This year has been nothing short of a never-ending daily call to action. Our guts wrenched at the death of #AhmaudArbery. Our hearts broke when #GeorgeFloyd was suffocated on camera. The fury broke in me when #BreonnaTaylor died at the hands of cops who still have not been charged with her murder. I have been in the streets marching and protesting since May, because the continuous trauma of White terrorism in the United States must end in my lifetime.
Black Lives Matter is so much more than a tagline on a poster or a hashtag on a post. It is greater than the aesthetic of bold yellow letters that line Lafeyette Square in D.C., and now many
roadways across America. #BlackLivesMatter is a mantra of purpose-driven revolt. We travel far and wide to decry injustices - local and global. We are an international cadre of allies and activists. We embody a particular tradition of leadership. We stand today on the wings of Harriet, whose flight was a revolution, and we travel in the torch shadows of Toussaint Louverture’s rebellion, and we retrace the pilgrimage of the spiritual liberation of Malcolm X. Our fight for dignity and freedom is a tale as old as time and it has no borders. Our rebellion travels.
Malcolm X once said, “In my opinion, the greatest accomplishment that was made in the struggle of the black man in America in 1964 toward some kind of real progress was the successful linking together of our problem with the African problem, or making our problem a world problem.”
There is no question that America’s current state is one of competing pandemics – one of health and one of race. Both, if left unchecked, threaten to render Black and Brown people extinct. Jelani Women Travel and Jelani Girls, Inc. offer efforts that strengthen our collective resilience, experiences that build steadfast leadership skills, and revolutions that steel an unwavering sense of self. I, we, are in the business of building Black communities to see themselves as interconnected and intertwined in one another’s liberation. In today’s climate, our work of providing culturally enriching exploratory experiences that re-define identity and inspire empowerment is as important as ever. It is because of their having seen life on the African continent that Malcolm X and W.E.B. Dubois devised new perspectives about Black life and re-imagined justice in the Americas. Black Lives Matter is part of this tradition.
If this year has taught me anything, it is that travel is not a luxury. It is likely because of skipped vacations and lost respites that tensions are even higher than normal, but it is also because we are alone with ourselves that we can see that this revolution can’t wait. I have traveled to over 100 countries and it is Africa where I found a better version of myself, the me who has ceaselessly been in the streets, tirelessly demanding justice for running Ahmaud, for innocent George, for sleeping Breanna, and for their countless contemporaries who mattered more than life itself. A visit to the continent is not an indulgence, it is - for every Black person - a leadership training ground and a birthright. Let this year be your call to action.
Ashley N. Company
“Fly” Girl spreading #BlackGirlMagic across 100 countries and counting. Headwrap lover. Fierce Protector of Black Lives.