Unless you've been living under a rock, then you're most likely aware of what's been going on in the U. S. Whether it's a viral video of border patrol dragging a woman from her crying children, police pummeling an innocent Black man with bullets because they thought he had a gun, a new sexual assault being brought to light, or yet another school shooting, if you have empathy for all humankind then I can imagine you've come to think differently about our country. After all, we've been dubbed the land of opportunity for decades, a land which provides salvation to dreams, passion, and talent—a land with unparalleled promise.
If you've attended elementary school in the U. S., then you've probably put your hand across your heart and uttered the words "with liberty and justice for all". Everyone sees what's happening, so I feel it’s incumbent upon us to ask the seemingly obvious questions.
Where's the liberty?
Where's the justice?
I am deeply disturbed by what I continuously see in the media and I am especially bothered when I see responses from folks contorting logic in an attempt to justify or excuse the actions of some, while using the same logic to vilify others. With all the confusion, I initially felt extremely overwhelmed. Then, I began to feel angry, soon that anger morphed into me being activated. I began reading a lot of books and articles. I even started a YouTube page with a colleague (Barking Cat Entertainment) where we discuss some of the most contentious topics with comedy and a creative twist. I am dedicated to effecting positive change: first within me and then within the world around me.
A few days ago, I was speaking with a friend and unbeknownst to me my voice changed, I was visibly upset about one of the many aforementioned issues occurring in our society. That's when my dear friend leaned over and said four important words, "You need a break.” My immediate thought was, "How can I?" I don't want the women in my family, or any women for that matter, to have to say "me too" again. I don't want my brothers to be shot; hell, I don’t want to get shot. I want my nieces and nephews to have the opportunity to receive a quality education without the fear of a school shooting. I want them to learn how to be better and rise above these systems that were built to tear us down. I want to combat the status quo, speak truth to power, and make my ancestors proud. But my friend was right.
If you're like me and truly want to effect positive change and make a difference on this earth, then this post is for you.
Do the work. Read about the heroes that have come before us, i.e. Yuri Kochiyama, Bayard Rustin, Cesar Chavez, and Marsha P. Johnson. They are our teachers.
Understand your role. Depending on what you're combating, know your position well to ensure you are making the best possible decisions to either take the lead or be a useful ally. (i.e. If you're fighting to dismantle racism, my Caucasian brothers and sisters have a different positionality than people of color.)
Take breaks. Watch a movie, go for a run, garden, do a social media detox for a few days. Whatever you do to relax and unplug from these topics, do it!
Now that I’ve been advised that I need a break I am spending time with children. I am fortunate enough to be able to enjoy time with a 3, 4, and 5-year-old. My niece and nephews are the best reminders that the only moment that matters is this moment, in this time. The Now.
So, don't make the mistake I made and forget to take those necessary breaks. We deserve them, we need them, and we won't survive without them.
Jonaral Martin is a creative who has experience both in front of, and behind the camera. He lends his voice to a number of civic causes, and he enjoys reading when he’s not fighting the good fight. Connect with him at JonaralMartin.com.