They walked so I could run

by Aaliyah Alexander, Staff Writer

I have the honor and privilege to say I am one of the “lucky ones.” 

As a 21st century Black woman, I live in an era where I am free to pursue my dreams without much resistance. Yes, there are the occasional setbacks and roadblocks, but nothing compared to what my ancestors had to face only a few decades earlier. 

When I look at the Black leaders today who broke through barriers of a system built to preserve whiteness, I can’t help but think, “wow, we [the black community] have come so far”, but where we are today would not exist if it weren’t for the vision of hope, perseverance and sacrifice of the generations before us. 

There’s this beautiful poem by Rupi Kaur in her book, “The Sun and Her Flowers”, that better articulates something I admire about the journey my ancestors endured:

“I am the first woman in my lineage with freedom of choice/ to craft her future whichever way I choose/ say what is on my mind when I want to/ without the whip of the lash/ there are hundreds of firsts I am thankful for/ that my mother and her mother and her mother did not have the privilege of feeling/ what an honor/ to be the first woman in the family who gets to taste her desires/ no wonder I am starving to fill up on this life/I have generations of bellies to eat for/ the grandmothers must be howling with laughter/ huddled around a mud stove in the afterlife/ sipping on steaming glasses of milky masala chai/ how wild it must be for them to see one of their own living so boldly.”

This isn’t to say we, as a Black community, still don’t experience injustices and hardships, but it pales compared to someone born to shackles and sold as property, someone who didn’t have the right to vote, someone who could be lynched for drinking from the wrong water fountain, someone who was whipped because of the anger of a white man, someone who was stripped of education or someone who was mocked day in and day out for the beautiful skin they were born into. 

It still amazes me that in spite of the circumstances previous generations were given, they still found light in it all. They maintained a sense of humanity in a society that tried to dehumanize them. They were strong – stronger than I could ever be. Their bodies were beaten but their spirits remained whole. I carry that with me today as we begin to celebrate and honor their legacy and the gifts they have given to the world. 

I am truly thankful for those who walked, so I could run today. 

Aaliyah Alexander is a sophomore studying journalism and international studies. Follow her on Twitter @aaliyahdanyell.