I've had a lot of time to think and process my perspective on the Black Lives Matter movement and the world finally waking up to the injustice that has caused many Black lives to be lost within the shadows of white supremacy. I'm still not sure who really cares about Black lives, but I've decided that doesn't matter any more. What's happening is a beautiful thing, though there's been a lot of pain and suffering to our community, the world can no longer pretend that they don't see what's going on. Our plight is gaining international attention. It's no longer just our problem.
It's not about the riots; it's about persistent injustice. Black people in America often have to accept racism, economic exclusion, and unequal access to healthcare. On top of that, we are more susceptible to death in the pandemic. Given all these oppressive factors, it should not be difficult to believe the anger surrounding the murder of George Floyd. There is video evidence of four officers' involvement, and they weren't even arrested. This was simply the tipping point for a community that couldn't take it anymore.
I live the pain and stress of being black in America every day: I am a black woman, the mother of a black son, sister to black men, and aunt to my black nephews. I remember what it was like as a young girl to be afraid to go to Howard Beach for fear of being chased out. I know what it's like to walk on Liberty Avenue and be called "nigga" and being so young that I didn't understand what the word meant, I had to ask my mother. I know too well that feeling in the pit of your stomach when a police car pulls up behind you and even though you know you haven't done anything wrong you fear that your life may be in danger from what should be a simple encounter. Like all African Americans, I am tired of this burden.
Being stared at by strangers is something I have become very accustomed to. Not because I am a beautiful, ethereal being that catches everyone's attention (but I will take it if that's what you're thinking), but in the way that I am a Black woman, a Black person, and people tend to notice my presence. I don't think there is a Black person out there that can deny knowing what it's like to be stared at by a random person.
Melissa "MJ" Jacques is the Director of Human Resources at Mustache Agency, a Brooklyn-based full-service creative content agency. Since joining Mustache in 2019, MJ has spearheaded Mustache's first-ever intern program, "Content-oisseurs," and promoted various internal and external diversity, inclusion, and company culture events that have bonded Mustachers. More specifically, MJ created Lunch and Learns focused on embracing Black History Month and Pride, as well as supported black-owned businesses for event specific needs. Additionally, MJ has established relationships with various companies with aligned missions, partnered with Sparked for multiple agency networking events (with diversity at the forefront of recruiting), and worked with Cutter for women-driven screenwriting and networking events.
Dr. Mary Beth Wilkas Janke is a former United States Secret Service Agent and current consultant in the fields of forensic and clinical psychology and professor at George Washington University, where she teaches Abnormal Psychology and the Psychology of Crime and Violence. Mary Beth holds a Doctoral Degree in Clinical Psychology, a Master's Degree in Forensic Psychology, and a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice. She is also the author of " The Protector: A Woman's Journey from the Secret Service to Guarding VIPs and Working in Some of the World's Most Dangerous Places"
Aji Oliyide is a Senior Program Manager at Google who has worked on a number of projects related to product launches, and mergers and acquisitions. Aji sits on the board of directors for San Francisco CASA, a San Francisco non-profit devoted to supporting youth in the foster care system. In addition to board service, she enjoys volunteering and travelling. In 2011, she traveled to Nepal to participate in a charity trek to Mt. Everest Base Camp resulting in over $5,000 personally raised for a local Nepalese non-profit. In her spare time, Aji explores her creative side through her blog (Pivot Points) and her podcast Eat.Plank.Live. Her blog is focused on sharing insights from the decisions and events in people's lives that have influenced their path and how they interact with the world. Her podcast focuses on the role that food and fitness plays in our lives and is now live on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and Stitcher. Aji holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) and an MBA from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.