HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — Many people across the country have been having renewed conversations about race and how we can create a more equitable society. Today, WAVY-TV is also encouraging a healthy dialogue about the issues facing our communities.
We’re calling it Courageous Conversations. We begin with a local spoken word artist known for not holding back. We hope you’ll have an open mind as we go beyond a short soundbite and get to the root of protests and unrest.
In a three-minute deep dive into the soul of a black man confronting the issues of today, Keion McDaniels makes one thing abundantly clear: You don’t arrive at this level of frustration or unrest from one event.
“George Floyd’s death came after Ahmaud Arbery,” said McDaniels. “And then Amy Cooper in the park and then we saw George Floyd get his neck kneeled on for 9 minutes. That weighed a little too much for me.”
It was also too much for thousands of others around the world, who took to the streets. We talked to McDaniels about his piece entitled “Domestic Tranquility.” In his own words, in his own way, he gives people a glimpse into the struggle to remain strong when it feels like the weight of the world is like a knee on your neck.
“It took a while to even process it because you’re thinking of the idea of another one,” said McDaniels. “The fact that he said ‘I can’t breathe’ and people are wearing ‘I can’t breathe T-shirts from the last person who said that.”
Many are still mourning the loss of those before him. In the poem, McDaniels mentions Caroline Bryant Dunham, who accused Emmett Till of whistling at her — resulting in his death and mutilation that his mother chose for the world to see in an open casket so they could recognize what had been done.
There was never a conviction for his murder.
McDaniels references Susan Smith, who in the 1990s murdered her children. She drove them into water but initially said her vehicle had been carjacked by a black man. And McDaniels speaks of Amy Cooper, who just recently in Central Park — ironically the same place where the story of “The Central Park Five” just recently vindicated all began — told police she was being attacked by a black man when really he had just asked her to leash her dog.
“I wanted to incorporate other things that have happened in recent history or in history in general to weave that thread through the situation to let people know that this isn’t just about an isolated incident that occurred,” said McDaniels. “This is something that’s been building, and these are the many angles we’ve been feeling it from, and this is why you’re getting the reaction you’re getting.”
And McDaniels takes time to explore a frequently asked question during protests, “What about black-on-black crime?” He says calling out these things isn’t negating the fact that there are also issues within the black community, but that the marches and our conversation are about calling out the disparity in treatment.
“Once you have the courageous conversation you can establish a baseline of truth and from there we can get to reconciliation,” he said.
It starts with uncomfortable truths finally being heard and received.
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