The tragic murder of George Floyd in America a year ago today not only catalyzed a moral revolution that rocked the country but one that reverberated across the entire globe. On the anniversary of Mr. Floyd’s death let us be reminded of a bedrock of the American identity that Abraham Lincoln set forth in his first inaugural address: “We are not enemies, but friends, though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.”
As we saw last year it was a defining moment marked by artists and prophets who created impromptu galleries whether walled on temporary restrictive metal fencing as in D.C. or on city streets with their boarded-up storefronts as canvases. The ‘prophets’ pulled from symbolism from ancient wisdom traditions to aid in bridging the past with the present; other artists self-organized into a purposeful collectives making visible powerful images both cohesive in meaning and message.
Author-musician James McBride, who has built a career exploring American culture and identity through storytelling, credits the new Black Lives Matter movement to the youth—black, brown, and white bonded together in a shared purpose—to bring down institutional racism and legal immunity once and for all (2020 Amanpour & Co. interview).
Sidewalk artist-prophets have stirred the community’s collective memory with images of past Civil Rights icons along with memorializing Black Lives Matter martyrs. The young people have seen to the removal of Confederate monuments that McBride admits has been eye-opening for him —heretofore they had gone unnoticed. Investigative journalists B. Palmer and S. F. Wessler in their report titled “Monumental Lies” write how they uncovered the sources of funding on sites such as museums, cemeteries and historic houses in excess of 21 million dollars that came from the federal government—taxpayer money.
The Ferguson activist, Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson echoes McBride on the crucial importance of being “a voice not just for children, but a voice with children and youth who have organized in so many ways to bring us to what could be a transformative moment.”
Going forward may we listen to the clarion call of our youth to tap what Lincoln aptly described as the “mystic chords of memory [that] will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” Only in this way, will we cooperate in the providential design in fulfilling Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream for society’s progress and achievement and together realize “The City on the Hill.”