Joseph Young of New Haven, left, stands with demonstrators on the steps of the New Haven Police Department Headquarters. Ryan Caron King | CT Public Radio

We have often been told to let the system do its job and justice will prevail. We now know that has never been the case for people who look like me.  But, in so many ways, it’s time for that to change.

Erik Clemons

The recent non-action on Breonna Taylor and a summer of clear and blatant disregard for Black life has made one thing clear: racial equality requires a radical shift in power.

We entrusted our lives to that sentiment for years, while innocent people have been prosecuted to the fullest extent with the hammer of the law and we see guilty people win cases with a silver spoon of justice.

The difference: power. It is what allows a young Dylann Roof to kill nine Black parishioners and be escorted out safely by police, while Eric Garner can be choked to death by law enforcement for selling loose cigarettes.

Power gives room for excuses that justify the unlawful things that protect those with and in power. While those who aren’t, are subject to the will of these systems, even if they do not match with the actions.  Equality vs Equity: availability versus access.  Painting the picture of societal progress because there are no longer segregated drinking fountains, schools, or public transportation, while those same racist tactics are just placed behind closed doors and refined in a more sophisticated way.  This new way has taken the blatant form of racism and discrimination and imparts it into systems that can be inherently racist in ways that are less noticeable at first glance but are effective in keeping the ones in charge, in power.

Equality is what we used to seek, equity is what we are demanding now.

Heard within the present shouts for justice and the subtle whispers for power;  these whispers spring from the dreams and hopes of the generations of Black people who have been intentionally and systematically shut out from receiving their portion of ‘milk and honey’ that the land would provide.  The power I speak of is not in the sense of domination over others.  The power I speak of is in the context of ‘power to:’ the power to build wealth for Black communities, the power to create Black-led philanthropic institutions, the power to seed and support Black-owned businesses, and the promise to invest in the promise and vitality of young brilliant Black children who will soon be leading thriving Black communities.  All of the points of power mentioned are all things that we do not have equal access to, that white communities have in excess and without thought.

The notion of white power in this has been ingrained in the stitching of this country so deeply that any deviation from that has been met with swift action through these systems that strive to bring back ‘order’ in the way that keeps the powerful in power.

From the justice system to the housing and education systems, to business and political systems, one race has created these systems and for generations  has been thriving in them while simultaneously holding down other races from having the same access to everything that these systems have to offer. We want the power to dismantle these systems and start fresh, start at a place where equity is at the forefront, and that the systems in place, create a space for us to flourish.

As a people we have strived to overcome these generational obstacles placed in front of us, to not use them as an excuse. It seems as though the closer we get to that success, right before we reach that glass ceiling, the system comes down to remind us where we are, and we are at times left with confusion that grows into self-doubt which keeps us from trying again, from moving forward.

We have to snuff out self-doubt and realize that at the root, it is part of the system. We must come together, we must take to the streets, and fill them with people from all walks, on behalf of Black people.  We must lock arms and hearts and stand as one to hold this country and the white supremacy that it has been built upon, accountable.  To take responsibility for its current actions and to have the courage and conviction to right historical wrongs, as we walk in protest to redeem the past while creating a future. Equity is our demand. The very things that allow the white culture to thrive and survive will be the very things that are manifested for Black people and Black communities.

The access to power is what will create major changes within our Black communities and allow us to recreate the narrative, instead of seeking out justice from a rigged system, creating an equitable system that will embody the true meaning of justice. My hope is that people take to the streets and instead of chanting “no justice, no peace’ they chant “ No power, no peace.”

In the end no matter race class or culture, our liberation is linked.

Erik Clemons is Founding CEO and President of the Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology (ConnCAT).

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