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Elizabeth

Deciding When to Act

Tags Justice for AllRacial EquityPreventing Conflicts of Interest

I think that activists are created in moments. Deciding when they need to act. Anybody can be an activist. It’s not anything that should be paved in glory. It’s seeing something that’s unbearable and needs to be changed. And it’s long. And it’s a haul. And my life has changed.

I’m a community artist so I teach a lot in school. Normally, I watch my grandkids on Saturday, I’m working, or I’m in school. On August 9th it was clear. Over Twitter, there was talk about Mike Brown and something in me snapped. I call it the Collective Snap of the Last Straw because everybody hurt. ‘They shot this kid, his body’s still laying there, I’m going out.’ A week before, somebody’s studio was closing and they were throwing away a lot of art supplies. I literally had top quality paper, markers, and sharpies. I just grabbed all of that and went to the Ferguson Police Department. People started arriving and it went from four or five to 100. And in the crowd was a three-year-old, a big three like what Mike Brown would be if he were a toddler. And he just had this absolutely shocked stunned look on his face. I got down on my knees and I said, ‘Baby, are you OK?’ And he said, ‘They shot Mike Mike and I saw him laying dead in the street.’ This is one of the realities that people have to explain to their children. We made a sign and then I helped his sister spell out the word ‘justice.’ It had a backwards ‘j.’ We talked about what it meant and then I was out there everyday.

Elizabeth Vega, photos by Lindy Drew

Elizabeth Vega, photos by Lindy Drew

I think that activists are created in moments. Deciding when they need to act. Anybody can be an activist. It’s not anything that should be paved in glory. It’s seeing something that’s unbearable and needs to be changed. And it’s long. And it’s a haul. And my life has changed. We’re exhausted, we’re tired, and we’re financially tapped out. We are in the process of going from daily protesting to movement building. I don’t think anybody has a clue what it looks like. We only know what it’s not. It’s not complacency. It’s not selfish. It’s not greedy. It’s seeing each others humanity. It’s not making things more complex than they need to be, but recognizing the complexities of dismantling the deep tentacles of systemic racism. It’s not just one person or one leader. I’ve witnessed as many births as I have deaths. I’ve seen grief. But this is anguish. This is why I’m in the movement.

We wouldn’t be this far if people hadn’t been protesting.