOVE.

LOVE each and every single black life that you encounter.

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