Weeks have passed since an officer murdered George Floyd: another Black man who begged for his life, repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe.” A month has passed since an officer shot and killed Breonna Taylor: another Black woman killed by the police who isn’t receiving the same attention as her male counterpart.
George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Wilmington’s own Jeremy “Bam” McDole and countless others remain in our collective consciousness because people refuse to stop saying their names. Every time a Black person is killed by the police, we’re reminded of our nation’s history and collective tolerance of racial violence. That stops with this generation.
We’re experiencing a critical turning point in an ongoing movement against police violence and systemic inequities that have adversely affected marginalized communities for centuries. COVID-19 has further exposed what marginalized communities have known and experienced for years and now, because of the pandemic, millions of people from all walks of life recognize systems designed to protect and keep us healthy are not living up to their purpose.
This is why hundreds of thousands continue to protest. George Floyd’s murder, in particular, has become a modern-day call to action and young leaders are answering that call, mobilizing diverse communities and amplifying their demands for policy change through a unified voice.
We are grateful for the wisdom and perseverance of previous generations who have laid the groundwork for civil rights and now, the next generation of leaders is prepared to build on the incremental progress made over the last few decades to accelerate change because we cannot bear to say one more person’s name. Generational change of leadership is inevitable. Now is the time for the seasoned and the fresh to come together to foster change.
The next generation of leaders possesses skills to leverage to ensure the powerful moment we witness today doesn’t become old news. We utilize social media to educate, empower, and mobilize thousands. We move beyond reacting to isolated incidents to addressing the root causes of systemic inequities. We innovate and think beyond the status quo. Most importantly, we are building an intersectional movement that acknowledges that racism, classism, sexism, and all forms of oppression are interconnected, meaning we all have a role to play in ensuring our nation changes for the greater good.
George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Jeremy “Bam” McDole and so many others will remain in our collective consciousness because my peers and I will work to ensure we all continue to #SayTheirNames. The heartbeat of the movement we’re seeing today has been led by the pulse of courageous young leaders and it’s imperative that those currently in power welcome, foster, and cultivate a relationship with the next generation, encouraging emerging leaders to carry this movement forward. A multi-generational leadership approach will only propel this movement forward, leading to substantive change.
For decades, our voices haven’t been heard at the tables where policies are developed, so we’re building our own table where diverse young leaders can craft a blueprint for change and ensure the generation that comes after us doesn’t have to fight the battles we face today. Seasoned leaders must utilize their political will to meet young leaders where they are, as a virtue of a leader is knowing when to empower the ideas of others to reach our common goal — change.
We can begin to make concrete change by first reexamining the culture that permeates systemic oppression, racism, and injustice. Current leaders must ask themselves these questions: How am I using my power to make a difference? Does my company encourage diversity and inclusion in the workplace? How can Delaware’s Democratic Party ensure our democratic process is just? The conversation must change. We must look within ourselves. We must do more.
A new demand for change is coming from those who have failed to be protected by systems for decades, people who have found a voice to finally say “enough is enough — my time is now!”
It’s time to have a real conversation about race and inequity in Delaware: One that welcomes new perspectives from leaders who are comfortable having uncomfortable conversations. This conversation must be followed by policy changes that address not only police violence, but issues that perpetuate systemic inequity, such as poor school systems, access to quality health care, meaningful opportunities for youth, access to healthy food, and much more.
It is time to embrace the voices and talents of the next generation of leaders. We are ready to lead that change. It’s time that we do this together.