Black Lives DO Matter

01/15/2017 12:03 am ET Updated Jan 16, 2017

The following article was written by Maya M., an Essex County, NJ Middle School student.

The following article is a part of a new series, “Listening to Youth Voices in the New Year.” Each Sunday, articles written by Essex County Middle School students will be published, each week relating to a new topic. In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., the essays published this week are those that relate to racial justice.

About a year ago, my father, my younger brother, and I were in the car driving home from visiting a family friend. On the highway, my dad got pulled over by a police officer. My younger brother got scared because he had heard about police brutality and black males getting shot by the police, and he didn’t want that to happen to our dad.

It turns out that my dad getting pulled over was just a routine check. However, it made me consider what would of happened if the encounter had turned into something more. This made me realize the importance of having an outlet to discuss police brutality and the importance of black lives.

Events such as being mistreated because of your skin color, being pulled over by the police, and being silenced for speaking up are scary events to think about, especially for the black community. Throughout history, Black people never had the same respect that other races have. In recent generations, younger Black people have needed a way to express their feelings about the injustices and racism they have faced. Thankfully, in 2013, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement was created to help younger Black people find their voices and use them. This movement makes people more aware of the issues Black people face, stands up to police brutality and other violent acts, and helps people of color use their voices.

Not everyone knows about the types of problems that Black people face, and that is why the BLM campaign is trying to spread awareness. Two examples of this is how BLM shares knowledge about incarceration and citizenship status. For example, there are more Black men imprisoned than White men in the United States. Additionally, a significant percentage of the Black people in prison were wrongfully convicted. The people that support the movement try to make others more enlightened on this topic. BLM also tries to help the five hundred thousand black immigrants who can’t reach their full potential because they’re undocumented. Being undocumented doesn’t allow for them to have the same opportunities U.S. citizens do; the movement tries to help them out as much as they legally can.

Additionally, BLM also tries to stand up to police brutality and other types of violence that happens in the Black community. In fact, BLM has its roots in responding to police brutality; it started after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed and put on trial for his own death. His killer, George Zimmerman, was not held accountable for killing Martin. This inspired Alicia Garza and her two sisters to create the movement to step up. As well as trying to prevent more cases of police brutality, they also try to help stop violence against black women. Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted and 1 in 5 Black women experience rape some point in their lives. Black Lives Matter tries to help women who have undergone these types of events and try to prevent anyone else from being oppressed from this experience.

BLM also offers Black people a chance to share their voices. The purpose of this movement is to help broaden the conversation about black lives and how they matter. In the past, the ability for Black people to speak up has been stepped on like a sidewalk crack. From slavery to segregation and to day-to-day racism, the world has finally reached a point where Black people can say what they want without opposition. The founders of Black Lives Matter strongly support anyone using their voice to step up for Black people, especially since it’s part of the reason why the movement was created. Black people can say what they want and express their feelings about current events relating to black lives using the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on popular social media websites from all over the world. The movement also helps Black women stand up and face sexism, misogyny and anything that has to do with supremacy of men of any race. By using the collective power of Black women, the Black Lives Matter movement helps them stand up for themselves in the Black community and in everyday life.

On the whole, no matter what some people might think about the Black Lives Matter movement, the campaign has used their power to make a positive difference. This movement is important for future of Black people and their part in society. By using the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, people are helping to spread the word that Black lives do matter. Black people deserve to live in a world that isn’t full of racism and hate.

The original writing assignment asked students to create their own essay prompt as long as it connected to our unit theme, “Uses and Abuses of Power,” and was about a topic they were passionate about. As a result, students submitted essays on racial justice, LGBTQ+ rights, education reform, gender equality, and more. We are excited to share their work through this series.

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