As a girl, I remember watching episodes of A Different World, with a sort of intrigue, as the students protested for the freedom of a man called Mandela. The culture of the 90’s was very much pro-active: rallies, protests, boycotts, and the affirmation that Black was indeed beautiful, were messages that resonated with me, even as I lived a relatively peaceful life in White suburbia.
It wasn’t until I graduated college that I actually purchased the manmouth autobiography of Nelson Mandela. I had only recently become acquainted with Fela Kuti, the Nigerian musician and freedom fighter, so I figured that I needed to know who, exactly this Mandela was. I remember spending hours and days, locked in my room reading the book, cover to cover, with Fela’s “Odoo” playing on repeat in the background. His story was so riveting, and challenged many of my preconceived notions of freedom. For the first time, I really began to question the role of police, and that laws that govern society.
In the book Nelson poses the Latin phrase “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” and to this day, I ask myself, who will police the police? While we watch while our brothers being attacked under the guise of law – from Amadou Diallo to Trayvon Martin – it’s important that we don’t simply join a few rallies, post a few Instagrams, and wear a fashion statement to be in the cut. To say we participated is simply not enough. We have to ask the hard questions, make positive provocations for our peers, and most importantly take real action in our physical lives to make change happen.