Dr. E. Faye Williams, President National Congress of Black Women, Inc

TriceEdney – Our Jamaican brother, Bob Marley, made a lot of meaningful songs that we would do well to revisit today. A masterpiece of his that comes to mind is the song that urged us to:

“Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights.

You better get up, stand up. 

Stand up for your rights!

Get up, stand up!

Don’t give up the fight!”

Looking back on 2014, Marley could well have been singing about the past year in our nation. We’ve always known the struggle for dignity andjustice is an eternal one, but sadly many of us were naive enough to believe we’d be fighting for new rights—with no idea we’d be fighting to re-coup rights our ancestors fought for and won years ago.

Here we are at the beginning of 2015 still fighting for voting rights. When we read about the hard fought victory of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, we breathed a sigh of relief and moved on to the next issue. Little did we know we’d arrive at a time when fewer than 30% of us would turn out for any election! The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to obliterate Section 5 of the Act put a halt to much that we hold dear. Instead of making voting easier, it’s now more difficult and more necessary. We’re losing ground, and shamefully losing voter participation. Having such low participation just because it’s an off-year election is no excuse—especially not for Black people.  So many people lost their lives fighting for the right for us to vote, and in the middle of the fight to hold on to that right, a shameful number of us stayed home.  Every Black person who takes voting rights lightly should go out to see the movie Selma right now.

Low wage earners put up a valiant fight in 2014 to increase the minimum wage.  Some lost the meager pay they had in an effort to help all in the same category.  An embarrassing number of people crossed protest lines and went right on spending money with offending corporations that continue to get wealthier at the expense of low wage earners.

In 2014, we witnessed an alarming increase in murders of Black people. It seems that every time we turn on the news, there’s another mother crying out in pain over the loss of her child.  Most of them are Black mothers—but it would be painful to see any mother lose her child.

The killing of Michael Brown was a tipping point. The clearly filmed killing of Eric Garner increased our concern. The killing of young Tamir Rice and others made it impossible to remain silent. Many protesters are still expressing grief and outrage. They’re demanding that the killings stop. We must keep on marching, praying, and working for all injustice to end, and it’s time for us to add selective buying.

We’re saddened by the death of the police officers in New York, and further saddened by those who try to make a connection between their deaths by a deranged man and the peaceful protests of those calling for justice for all.

Some thought it was right to call for a cessation of protests until the police officers were buried.  Well-meaning though they may be, you can’t expect people who’ve been treated unjustly for years to stop demanding justice for any reason. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. explained why we can’t wait for justice. It makes no sense to slow down and allow the enemy advancing on us time to take away more rights! We must stand up for our rights always because the struggle continues every day. We must not pause nor give up the fight for any reason.