As I wander through this constant maze of eight minutes and 46 seconds murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and all of the other members of my Black family and friends and culture, I think about my six children, the three sons and three daughters that left my womb and are becoming Black men and women. What do I give them . . . what have I given them after I gave them life? What do I want them to know as they traverse this landscape of being Black in America with all of its pitfalls and joys? In celebration of Black History Month 2020, which at this point in the COVID-19 Safer at Homeperiod seems like it was five years ago, my Facebook friends were writing posts about the first time someone used our skin color against us. I wrote:
What I remember is the first time that someone used my skin color against me and my family.
We were in a crowded airport waiting on our flight. My father has worked for a major airline for over 50 years. My immediate family traveled a lot when I was a child, especially between Los Angeles and Oklahoma to visit extended family.
My sister, who is four years younger and fairer in complexion than me, was playing with a little white girl near the big picture windows where airplanes taxied by. They were having a ball and played together for a significant amount of time. I was reading a book sitting next to my parents who were not too far away.
My parents sent me to check on my sister. When the little girl’s mother realized that I was related to the girl her daughter was playing with, she told the little girl that we don’t play with kids like them. My spirit was crestfallen. What was wrong with us? I wondered. We were dressed in our church clothes: stockings, patent leather shoes, frilly dresses . . . we were immaculate.
My dad had followed me and saw the exchange. He led his family to another area to await our flight. As I questioned him about what happened, he explained to me why the lady reacted the way she did – the lady thought my sister was a white child, but then saw my browner skin color and knew we were black.
My father and mother made sure to pour into us how great it is to be black, how everyone is valued by and equal in the sight of God. We couldn’t confront the lady and her family that day because it could’ve cost my dad his job. But three little girls walked away forever impacted on that day.
During this aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, I realize that this story impacts the way that I raise my Black children in today’s time. I can’t move into the space where everyone is going to treat me, them, Black people like that lady treated my sister and me at the airport or how the officer treated George Floyd. I can only encourage my children to be who God has called them to be – their whole selves. I impart my father’s lesson to them that some people will not treat them as being human, but they are. They are beautiful, talented, intelligent and remarkable. They need no one but themselves to tell them that because most of all God knows that about them and values and loves them as human beings. Helping my children navigate through this time is easier than living it for myself.
Creating safe social, emotional and mental health spaces for my children is only a piece of the puzzle that I must navigate for them during this time. The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, among many, too many, others, make me ponder what exactly is the legacy that I am leaving for my children and their children. I don’t want my lineage to experience the tragedies that span the course of generations: from Rodney King and Latasha Harlins to Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Emmet Till. But what can I do . . . what do I stand for in my time . . . where do I throw down my gauntlet in the fertilized ground of Black Lives Matter?
My garden of choice is education. I believe that every student deserves a chance to reach their potential.Sharnell Blevins
My garden of choice is education. I believe that every student deserves a chance to reach their potential. I have worked for more than 30 years in the educational space. In July 2019, Speak UP hired me, giving me the opportunity to dismantle the educational injustice against Black students in Los Angeles, California, the nation and the world. I work with the African American Parent Advocacy Team (AAPAT), which is focused on increasing and sustaining academic achievement of Black students. We have advocated to Los Angeles Unified Board members, staff and both the superintendent and chief academic officer. We want programming, funding and accountability for Black students’ academic achievement. We are working with LAUSD to ensure that this happens by this August. We are working with the Opportunity for All Coalition to propel Dr. Shirley Weber’s Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5 (ACA 5) through the California Legislature so it’s on our ballots in November. This repeals Prop 209, which allows many Californians to be discriminated against in getting contracts, employment, pay and educational opportunities based on their race, ethnic origin and gender.
We initiated an African American Education Coalition that brings together community organizations, parents, educators and community activists to discuss the state of education of Black studentsm and works together and supports the dismantling of institutionalized racism in the education sector to increase and sustain and ensure the academic achievement of Black students. The next generation of Black students needs each of us to make this stand now.
I am a product of Los Angeles schools and do not feel that the education my children and their peers are receiving is anything near what I received, but I do know that all children has the potential to be their best selves.
This is my garden . . . this is my garden of healing . . .growing righteousness for all children, so that they can reach their potential, so that my children can reach their potential. Changing the world in the midst of this continuous eight minutes and 46 seconds for my children and yours where there is a light at the end of the tunnel . . . where the ground is fertile . . . hoping to bear fruit ensuring Black Lives Matter. I am standing up using my eight minutes and 46 seconds for equity, honoring George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and all of the other members of my Black family and friends and culture.
I’m changing the world for my children, their children and their children and on and on. The ground is fertile, and I am planting to change the course of life for those who come after me, using my eight minutes and 46 seconds to ensure a different legacy for mine.