Why I’m Marching: Morenike Onaiwu

It was a warm summer afternoon. I was circling the parking lot of a local park with my kids in tow, searching for a parking space. While park outings were fairly regular for us, this one was different. More somber, more meaningful. Clad in red and bearing handmade signs, we had come to the park to join others for a peaceful community vigil against police brutality in the wake of Eric Gardner and Mike Brown’s killings.


I didn’t really know what to expect nor what I could do to be of any help. I just knew that for me (a black adult female) and my sons and daughters (also black, and ages 3 to 13 years), I could think of no other place at that moment more important for us to be.

The park was packed with people of all ages and races. There were also a number of local activists from various communities: people of color, the LGBTQIA* community, clergy, university students, and others. As we held hands and listened as people recited poetry, shared sobering statistics, read a long list of victims, and sang songs, the mood grew intense and reflective. Peering into my children’s serious faces as we lit candles, my heart was ablaze with emotions I couldn’t describe. Before long I joined the line of people taking turns addressing the crowd, and when it was my time I stepped on the platform looking down at a sea of strangers. My gaze met that of my teenaged son, and then tears filled my eyes.

I prayed silently for a moment, and then I began to address the crowd. And for the first time publicly, I shared a story that had haunted my family for years – a brutal, unprovoked police assault that had happened to my own father when I was a little girl. An attack that landed him in the hospital with severe injuries. An attack that was never brought to justice. Something neither I nor my family ever talked about, because it was painful. Being black – and not only black, but in my father’s case, black and African – and being in the “wrong” neighborhood in the South during the ’80’s was not only suspect, it was apparently dangerous. We were fortunate that after it was all over my father lived and was able to return home to us. So many families did not have such a favorable outcome. Many fathers, husbands, brothers, partners, sons, daughters, mothers, wives…many people died at the hands of police, and thus never came back home.

That day at the park was life changing for me. I wish I could say that it was the last vigil of this type that my family had to go to, but it was only the beginning. As the days passed, there were more and more accounts of unarmed individuals, often of color, whose lives were cut short with no criminal charges or indictments occurring afterward. There were more meetings, more vigils, more protests, more die-ins. Not enough, as whole sectors of the community chose to remain silent about this polarizing topic – sadly, even groups that should have been speaking the loudest too often opted for silence. But there were always people in the community dedicated to take action, so we were able to show support in our own way at a number of peaceful protests around the city. The stack of protest signs in my trunk grew larger and larger – until one day my son told me that he was tired of going and that he was tired of “marching because someone died.”

boy1  They say wisdom comes out of the mouths of babes. My son is tired of marching because someone died, and I agree with him. I am tired of marching because someone died too. I’m tired of the injustice, of the callous disregard for life, of fearing for my children as they get older and begin to resemble black men more than black boys. I’m tired of questionable grand jury findings and victim slandering. I’m tired of video and photo footage of grief and anguish.

I’m tired.

On Mothers Day weekend I will be joining with another group of people who are also tired. Tired of the way things are, the unacceptable status quo. Tired of the death. Tired of the loss. Tired of the lack of justice. Tired. And ready to do something about it.

On May 9, 2015 many of us will participate in the Million Moms March in Washington, DC. We will march in solidarity with Mothers For Justice United, a national organization of mothers who have lost their children to police violence. We will demand justice and demand answers. We will march against the culture of silence that allows these types of atrocities to occur. We are marching for our lives, our children’s lives, and for a better tomorrow. Please support us.

Black lives matter. Not a slogan, but a reality.

Join us.

‪#‎MillionMomsMarch‬ ‪#‎FreedomSpring‬ ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ ‪#‎March2Justice‬‪#‎WhyWeMarch‬


Photo Credit: Rick Guidotti of Positive Exposure

“Why I’m Marching” is a series Families for Justice launched on April 22, 2015. Every day until the ‪#‎MillionMomsMarch‬ on May 9th, we will share a personal post from supporters of the march testifying of its importance. Click on the Why We March tab to read the many powerful essays that have been submitted. Please share!



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