In 1896, Ida B. Wells, the African American crusader for justice and defender of democracy, said these words, “One had better die fighting against injustice than die like a dog or a rat in a trap.” Her proclamation was a rallying cry for the nation to stand up against lynching and the right of Black men and women to live and move freely with white vigilante groups desecrating and torturing our bodies. When Ida B. Wells stood up, she set in motion a resistance movement where many Americans broke their silence against lynching and said NO. She stood for a race of people bereft of political power or resources. More than 100 years later Gray-Haired Witnesses, Black women with a new Freedom Movement calling on this nation, stand in the spirit of those proud men and women who won hard-fought for victories in struggle and blood. Thousands of ordinary Black people joined with thousands of people of all races to stand with courage to fight for the rights and liberties that are inherent in the Constitution. On the other hand, other people worked relentlessly to move the nation backwards by building an America where only one race and their freedom and bodies mattered. Truth be told, people of color have always lived under the weight of a lockdown society that use laws, torture, and incarceration to attempt to hold us in our places. Like Ida Wells Barnett, we did not back down despite economic, political and social reprisals.
We stand on this history today. We stand before you as Gray-Haired Witnesses asking freedom-loving people of all colors who believe in the dream of Ida B. Wells, of a just, safe and open America for all peoples regardless of our different social locations to break the veil of silence and stand strong in a renewed spirit of moral consciousness for this country. The greatest asset we have is our body, mind and spirit and our willingness to step out of the daily flow of life and stand tall for what is right and just. The jagged tears in the social and cultural infrastructure of Black and poor communities and families are unconscionable and unacceptable to us. We come ready to repair them. In the tradition of race women throughout history and our survival, we declare our presence and we will not be silent and we are not afraid.
We call on our Sisters, our Brothers to join with us to demand what is right. We must speak loudly and clearly to the devaluation of Black women's bodies and lives. We want people of all colors to wage a struggle and stand with us on these issues because none of us are free until we are all free.