Submitted by: Darryl Mace, PhD, Professor and Chair, History and Political Science
On January 21, 2021, I delivered the keynote address for Upper Merion Township’s National Martin Luther King Jr. virtual celebration. While times for celebration and remembrance, this year MLK Day and Black History Month both come in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lives have been altered and lost, and freedoms have been restricted, as we struggle through the pandemic. There have been, and still are, physical, spiritual, financial, familial, and emotional tolls on us as a result of this plague. We have to wear masks for survival, and those masks obscure our emotional expression and diminish our ability to be our true selves with one another.
Reflecting on the present COVID-19 reality, I am reminded of the historical experiences of Black people in America (specifically the United States of America from colonial times to the present). Since 1619, Black people in these lands have faced a plague, the plague of white supremacy (the intentional and unintentional perpetuation of myths, structures, practices, and institutions that privilege white peoples’ lives and lived experiences over the lives and lived experiences of non-white people). Black lives have been forever altered, and many Black lives continue to be lost as a result of this plague. Black freedom has been restricted, not just in practice, but by executive, legislative and judicial actions. The toll white supremacy has levied on Black people’s physical, spiritual, financial, familial, and emotional well-being is immeasurable. Black people have muted their emotional expression with masks of tolerance and patience in the midst of vile hatred and violence perpetrated against them. White supremacy has literally diminished Black people’s ability to be our true selves. It has gone on for so long that as a nation we are woefully, and often willfully, ignorant of the boundless reach of white supremacy.
But, Black Liberation lives on! We are still in the Black Freedom Struggle! As I stated in my keynote address on the 21st of January, the movement for Black Liberation is “built story by story, person by person, event by event, injustice by injustice, and stand by courageous stand. The movement is a mosaic of hopeful dreams, of tragic nightmares, and of bold actions in the face of injustice. My friends, that movement lives on in us today.”
This month, and every month, we honor the memory of all of the people who protested, boycotted, marched, lobbied, bled, and even died in pursuit of the dream. We must also commit again to working towards the dream of Black liberation and answering the call to direct action against all injustice.
To view the entire Upper Merion Township Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. virtual celebration and hear the full keynote address, use this link: https://bcove.video/3icPZgQ