I've been marching for as long as I can remember but I'm not sure that anything fully prepared me for the literal journey that I experienced last week alongside members of Justice League NYC, an initiative of Harry Belafonte's organization The Gathering for Justice as we walked from New York City to Washington, DC. We came together as a cross-generational coalition inspired by the wisdom of our elders and the passion of our youth.
Alongside Executive Director of the Gathering for Justice Carmen Perez, and my fellow Co-Chair of the march Linda Sarsour, I joined nearly 100 Justice Champions on the march to demand accountability to police violence and an end to mass incarceration and racial profiling. The journey spanned 5 states and over 250 miles and focused on delivering a Justice Package to Congress highlighting three pieces of legislation; The Stop Militarization of Law Enforcement Act, The Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act and The End Racial Profiling Act. With every step we knew that we were moving closer to presenting our demands to the legislators who could respond to a national crisis with a national solution by making these bills law.
Over the course of a week we limped and ran, marching through rain or shine, and found ourselves approached with both solidarity and vitriol by the cars who passed our caravan on the highways. Before our time in DC was over and before any aches we'd developed after days of walking could begin to heal, Congressman John Conyers had reintroduced The End Racial Profiling Act at a press conference we were honored to attend.
People often remark on the futility of marching but I was raised by a family who marched steadfast and often. My parents were founding members of Reverend Al Sharpton's National Action Network and I grew up attending rallies and protests. When I was 15 years-old, I became a staff member of National Action Network and over a decade later I became the Executive Director of the organization, an opportunity which afforded me with many opportunities to serve and grow.
In my youth I didn't always understand the complexities of why we marched but I felt the great love that motivated all those who participated. It was a love of self and each other that turned the dark nights into mornings, and eased the painful recognition that marching was mandatory. Marching was an act of survival and the literal act of placing one foot in front of the other assured us of progress even when circumstances seemed bleak.
Today, in my work with Justice League NYC I carry those lessons with me and while our aims were grounded in policy, as we marched, we found the reality of our times reflected back to us in the news of the day. Days before we left on our journey Walter Scott was gunned down by police in South Carolina and shot eight times with no crime beyond a broken tail light to explain his murder. As we marched, a "Not Guilty" verdict was returned to the police officer who shot and killed Rekia Boyd in Chicago. While we marched through Baltimore, we heard the devastating news that Freddie Gray had died. All we know of his death is that he entered a police van seemingly injured, and emerged from it in a coma. The community in Baltimore is currently demanding answers, but the truth is there is no solace beyond what we have unquestionably come to know; black lives have yet to matter in this country in a way that warrants equal protection and absolute justice under the law.
We march to commit to the seemingly endless task of advocating on behalf of the humanity of our people. The crisis of police killings can no longer be swept under the rug. We march with the knowledge that we deserve better than this, and the hope that our children will age into a world better than this, because we marched.
By Tamika D. Mallory, March2Justice Co-Chair