How we move forward together is in our hands
Four hundred and one years ago, the first Africans arrived to this continent. Brought here in chains.
As children we are taught the mythology that the Pilgrims, Puritan, English and other colonists came to America for freedom. But that is far from the whole story. The freedom of the colonists was made possible by the labor of the enslaved.
This nation was founded claiming certain self-evident truths, that we are all created equal, and endowed by our creator with unalienable rights: life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. Lofty words written by a man who owned 609 slaves over the course of his life. The paradox of this equality was that it was not for everyone.
That has changed over time, but not enough. Slavery was ended, civil rights acts were enacted, but this country has yet to extend the full benefits of American citizenship and society to all of its people.
On June 23, local students organized a rally in University Heights. The stated purpose of the event was to honor the Black lives lost to police brutality and white supremacy. The young activists aimed to start a conversation between the citizens and elected officials of University Heights about policy reform and the creation of initiatives that will create a more anti-racist and equitable community.
Here in University Heights—you may consider this conversation started and underway.
As mayor, I have signed the pledge to review the police department’s Use of Force policies. Council Member and Safety Committee Chair Saundra Berry and I have created a citizen’s advisory council. This advisory council will collect public input and review our city police department’s Use of Force policies. The committee will meet over the summer, make a report of its findings, and suggest reforms.
There is a lot of talk these days about people trying to erase history, usually in connection with taking down the statues of Confederates and other white supremacists, or discontinuing racist marketing and brands. But we know better than to think history can be changed. There is no changing the history of what white colonists and the first generations of white Americans did to people of color, to indigenous people, to Asian people, and to Black people, especially.
But how we move forward together—that is in our hands.
Let us move forward, together, seeking fairness, equity, mutual understanding, all with a relentless pursuit of justice. Let us work together for a better and equitable country. Let us fulfill the promise, and be the best this country claimed to be at its founding—now—for people of color and for Black Americans especially.
Michael Dylan Brennan
Michael Dylan Brennan is the mayor of Univerity Heights.