By Sara Lomax-Reese
Photos By Langston Reese
“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” James Baldwin
My son was tear gassed on Monday. On 676. In the so-called “City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.” He sent me a scrambled video that he took capturing the frantic scene of the protesters running, trying to escape the chaos. I heard his voice pleading, “Stop, Stop, Please.” As a mother of three Black sons, this was terrifying to see and hear. Reflexively, I dug out an essay I wrote in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin killing that was published in a book called “Our Black Sons Matter: Mothers Talk about Fears, Sorrows, and Hopes.” My son is fine. He made it home safely even though some of his friends were arrested.
But there are far too many Black mothers whose sons — and daughters — never make it home. Emmitt Till. Michael Brown. Tamir Rice. Sandra Bland. Laquan McDonald. David Jones. Ahmaud Arbery. George Floyd. It is insane and terrifying that in 2020, after centuries of struggle, we find ourselves in a place where there is still no sanctuary for Black people, even when they are in their own homes (Breonna Taylor and Botham Jean).
And this is why the streets are on fire.
Like so many in our community, this week has made me feel weary, agitated, fearful, angry and invigorated — all at the same time. One emotion I have not felt is helpless. As many of our callers have said this week, this is a time when Black owned media matters. Having a place dedicated specifically and exclusively to giving voice to our pain, struggle and frustration matters. Having a space where we can grapple with the range of emotions we are feeling — pride and support for the activism in the streets, and anger over the destruction in our neighborhoods. This matters. Being able to hold “the powers that be” accountable to our community, matters.
I feel like a broken record, but it bears repeating: WURD is the only Black-owned talk radio station in Pennsylvania and one of the few remaining in the nation. Since our inception in 2002, we have been exploring the hard issues of police brutality, systemic racism, the manifestations of global white supremacy, poverty, failed public education, health care disparities and more — all day, every day.
Even so, this moment demands that we ask ourselves, what else can and should we be doing? As Martin Luther King wisely said, “riots are the language of the unheard.” And like the rest of the world we are listening.
Here are a some things we plan to do:
- Amplify youth voices. Next week we will convene a youth town hall to hear directly from the young people who took to the streets to demand change. We will continue to be intentional about centering youth voices on all of our shows, with a particular focus on our millennial show, Happy Hour On WURD.
- Create an on air intergenerational book club. Our people have a long history of organizing, protesting and advocating for change. We need to better understand the context of this moment. So we will launch a regular conversation featuring books by or about activists, scholars and artists who have advanced the fight for Black liberation and equality.
- Expand our Lively-HOOD initiative to connect Black people to jobs, entrepreneurship opportunities, small business resources and financial literacy so we can begin to address the wealth gap that has left Black Philadelphians stuck in decades of generational poverty. Watch Trial By Fire
- Starting with a conversation later today, we will continue to examine the connection between environmental activism and racial and social justice through our ecoWURD platform. ecoWURD SPECIAL BROADCAST.
- For a while I have wanted to interview wise women and men who have clarity and courage to offer me their counsel. This week I started with one of the most insightful, grounded people I know, Ruth King, a powerful mindfulness meditation teacher and author of “Healing Rage” and “Mindful of Race.”
- Collectively strategize about what’s now and next. Our listeners are a wealth of knowledge, experience and wisdom. We want to continue to use these airwaves — and all of our platforms — to engage them about what we, as average, every day Philadelphians, can do in this moment to make things better individually and collectively.
We hope that you will continue to listen, call in, write in, watch us on WURD TV, connect on social media, visit wurdradio.com and, if you are able, support our work by becoming a forWURD member.
We are all in this together has been a phrase we’ve heard a lot during the Covid-19 pandemic. In the days ahead we will see if that is true. We are in a fight 400 years in the making. Dismantling a global system that was created to profit off of our subjugation and oppression, will not be swift or easy. But, with your support, we are in it for the long haul.