Today, by the time my class started, students were already aware of the decision handed down from the grand jury in Lousiville as related to the shooting death of Breonna Taylor. One of my students, who is a young woman of color, said she was in a despair pit. She said she wasn’t sure that she could feel hope, specifically about about our country and the injustice that she can see everywhere she turns. She said she feels like nothing she could do, that any of us could do, could make a difference.
I didn’t know what to say to her. I still don’t. But I hear her. Once again, justice has not been served.
This did make me remember a series in the New York Times obituary section: Overlooked No More. This section of the newspaper features posthumous obituaries of people whose contributions are now considered remarkable, but whose deaths were overlooked by the editors of the paper. A couple of years go I read the obituary for Georgia Gilmore, who was active in the work of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in some creative ways: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/31/obituaries/georgia-gilmore-overlooked.html
She and a group of friends sold food they had made (first sandwiches, then whole meals) out of their homes, out of beauty parlors, laundromats, and other establishments. The friends turned all their money over to Georgia, who in turn gave all the money they earned (hundreds of dollars each week) to the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). This money allowed the MIA to sustain the boycott as long as possible (381 days in total). Ms. Gilmore referred to her friends as the “Club from Nowhere” which allowed the women and their supporters, some of whom were white, to remain anonymous. In later years, she said she hoped the work had encouraged ordinary people to do similar kinds of work. The story of her work is also featured in this NPR segment: https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2018/01/15/577675950/meet-the-fearless-cook-who-secretly-fed-and-funded-the-civil-rights-movement and there is also a children’s picture book called Pies From Nowhere. I loved learning about all of this a couple of years ago, and I value teaching students about the role that “regular” people can play in justice work.
And I say all of this to say: The reason there is a feature called Overlooked is because some people at the New York Times finally realized the systemic bias that had been shaping this section of the paper, and they took steps to correct it. Overlooked no more.
Justice was overlooked today, and has been for the 100 plus days since Breonna Taylor’s death. We have to take steps to correct the systemic racism in our country, in whatever our lane is. Voting. Advocacy. Caring for people who are on the frontlines of this work. Continuing to teach nonviolence…so that justice will not continue to be overlooked.