On January 6, 1996 returning from our honeymoon, my new husband and I arrived at O’Hare Airport. Holding hands, we departed our flight. Outside the gate stood an African American limo driver holding up a bright, colorful handwritten sign, “Welcome Home Mr. & Mrs. Wilson”. Those departing the plane and waiting in the boarding area smiled and began congratulating us, and wishing us well. My husband noticed a white gentleman who was not smiling and nudged me in the side. I looked over at the man and saw the racism written on his face. We had both seen this face many times throughout our lives.
As we began the trip home laughing and talking with our limo driver, police cars arrived and surrounded the car. The limo driver was asked to exit the car and was immediately handcuffed and thrown to the ground. The door on my husband’s side opened next and he was pulled out of the limo, handcuffed and thrown to the ground. A male police officer told me to stay in the car. The trunk was opened and the car was searched, while both men lay faced down on the ground in handcuffs. After 30 minutes, both the limo driver and my husband got back into the car. A police officer leaned in and informed us that they had received a call that three black people had kidnapped a white woman and had thrown her into the trunk of a limo.
The “honeymoon” was over. The remainder of the ride, that started off with three African Americans chatting joyfully, was now silent. There was nothing to say. I think we all silently wondered if there would ever come a day where this would not happen. Would there ever be a day when there would be no “calls” to police reporting a man for doing his job, a day where a newly married couple could enjoy a peaceful ride home from a honeymoon.
Today is June 4, 2020 and we are mourning the loss of a black man who was murdered on the street. I see him face down looking like my husband and our limo driver. I see the look they had in their eyes hoping they wouldn’t die. I can hear them catch a breath, struggling to breathe, as they were thrown to the ground. That day… it so easily could have been different. My husband could have died. That limo driver could have died. I haven’t thought of this day in years. I put it away. But today, I wonder if my daughter, my grandchildren and their children will have to face this same racial injustice. Will racism continue to plague our nation, our jobs, our government and even our churches?
Can you hear us now? I know you can.
You ask, “What can I do? How can I help?”
You can open your eyes when you see it and don’t turn away.
You can open your heart and feel it as if it were happening to you.
You can open your mouth and say something instead of remaining silent.
You can be a voice… a voice for change.
Be the voice that says, “The joke isn’t funny”.
Be the voice that says, “Your employment with this company is terminated.”
Be the voice that says, “We don’t tolerate that kind of behavior in our family.”
Be the voice that says, “No Sir… No Mam… you don’t have my vote.”
Are you in? Will you stand with us?
Let’s stand together, hand in hand, heart to heart. Let’s tear down the walls of injustice. Let’s fight back against racism. Let’s win the war on black men and black women.
Jesus once warned and proclaimed, “A thief comes only to rob, kill, and destroy. I came so everyone would have life, and have it fully.” (John 10:10 CEV)
No more robbing, killing and destroying lives. It’s time to have life and have it fully, abundantly.
Let’s stand together… one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for ALL!
My name is Andrea Oden and I am a Black Life that Matters!