This is a guest editorial by Josh Yeboah, a rapper and accidental activist from West Philadelphia. You can follow Josh on Twitter here.
It’s been 15 long and grueling days since Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd.
For Black Americans, May 25 is a day none of us can erase from our minds. However, for the Minneapolis Police Department, it was just another day—until, that is, residents of the city came together through their collective hurt and sorrow, and took to the streets to hold every single person who contributed to the Floyd family’s grief accountable for their actions.
There have been demonstrations in the past for those lost senselessly to racial persecution and police brutality.
Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Sandra Bland. Trayvon Martin. We know all of their names. But this time, the energy is different.
There is a shared frustration and anger at the American policing and judicial system. For eight minutes and 46 seconds, we witnessed yet another egregious failure of the system. Allowing things to remain the same as they’ve always been is no longer acceptable.
Now, a coalition of people, made up of all creeds and colors, are walking side by side to prevent another innocent man from being killed by lawless police. We want to break a racist institution down to its core and restructure it to serve every American regardless of their race.
This amazing effort is taking place all over the world, including in my hometown of Philadelphia.
Just nine days ago, I was merely an artist focused on my next project. Shortly after watching George’s death and witnessing the amazing work done by protestors in Minnesota, I was moved to do my part in ending the reign of authoritarian police in America.
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I looked on Twitter for an event near me where I could take action and stand with others who felt the same sadness I did. Except I couldn’t find any demonstrations in Philadelphia.
My frustration only grew as I saw more locals who were searching for a similar event. Suddenly, that frustration turned into determination. I decided at that moment to create a demonstration for everyone who understood the significance of the fight we were undertaking.
Over the next three days, I struggled on how best to show remembrance to George—until I remembered something. I remembered how many Black families are within our reach.
If this community could together, I thought, we could genuinely make a difference. We could show how police add to our community’s problems and that the solution is to unite; to see the soul inside them; to love and to care about them.
I committed my time to a community food bank and to help feed the communities in Philadelphia who were struggling to feed themselves amid the COVID-19 outbreak and the more significant inequalities that they face every single day.
Philadelphians share this unexplainable chemistry; our shared experiences and brotherly love was in full display during the protest. You can imagine how important it was to all of us to show our solidarity with the Floyd family and all the protests for police reform going on across the U.S. and the whole world.
As the protests continue, I’m focused on the beauty shown in our shared commitment to bettering our community. This protest has created the catalyst for some real change in Philadelphia. Less than a week after the first organized protest, we’ve already rid the city of a statue of former police offer and politician and Frank Rizzo, a testament to Philadelphia’s painful and racist history.
But what else can we do after we get police reform? The answer lies within ourselves and the spending power within Philadelphia’s Black community.
There is no shortage of Black entrepreneurs and businesses, but often, we decide to spend money outside our neighborhoods or in businesses that don’t represent its residents. I’ve seen the power in reinvesting energy and resources into ourselves during the food drive, and there’s no telling what we can continue to achieve as we carry on supporting and loving each other. Especially within the Philly creative scene.
The next generation of songwriters and artists have experienced history here, and we’ll continue to use these experiences, our pain, and our struggle to show the world just what Philly is about. So prepare yourselves. The future is coming.