by Michael Mottern
As someone born into the privileged white-skin majority, I had to make my own journey to arrive at where I am now – in solidarity with the Black Lives Matters movement. You see, in the early 1990s, I was in a Special Education Class. At first, I hated being reminded that I was a member of a marginalized group, whether it was being called a “rump” or anything even similar to a cow’s ass; or as an individual that got services from the Office for Students with Disabilities in college. But now, over time, I have come to realize that it comes easy for me to embrace those causes that involve reaching out to those in my vicinity who are also marginalized, such as African-Americans.
Black Lives Matter(BLM) is under attack by the right wing and called a terrorist organization. It organized an event in Buffalo on Friday August 28 – the Hertel Hurdle. What I saw in the crowd that day was not a group of terrorists, but a diverse group of people from all races and backgrounds fulfilling what America should look like in reality. I was never more proud in my life!
The march took place from Main Street on a major artery in North Buffalo called Hertel Avenue, beginning at the piano store. Everyone there was practically under 30, with a few middle-aged people as well. The news was there, covering an event that was held on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The protest was very peaceful, even when people were interrupted by an array of idiots: hecklers, someone yelling the N word, someone else waving a knife. BLM yelled at them: “Racist! Go home!” and told us marchers, “Do not engage them; keep going”. That was good because, indeed why would you want to waste a perfectly good moment to get Black Lives Matter banners down in what used to be a very racist part of North Buffalo in Little Italy. The Black Lives Matter banners have to be seen.
Passing the intersection near my house that I grew up in as a kid, I joked with an individual that I used to live around that corner and I was proud to be here. When we got to the parkside intersection near a famous Greek restaurant in the Queen City, I was wondering if the march would continue further when told we were going all the way to the police station, west towards the Niagara River. When the protest reached my old Roman Catholic Church St. Margarets, I was seeing that church in a different eye. That was where the organizers chose to speak on more black issues concerning Buffalo citizens and community. As we stood there for 15 minutes getting water and breathing the heat and warm air, I was sweating profusely but it was all for a good cause. In front of my old church, people talked about the systemic racism that was going on with the Buffalo Police department, the slogan being not only defund the police but put the money back into our community. Buffalo a couple years ago was named the 4th poorest city in America.
When we passed by the famous Buffalonian Romeo and Juliet’s bakery, all the old ladies on the patio were cheering us on. For moment, I felt proud to be an Italian-American. The March continued to the police station where the people stayed for as long as the police gave them the opportunity to which was several minutes to an hour before dispersing. I tell everybody in the suburbs like myself join the Black Lives Matter protest that sweeping across the Nation including in small towns and in the suburbs. Our Lives depend on it!
Michael Mottern is Vice-Chair of Social Democrats USA.