File photo: Denise Civiletti

We the members of the African American Educational and Cultural Festival cannot help but believe that the jury finding Police Officer Chauvin guilty of all three charges – two charges of murder and one count of manslaughter, is a milestone for our nation. No, we have not gotten there yet, but we are making strides toward process equity. Of course, sentencing is still to come.

I have written before that America has been lost in the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream. African Americans have looked from the plateaus in their ascent to the mountaintop but saw only the mist and fog of hypocrisy. Generation after generation, protest after protest has massaged and mitigated forward momentum in the “Race against Racism.”

It has been a deepening tragedy that systemic oppression, COVID-19, and racism have been a multi-event triathlon in that formidable search for the finish line. Hindrances and obstacles have been prohibitive for African Americans. All three of these pandemics are frightfully terminal, but the hope taught us by our spirituality and our desire to assimilate, has kept us on course, even if our nation continues to take baby steps.

We recommend that accountability does not overshadow forgiveness. His choices were deviant and excessive, but we must work to release ourselves from letting our anger and grievances resonate in our bodies. To hold on to the pain of vengeance is not the way, however — to expect justice is appropriate.

Consequently, in the spirit of forgiveness, the African American Educational and Cultural Festival, Inc. stands firm behind the imparting of justice in this case and any resembling it, where we and our brethren are not treated equally in the eyes of the law, or at the hands of law enforcement. One of my deepest fears is that our amazing officers of the law who every day are challenged with danger and issues when being peace officers, will be mistakenly judged when incidents like this emerge from the shadows to tarnish how people view them.

We are encouraged by the effort to sit down and reimagine law enforcement duties and responsibilities, because we know that like the democracy we live in, they are a work in progress.

We cannot allow ourselves to be muffled today by the fake promises of tomorrow’s promised land. We must take our place in America, and may the shots fired, and the brutality of the few be ended. May the acronym HOPE stand for Healing Our Past Experiences, and may those experiences be replaced with the footprint of America’s progress be deepened by racial equity.

James “Dr. Love” Banks is co-chair and vice president of the African American Educational and Cultural Festival Inc. He is a resident of the Town of Southampton.

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