Envision a cocoon of strength, safety, and love that encircles freedom of speech and expression tightly and firmly. This right is sacred. It must be protected and encouraged. A sentiment of inclusiveness must endure in our communities.
Since election night, social media, police, national and news organizations have recorded increased incidents of hate. An emboldened segment has surfaced: unleashing frustration and abuse on underrepresented and underserved communities. This is happening now rooted in our American history since inception.
Locally a man was attacked wearing a “Latinos for H” pin, a woman’s genitals grabbed, a man harassed with racial slurs, a woman verbally assaulted at a gas station, a young woman’s hijab grabbed choking her, children terrified at school, racist graffiti, a threatening letter to a mosque, and the list goes on. Critics argue that this would have occurred despite the election or that political correctness has gone amuck.
Hate must never become normalized.
There needs to be a consistent outlet for our community and especially the youth. Almost six months ago, the City of Richmond cut the Richmond Neighborhood Public mini-grant program. It was a mere $60,000 a year. The small art grant provided a voice to diverse communities since 1989. It fostered grassroots artistic expression led by local members. Decimated under political will when right now it’s needed most.
The program was a small token of relief, self-expression and freedom. But it sure did a lot. A void now exists with a empowered tidal wave of divisiveness hitting our shores. The next fours years will require preparation. Delusions aren’t welcomed here.
What can be done?
The time to mobilize is now. I will start locally to make a difference nationally and internationally. Richmond must stand together and be a sanctuary for everyone. I will fight for a reinstatement of the Richmond Neighborhood Public mini-grant program. Waiting isn’t working. Our community needs to be proactive and supportive by celebrating and reinvesting in diversity.
Community round table discussions encouraging open communication and ensuring freedom of expression must start. Our youth need places to communicate freely and openly without fear of reprisal. Our humanity is depending on it.
A safe haven to create united networks against hate is in order. Richmond must protect one of its greatest assets: the intellectual and artistic resources of its people. We need to be present and accept this challenge.
I’m in- are you?