As We Give Thanks…
Thanksgiving, currently celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, has been an annual tradition in the United States since a presidential proclamation in 1863. Traditionally, Thanksgiving has been a day to acknowledge and celebrate the blessings of the year-a joyous occasion when families and friends come together [sometimes in prayer], partake in an elaborate meal, and give thanks. In more recent times, Thanksgiving has also become a time when many Americans vigorously rush to their favorite retailer(s) in hopes of securing Black Friday deals. Even some of the most refined people lose their decorum in the name of “getting a deal”. It is on Thanksgiving Day that many families sit back and watch two people snap the wishbone of the turkey with hopes of receiving the larger piece. Families frequently gather around their televisions on Thanksgiving Day to watch the Macy’s Parade and stare in awe of the various floats. Others use the holiday to gather with their family and friends, wear their favorite football jersey, and enjoy the action of professional football games on television. For many Americans, these things are the source of their thankfulness, as well as their entrance to the holiday season.
Well, the reality is as much as the Founders, Board Members, Staff, and Constituency of Affinity Community Services share many of these traditions with other Americans, we must acknowledge a very lonely road we take that rarely intersects with others. As women of color, primarily Black women, on the LGBT continuum, many of us are thankful for being simply alive. Unfortunately, we do not have the privilege of reflecting over the past year and feeling blessed without our thoughts being embedded in the reality of a systematic genocide of our people. Our blessings come from the fact that it wasn’t our son THIS TIME or our daughter THIS TIME. We give thanks that it wasn’t our partner THIS TIME or it wasn’t us THIS TIME-and for that we are grateful.
The onslaught of Black lives is no longer imminent; it is contemporaneous. How do we give thanks when as Black women, we fear driving alone because of the uncertainty of being arrested one day and dead the next? How do we give thanks when our sons and daughter cannot receive a college education without having to protest the institutional racism on their campus? How do we give thanks not knowing if we, too, will be victims of inner-city gun violence? How do we give thanks knowing that our babies are being laid to rest from violence at the hands of those who have sworn to serve and protect EVERYONE? How do we give thanks when the phrase “Don’t Shoot, I Want to Grow Up” is now directed toward street gangs and so many of the boys in blue? How do we give thanks knowing that we live in a society where payoffs are the modern day reparations for murder at the hands of law enforcement?
Our thankfulness this holiday season isn’t for the food we will eat nor the deals of today. It is not from watching football nor a parade or television. Our thankfulness derives from knowing that the lives of Kaylyn Pryor, Tyshawn Lee, Hadiya Pendleton, Ashton O’Hara, Michael Brown,
Tamara Dominguez, Tanisha Anderson, Blair Holt, Keyshia Blige, Rekia Boyd, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Amadou Diallo, Ron Lane, Sakia, Gunn, Freddie Gray, McDonald, and so many others were not in vain. We are their mothers, sisters,aunts, grandmothers, and cousins; therefore, they are us!
As you congregate with family, friends, and coworkers this holiday season, before you sit down to break bread, we implore you to stand with us in solidarity and give thanks for those whose lives were commandeered. We ask you to take a moment of silence in their honor. They were! You are! I am!
We are Affinity.