“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Every single time, I think of an adult man crying for his mother, it brings me to tears. I can only imagine the pain, the horror, the torment Mr. Floyd- George Floyd had to be in to call out for his mother. That shows us the power of a child knowing that his mother truly loves him and would ease and remove his pain – if she could. Minutes later, we would have to ask and answer the question as to who would George Floyd’s mother call out to.  When she learned the news of her son’s death and worse how he died, how her son was brutally murdered by those who vowed to protect and serve, who would she cry out to? Would she call out to her own mother? Mama? God? Who will be the person who she turns to to wipe away her tears, ease her pain, and give her the strength to live another day without the manchild that she carried in her heart and spirit long before she birthed him into the world that would one day swallow him up.

Why are we not given the benefit of the doubt? Why do we have to act as if we are never profiled? Why is it when we speak out to eradicate the wrongs that have been heralded against us – wrongs that are so blatantly obvious we are deemed to be pulling the race card or playing victim? Who will stand up for us? Who will be our voice when we can’t speak? Who will be the voice for the voiceless? Who will lock arms with us and partner with us in righting the wrong?

While nothing can bring back George Floyd, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Ahmaud Arbery and the countless others who have lost their lives due to power in the wrong hands, an overinflated ego, and those who walk in fear, but hide behind a badge, we can work to honor their memories and ensure they are gone, but never forgotten. We have a responsibility to work tirelessly day in and day out to ensure that those in power are in power because they are for us. We must work to ensure that every elected official understands that we voted them in and we will vote them out. We must put a demand on them to be LEADERS – to represent us and our values. To hear us and to understand that it is our agenda and not their agenda that they must work towards. We must hold each and every elected official ACCOUNTABLE. It is time for us to take back our power. It is time for us to stand with those who are hurting. We must cry when they cry and rejoice when they rejoice.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.”

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Where are you standing? You stood with Me Too. You stood with Times Up. Now, it’s time to stand with every African American who is wondering if they can make it back home after going to the store. It’s time to stand with every Black man who fears DWB. It’s time to stand with every African American who wants to go out for a jog to take control of their physical, emotional, and mental health and even the Black man who just wants to enjoy a bowl of ice cream in his living room just because he can. Stand up. Stand up. Stand up and do not sit back down until you know that equality isn’t for some of us. It’s for EACH OF US. Until that day has become our norm, we can’t afford to sit down.

I don’t have a husband. I don’t have a child or a niece or a nephew. What I do have is compassion for any daughter who will never have her father to walk her down the aisle because his life was taken by an officer of the law. I have compassion for any mother who has to bury her child and still get up another day. I have compassion for anyone who has lost someone they loved and didn’t get an opportunity to say goodbye. No one should have to feel that kind of pain. No mother, brother, sister, friend should have to go to the morgue and identify their beloved. No man, woman, boy, or girl should have to feel the anguish you experience and the pain that you feel when you pick up the phone to call and just say I love you only to be met with the realization that the person you’re calling will never answer – can never answer.

It’s become too much. Almost unbearable. So, as I wipe the tears from my eyes and pray that the ache in my heart for those who are hurting will subside, I am comforted in knowing that whether on this earth or in the future to come, justice will be done. In the words of my mama, you may have gotten over, but you haven’t gotten by. That is my prayer for those officers who have taken a life that wasn’t theirs to take. That is my prayer for every elected official who has refused to fight injustice and racism on behalf of every constituent that they represent. That is my prayer for every company, enterprise, and organization who profits from and because of African Americans, but who refuse to join in the cause to demand change. Those who promote peace, but who choose not to lend their hand and resources to long-term solutions and reform. To every church leader who has remained silent instead of being the leader that they proclaim God has called them to be. This is the time that your voice needs to be heard now more than ever and louder now more than ever before.

We have come so far, but we still have a long road ahead. We can’t leave it to the Ellens, Michael Jordans, Jamal Bryants, TIs, Jane Fondas, Chance the Rappers, Taylor Swifts, LeBron James, Beyonces, Jay-Zs, Kim Kardashians alone to use their voice and influence. MLK had help. We need a strategy and a plan – a longterm blueprint and roadmap to see a movement committed to change. I commit to lending every gift and talent I have to collaborating, partnering, supporting, and working with the leader who will guide us into a better tomorrow. We need a voice. A leader to mobilize the troops and to place pressure on those in positions of power to dedicate resources to righting wrongs, opening doors, furthering the conversation, and making a black life hold the same value as a white life in the judicial system. We can turn our backs and close our eyes and be outraged in our own homes or even with our own friends, but that outrage has to spill over in such a way that it becomes the outcry of the nation. Our nation.

It is heartbreaking to hear friends in the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Africa, and China indicate how they are watching this daily and waiting to see what will become of this. What’s even sadder is that I have the same question. What will become of this? We can’t go back to business as usual. While this is looking usual, my prayer is that this is the last time that this is usual and like other countries who have strict penalties for crimes, we too, will adopt the same value for crimes of humanity and crimes against humanity. Stand up for every black boy and black girl. Stand up for every black man and every black woman. Stand up for every black mother in America. Stand up for our America. Stand up for them. Stand up for me and I will stand up for you.

May God bless these United States of America and may God have mercy on us all. 

Dr. Sharalyn Payne is a Resilience Coach and Reinvention Strategist who has dedicated her life to transformation. She is committed to helping people rebound, rebuild, reinvent, and dream again so that they can make their future much better than their past.