I am here today representing the Louisville Urban League and many others who feel oppressed in this state and in this country.
Some questioned my judgement in being here today and participating in this event but I will never pass up the opportunity to represent my people when I know that there are people who are listening and have the power to make change.
My sincere condolences to the families of those whose lives were lost in Charlottesville, Virginia.
We are not today in a post racial society. We have overcome a little but we have reached no mountaintop.
I am pleased that there are white people who would stand up and ask for the removal of symbols designed to continually remind us of a time when people fought to own slaves.
My heart is full of questions when I hear the slogan “make America great again.”
What does that look like for the people being served by the Urban League? I do wonder when is it that America was so great? And great for who?
Was she great when it was legal to own another human being?
Was she great when a slave named Nat Turner rebelled and was slaughtered?
Was she great when the Chief Justice said to Dred Scott that a black man has no rights that a white man is bound to respect?
When John Brown, a white man, said of slavery, “I have a system to destroy and I have no time to waste."
Was she great when she made education illegal for black people?
Was she great in 1860 when rather than accept blacks as equals - American citizens decided to secede from America?
Was she great after the civil war when terrorist groups like the KKK were founded to keep her former slaves in a state of subservience and fear? Groups that our leaders are now empowering. Groups that we saw active in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Was America great in the 20th century when lynchings, terror and inequality were so pervasive that they mandated the founding of organizations like the National Urban League.
What about 1954 when southern states responded to the Brown v. Board decision by reincorporating confederate symbols into their state flags - Georgia changed its state flag in 1957 in direct response to Brown v. Board of Education. Do not ever tell me that Confederate symbols have no meaning!
When was America great for Black people?
Was she great when black veterans of World War II came home and couldn’t get jobs. When German prisoners of war were treated better than the black veterans. The Germans thought it amusing that black soldiers who'd fought for this country were not treated as well as them.
Was she great when she allowed and encouraged redlining of our communities, creating the urban challenges we now all live with in Urban America?
Ladies and gentleman, it is not a sustainable model to devalue a human being to the point where they have nothing and nothing to lose. When America is cut we all bleed.
The blood, sweat, and tears of Black people helped to build this country. We have fought in America’s wars, we have nursed your children, we have prayed for your souls and still when we walk through our country and see the symbols of hate, that we endured, being flown, raised and honored, we are told to "get over it, we will not sanitize history."
I will submit to you that WE have never been guilty of sanitizing history.
There is no benefit to staying stuck on blame, but l do want to be clear, there is no group in this country less responsible for its existence or condition in this country.
We cannot claim unity when you only stand with us on days like today. We cannot claim unity when you see injustice and you do nothing! We cannot pretend to be unified when good people are silent in the face of hate.
The indifference being shown by our leaders is sickening.
I am proud to represent the Louisville Urban League and I am proud to be a civil rights activist at a time when our presence is needed now more than ever. And I am thankful to see great numbers of diversity in the crowds supporting the removal of monuments, like Jefferson Davis, here at the capitol. I'm pleased to have even been invited to speak today. I did not know the organizer, I do not know the group, but I will never turn down the opportunity to represent my people.
Unity requires more than a rally, more than a conversation. Unity requires you to stand with us everywhere that justice demands.
If we all are one - act like it. . . beyond today.
To quote Abraham Joshua Heschel . . . morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.
Thank you for the invitation.