Black Lives Matter

A Message from Roblin Webb and Freedom Prep

June 5, 2020


The Feeling of the Moment

How do I even begin to express how I am feeling?

On the one hand, being a leader of an organization requires me to say something.

On the other hand, I am emotionally paralyzed by the gravity of it all.

Feeling pain and anger at the perpetual vestiges of America's original sin, racism - first manifested against the people who lived here already and then against those who were later kidnapped and brought here against their will.

Feeling anxiety and fear for my black father and brother.

Feeling slight relief that my precious nephew was born with “light skin” so he will be perceived as less threatening and possibly be more protected from the evil blanket that has enveloped this country from inception.

To be honest, the heavy burden of being a black woman is crushing enough BUT to have hundreds, if not thousands, of people looking to you for leadership in this moment is a burden and a blessing.

The blessing of my position is that the burden of saying something, doing something, is like a bucket of cold water being doused on my head during a moment of trauma paralysis!

It wakes you up; it shocks you back to earth even as your soul reaches for other places just to dull the noise and pain.

When critical moments like this happen, we have to call on our anchors, our roots.

Since March, I have had to watch my people continue to suffer and die mercilessly by the hands of an invisible killer (COVID-19) that just delivered the fatal blow of a killer called systemic racism that has been ravaging my people for centuries.

Racism is the root cause of greater percentages of black and brown people having pre-existing conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and asthma that amplify the effects of the disease.

Racism is the root cause of black and brown people being more likely to receive poor or no health care to treat their ailments.

Racism created a world where poor black and brown people are often “essential workers” being potentially exposed to the coronavirus everyday.

And racism, just like the coronavirus, has not gone away, is not going away, but continues to morph into more powerful, insidious ways of taking out its targets.

If we look deeply and closely at the facts, we can clearly see how this monster has morphed.

I, like many black Americans, was not at all shocked by the Amy Cooper Central Park video. Lest we forget, over 50% of white women voted Trump into office despite full knowledge of his sexism, racism, and other vile actions in the past.

And, I, like many black Americans, was not shocked to see the Ahmaud Arbery or George Floyd videos. We have had to endure countless images and videos of our people being beat, tortured, and killed both in real life and in cinema. We have had to develop a collective thick skin and numbness that cannot be explained. Until these moments...when the pressure cooker of racism is too much. When any two weeks of a news cycle shows you unarmed black people shot dead or an Emmet Till situation that could have resulted in another death.

This moment required me to dig deep, reach for my anchors and roots, and remind myself of why I am here and what my ancestors have tasked me with in this moment/movement.

For some, their anchors and roots require them to open their wallets, pick up their phones and take action politically.

For others, their anchors and roots require them to take to the streets and protest.

For others, their anchors and roots require them to put pen to paper and write about this moment.

As for me, my anchors and roots require me to educate black and brown children, to teach them their history and prepare them in the present so that they can change the future.

Is there a playbook for the answer?

What is clear, is that this moment requires action. When I dug deep, my mind went back to two years ago when I was in South Africa. Among all of the amazing conversations and sights, one conversation stood out to me. I just couldn’t understand why and how black South Africans, who lived through Apartheid, were not still angry. How was it possible that the ills of apartheid did not continue to live in the hearts of black South Africans like the ills of slavery and racism seethe in the hearts of black Americans. The answer was twofold, yet so simple. When I asked a local tour guide about why she was not still angry, she said, “Well, Mandela told us to get over it and we did!” Although it is such a seemingly simple statement, it reveals a secret to South African healing from apartheid that might unearth in time as part of the solution to black people's burden in America. First, their leader told them to get over it BUT, second, the most important key (in my opinion) is that their elected leadership and the people who administered the justice system were people who looked like they did. South Africans could ensure that white South Africans could never again create laws, policies, or procedures that would inflict such pain and destruction on black South Africans. To this day, in South Africa, anti-racism is written into the law. The political leadership of South Africa is black. The justice system administrators are black. The police, the military are all majority black and have black leadership.

“When those in power deny you of freedom, the only path to freedom is power!” White supremacy, racism, discrimination, and all of the associated ills stemming from these deny black and brown people of power.

How does Freedom Prep Take Action?

When I founded Freedom Prep, I was under the hopeful, yet possibly naive, notion that if we would just love and educate our kids, it would protect them from America. I thought that if we could just get them to college, if we could get them out of poverty, if we could give them a strong sense of pride in their heritage, then they would be safe and successful in life. The events from the past few weeks made me realize how terribly wrong I’ve been. I now know and believe that our job, as educators of black and brown children, is to develop them into citizens in this society who can take and transform the power structure in this country. Our job is to develop more like Keith Ellison, the Attorney General in MN who is trying the George Floyd case. Our job is to create more Corey Bookers and Kamala Harrises so that there are black and brown people in positions of political power who can introduce and vote on legislation to protect our people. Our job is to create more Jay Zs who have the money and influence to call the Governor of MN to lobby for justice. Our job is to create more like Art Acevedo, the Hispanic police chief who condemned the actions of the MN officers and marched with his people in Houston. Or the Attorney General of the State of NY who threatened to sue the President if he tried to militarize NYC.

We, as educators of black and brown children, have the duty, the responsibility, to educate and develop this next generation of black and brown leaders who will not only be able to vote en masse, but will also be in positions of power to transform our current system that has been created and sustained to manipulate, profit from, abuse, and destroy black and brown people. Only when there is a critical mass of black and brown people in significant positions of power to influence law, policy, politics, medicine….will there be real and true change in this country. Our work will not, must not stop, and must now focus on ensuring that the kids we serve have the tools, love, and support to not only survive this moment, but re-focus on the future task of taking the power.