A little more than a week after the murder of Troy Davis I am admittedly still reeling and healing from this latest barrage of barbaric brutality on Black people from the United States “Justice” System. “Troy Davis” is the latest chapter of terrorism in the collective memory of American Africans. If Carl Jung’s theories on genetic memory are accurate and it is true that human beings embrace certain behaviors and beliefs based on unconscious remembrances from our ancestors; then the ripples from Brother Troy’s murder in Georgia will impact Black people for generations to come.
Brother Troy joins an unfortunate fraternity of figures who Black people have come to identify with a unique brand of American terrorism. When we remember Troy Davis, that memory will be linked to Emmett Till, Fred Hampton, Brother Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and countless others – even those whose names we don’t know – who also were murdered by the hands or at the behest of American terrorism designed to keep African people “in their place.”
A myriad of responses have been produced in our souls because of this terrorism – some are paralyzed by fear while others are empowered by the challenge.
Fortunately, our youth have tended to lean toward the latter.
Our people and in fact, our nation, has often been able to depend on students to rise to the challenge of engaging American terrorism and injustice head on. Despite being encouraged toward mindless behavior by the American mainstream and the “conservatizing effect” of K-12 and “higher” education; every now and then students are awakened from their walking slumber and are instinctively catapulted to the front lines of the latest injustice.
As it relates to the murder of Troy Davis, as much as I cried about the outcome, I was overjoyed by the college students who didn’t back down from the fight. They could’ve just turned up the volume on their ipods, started a new game of Madden 2012, or even focused on their class studies and their own problems; but many of them didn’t. They plugged into something bigger than themselves, got involved, and put their bodies on the line for justice.
I am so thankful for the Howard University Students who, understanding that God has placed them in this nation’s capital on and with purpose, rallied on their campus and then marched to the White House demanding that the Black man who lives in the White House would take a break from “saving” Iraqis, Afghans, and Libyans to save a Black man on death row in Georgia. The student group, Students Against Mass Incarceration (SAMI), was instrumental in organizing their peers on campus.
Then there are the men of Morehouse who joined their classmates in the Atlanta University Center Consortium leading rallies, prayer circles and protests in Atlanta and Jackson, Georgia. Youtube videos show these students linked up arm-in-arm singing freedom songs that hearken back to earlier decades of struggle like “Fight On Just A Little While Longer.”
There are countless other student groups that I don’t know about that got involved and in many instances led the way in the streets, but there are also the hundreds of thousands who commandeered social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook – using the technological tools at their disposal not to post self-centered updates on the mundane details of their day, but to tell the world about #TroyDavis and to coordinate their protests much like Black youth did in France in 2005 when protesting unjust social conditions.
We may get frustrated every now and then with the lack of sustained youth and young adult action in social justice struggles, but we must encourage and stand with these young activists when they do put their hands to the plough.
We and they may not have saved Troy Davis’ life, but Troy Davis may have saved our souls and re-ignited the spark for social justice within many youth and young adults.
The challenge now will be to keep that flame burning bright for the days, weeks, months, and many years to come.
The Rev. Heber Brown III is pastor of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church in Baltimore and a blogger who writes at www.FaithInActionOnline.com