Following the death of George Floyd and the nationwide and local Black Lives Matter protests, we asked several members of our Harrisburg community if they would like to share their personal stories.
I was confused when they let George Zimmerman walk free in 2014.
I was broken when they killed Tamir Rice, who would have been class of 2020, just like me.
I was fuming when they shot and killed Antwon Rose II, who lived just a few hours from Harrisburg.
I was angry when they told us Sandra Bland killed herself.
Now, I’m tired.
Going to the protest on the Capitol steps and down the riverfront showed just how much our community is hurting. There were people shouting from the top of their lungs, declaring that their lives matter. There were kids, the same age as my siblings, holding signs saying, “I Can’t Breathe.” We are grieving the lives of all the Black and Brown people who were killed in the hands of the police, some right in our city.
But it doesn’t just stop there. The Black community is too often forgotten in Harrisburg. We make up over half of the city’s population, yet, far too many of our officials don’t look like us. Far too many of the city’s workers don’t look like us. Some workers even refuse to live in the city out of fear.
We’ve been pushed out of our homes by climbing rent prices. Our barbershops and stores have been replaced by overpriced restaurants and apartments.
Even our news outlets portray us as violent, struggling and broken.
But Harrisburg has an incredibly vibrant community. There are so many Black-owned businesses such as La Cultura and Urban Snob that have given back to their community. Black-owned restaurants like Soul Burrito, Crawdaddy’s and Queen’s BBQ and Southern Cuisine. Even Harris Family Brewery for those who love craft beer.
We are organizing and supporting one another, especially in times like this. Now it’s time for the people in power to do their part. If your hands look like that of the officers that took George Floyd’s life, or 48 of the 49 presidents, its time for you to speak up and help save Black lives. I’m not talking changing street names, marching with protestors for a few minutes for photo-ops, or kneeling in kente cloths. Actually do something that will invoke change. Call your lawmakers, donate to Black organizations, and support Black businesses. Lawmakers, draft and push for bills that will actually help us. If you have power in this country and want change, ask yourself: What am I actually doing for Black lives?
Yaasmeen Piper is a 2020 graduate of East Stroudsburg University, is a contributor and former intern for TheBurg and is currently serving a fellowship with Spotlight PA.