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By: Roy Douglas Malonson, Publisher of African-American News & Issues & Author of column series We MUST Understand

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said something that should permanently resonate within the minds of African-Americans everywhere. He said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” After all of the things that Black folks have endured for generations within American society, I will never understand how some people can still sit and turn the other cheek and allow anything to happen to them. Since I was a boy growing up in Acres Homes’, I have always heard that the, “squeaky wheel gets the grease.” This same thought translates into more modern terms which suggest that, “closed mouths don’t get fed.”

We MUST Understand that the positive transformations that we have witnessed within this nation did not come about by just sitting quietly at the back of the bus. People had to make noise about the things that mattered most to them before, others would take notice that there was something to the issues that were being raised. To that regard, there are people that will stand idle and know that you are being mistreated; but, if you refuse to voice that there is a problem, they will never willingly admit to it or address. Undoubtedly, Dr. King understood this lesson and chose to preach about it to those that he had influence on.

I often talk about the two most powerful tools that we as Africans living in America have and I will continue to do so, until I believe that our community finally understands what I have been trying to convey. “Our money” and “our vote” are two of the most powerful tools that have and we should be careful who we give them to. The thing that a lot of members from within our community don’t understand is that there is a way to make a lot of noise and allow our voices to be heard, without saying a word. It is an element that has worked throughout the years and will continue to work if we allow it.

To those who feel that they are not the type to protest on the front lines of scenes of injustices, choices such as, voting and boycotting yields the right for you to speak out about factors which affect you by demonstrating these simple nonverbal actions. We MUST Understand that voting has been one of this nation’s most vital instruments for the American people. If voting was never a part of our society there are many privileges and rights that people have today, that would not exist such as: Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, safe abortions, right to health insurance, governmental food assistance, minimum wage, women’s rights, workers compensation, consumer protection laws, 40-hour work week, safety and environmental regulations and most of all, there would be no Civil Rights Act.

Furthermore, if voting was not a powerful decision-making tool, there is a long list of first African-Americans in high level offices that would have never had the privilege of serving in them. Even more so, we would have never witnessed the presidency of the first “acknowledged” Black president of the United States of America, President Barack Obama. Of course, there are many other things that residents of this country would not have if it were not for the right to vote, but these are just a few that I have chosen to highlight.

Another way of allowing your voice to be heard is by utilizing “your money”. As President of the Montgomery Improvement Association, Dr. King coordinated one of the greatest protest demonstrations of the world, by leading the majority of the African-American community on a bus boycott in Montgomery. After bus city officials refused to comply with the request to allow Black folks to have the same rights as others, Dr. King, ministers, activists and other leaders from within the Black community successfully persuaded residents to discontinue their dependence on the bus lines. Though it was a struggle and Dr. King and others were jailed and convicted, the boycott continued. It took over a year, but through perseverance and refusing to remain silent about the things that matter; the bus boycott resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that bus segregation was unconstitutional.

One of the most effective factors of the boycott was that it heavily impacted the economy. With Black riders investing in other methods for their transportation needs, the bus system, city, state and nation felt the effects from the financial burden. Just as in this case, there are many ways to speak out and let the world know that you do not support those that don’t support you.  It may take some time, but someone will listen.

Concluding, We MUST Understand that as long as we continue to remain silent about racial injustice and inequality things will forever stay the same. Even in times when it appears that no one is listening to the issues that WE are raising, that is not an indication to stop raising them, as if they don’t exist. In fact, that is the very time that we should get louder and keep screaming and raising more awareness in regards to those things. Many movements and rights that would be inexistent if people got discouraged and quit because it felt like no one was listening.

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