Ralinda Watts on Keeping the Black Lives Matter Momentum Going

It’s going to take a radical love.

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  • Written by
    Ralinda Watts
  • Illustrated by
    Nikki Smith

Out of the ashes of grief, sorrow and injustice, we’ve seen the collective mobilization of protestors from every corridor of Los Angeles—including the Valley. We’ve witnessed powerful protests stretching along Ventura Boulevard from Sepulveda to Laurel Canyon and chants of Black Lives Matter from mostly White residents. As a Black woman who works to bring awareness and honest dialogue to individuals and companies about how to implement equity and justice, I view it as a beautiful moment that I wish I could freeze in time.

So what’s next? Where do we go from here? How do we continue to forward the conversation as it moves from non-racist to anti-racist? How do we ensure that, with the passage of time and fresh news stories in the headlines, our protests don’t turn into parades or distant memories of an unimaginably traumatic 2020?

For this to be a true transformative moment, each one of us needs to take ownership. We need to stop being passive and instead be actively engaged, speaking up, speaking out, making the changes needed to fight against racial injustice and oppression.

Eyes that were once closed are now open to the horrors of police brutality. Ears that were previously oblivious are now listening to the cries of systemic racism. This seminal racial reckoning will undoubtedly surface conversations—some of them uncomfortable—and voracious readings—some disturbing—on systems of oppression, race and privilege. This journey isn’t an easy one, and I encourage, as I do with my students, writing down feelings and emotions. It not only gives you an empathetic perspective, it can help build the capacity to talk openly and honestly about race.

As we forge ahead for deeper learning and understanding, I remind you that reading books and having insightful conversations won’t cure us of systemic racism. We must consciously commit to challenge the system and begin a process of unlearning 401 years of history. This is an invitation to lean in, welcome tension, sit in discomfort, question learned behaviors, take risks, disrupt assumptions, hold ourselves and others accountable, and continue to challenge our thinking and actions internally, externally and holistically.

This is what will be required to ensure we keep the momentum going. The work is messy, painful, hard, exhausting—and necessary. At times it will feel like too much—and that’s when we must keep going! It is not a sprint or marathon, but instead a relay. Our humanity is interconnected, tethered, and obligated to shape a just world for our children to inherit.

Speaking up and speaking out against systemic racism is an act of love—a radical love that calls us to define our purpose, remaining focused, aware and vigilant. Everyone is paying attention. The moment is now.

Ralinda Watts is a diversity practitioner, consultant and speaker on race, equity, inclusion and justice. She is an independent educator and host of the podcast RalindaSpeaks