For the last 28 days, America has paid homage to the African American success story during what has been designated as Black History Month. Throughout various genre’s and in numerous arenas, our accomplishments and hard-fought progressive movements that have forced a pioneering turned privileged country to uphold its purported ideals have been on display. We’ve been highlighted on talk shows and documented on newsreels. Every year, for 28 days, America gets to boast about how far it has come from the days our ancestors clanked across its plantations like chattel.
Don’t get me wrong. We should be proud and we should acknowledge our history in this country, and our rise despite it, as much and as often as possible. But, I’m sure we can all agree that the fight is far from over. Take, for instance, a recent incident that took place at an Applebees in Independence, MO.
Alexis Brison and her friend were an hour into their meal when they were approached by a police officer whose accusation brought their pleasant outing to a halt. They were informed that one of the restaurant’s servers had identified them as dash-and-diners from the previous night. The whole event plays out in the below video that has since been viewed over four million times on Facebook.
While Alexis appeared to remain calm and poised, her friend was clearly distraught by the event. At times, the video was difficult to get through because the experience, for her, was devastating. To be honest, even without her crying, I shed tears as I watched the video. Here we are in 2018 and we can still be so easily dismissed.
Even more distressing were the comments by many African Americans who thought the young lady was being “extra.” They couldn’t understand why she had to behave that way. They wanted her to stop crying and screaming because, after all, she wasn’t being arrested or anything. Well, tell that to the Greensboro Four.
On February 1, 1960, four young college students decided to stage a sit-in at a white-only lunch counter in Greensboro, NC. The sit-in was not the first of its kind, nor would it be the last, but it is credited with making the most impact. Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr., and David Richmond, later dubbed the Greensboro Four, had been inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King to find peaceful ways to protest and demand equality.
So, they planned to request service at the segregated Woolworth lunch counter knowing that they would be refused. Their plan was to use this non-violent protest to bring an end to segregational policies being practiced in the south. That was their plan and their efforts eventually led to the desegregation of that same lunch counter on July 25, 1960. After the store suffered a financial loss of close to $200,000, the Woolworth manager served three of his black employees at what was once their white-only counter. The Greensboro Four plan and their protest worked.
Alexis Brison and her friend had neither a plan nor a protest. Fifty-eight years after the Greensboro Four and hundreds like them made it so that she can eat wherever she wanted, she was reminded that yeah, you’re still black and you’re still not equal. Without verification or proof of a criminal act, Applebees could demand that she leave their premises and never come back. She is neither welcomed nor allowed to eat here. The shock of it made her weep – perhaps for herself, the Greensboro Four, and so many others who had died to make sure this kind of thing would not happen by this time in our country’s history.
So, what’s the long and short of it? There’s an old saying, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Don’t be lulled into inaction because things appear to have gotten better. On the surface, things may not be the same as it was 58 years ago. But it’s time to pursue the equality that lies beneath the surface where we are truly judged by the content of our character.
Black History Month and what it really means to us is important and necessary, but unless we continue to shout, stomp, yell, and scream and make our voices heard, we will continue to be treated as second-class citizens in this country. Because of the noise, that Applebees has been permanently closed. Stay woke.
BMWK, do you remember the Greensboro Four?