By Diamond Raymond
As we near the one-year since President Trump was inaugurated, I reflect on what resistance means to me. This year marked the first time I’ve marched for justice—a lifelong dream that seemed out of reach due to my intense struggle with anxiety. But the urgency of the moment, and memories of my mother, steadied my feet.
Like so many of us, the story begins at home, with my mother. As a child, I can remember listening to “King: From Atlanta to the Mountaintop” on the radio every Black History Month. It was a radio program that chronicled the civil rights movement in America and featured an amalgam of narration, music, poetry and speeches. We listened to it every year at the behest of my mother, so by the time I was sixteen I could almost quote and sing every part just like one of my favorite songs.
I loved most when the narrator began talking about Malcolm and Martin. In his silky deep voice, he referred to two men–who were as iconic as Superman and Batman in my house–by their first names like they were all old friends. As he described each man leading the masses in their time, over the record “Shotgun”, my eyes would glaze and retreat from reality, my feet – always too big for someone my age- tapping to the beat, and my heart and soul promenading down the streets right next to Malcom, and then right next to Martin.
My grandfather and great uncle marched with Martin Luther King Jr. and it always felt like the greatest sin to me that I had been born too late to join them. As a little girl I yearned to be a warrior for justice, yet sadly as I grew older, my anxiety outpaced my passion and any attempts to stomp the streets with my peers were often crushed by my overwhelming fear and crippling anxiety. Needless to say, when I called my mother and told her my job was funding me to attend the March for Black Women in Washington D.C she was shocked, and proud. The little girl rocking to “King: From Atlanta to the Mountaintop” had finally grown into her feet.
As much as my childhood dreams of marching like Martin and Malcolm fueled my desire to attend the March, it was thoughts of my mother’s everyday courage that made all the difference. I remember her telling my teachers her expectations of how I was to be treated. Being one of two Black girls at my school she knew the dangers of my intelligence and passion being overlooked. Any and all attempts to hold me back, pass me along, or otherwise treat me any differently than my peers were promptly nipped in the butt!
I recalled every time a landlord, bill collector, or overworked government employee would talk down to her and tell her what she HAD to do and my mother would smile her Eartha Kit-like feline smile and tell them what she was going to do. I’ve never met a person my mother couldn’t put in their place.
I’ve spent much of my life marveling at the woman who had her first child as a teenager, in the heart of LA on 107th and Denker. A teenager who then went on to work with Maxine Waters to establish a program for teen parents in the LA Unified School District. A girl who became a woman who ran a comprehensive Black History Month Program at my school because they only every discussed MLK and Rosa Parks. A woman who is also a single mother of three girls.
Martin and Malcolm led and inspired many, many people but my mother changed the world for me and my sisters. And that’s why I attended my very first march in the name of my mother, Leslie Hampton, and every Black mama out there who has fought to the bone to change the world for their children by surviving and fighting like hell to thrive every day. I marched for the aunties who shared in caring for our tears while they shed their own. I marched for every daughter like me that knows their mother has always deserved better. I pushed through the pain of a tightening anxious chest because that moment was about holding up all of us.
As I look ahead to three more years of this administration, I suspect that my first march will not be my last. Like every Black woman I know I’m tired of hearing reports of my sisters’ deaths. I’m tired of watching those we love be ripped out of this world by Black and white bullets. I grow weary at the increasing time it takes to #SayHerName. The news of the decimation to title IX happened to hit me on a day when the smile of a little Black girl who looked like she could be mine sent tears for Charleena Lyles streaming down my face once again. I’m outraged at the ongoing attacks on Black women’s access to abortion, contraception, and prenatal care, even as Black women’s maternal death rates are ignored.
The push of my mother’s example and the pull of injustice brought me into the streets for the very first time. I video-called my mother during the March and watched as her smiled widened and eyes teared at me and those around my chanting “No peace, no justice!” and “Black Women Matter!” Like I do, she knows we still have an incredibly long way to go, but she also knows, and has taught me that there is nothing in the world like the power of a Black woman.