Now that President Donald J. Trump has taken the reigns from his predecessor and made decisions that have America unglued, many American citizens are feeling unsafe, under attack and unsure of where this country is headed.
In only a week since being sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, Trump has signed a number of Executive Orders that have caused hysteria amongst many people. Instead of sitting idly by and accepting the outcomes, people have risen up to inform Trump that they are not going to comply with any of his decisions that they believe violate their basic Civil rights.
African Americans, Muslims, women, Native Americans, environmentalists and many other groups in this country have come together to send a clear message to President Trump, his new administration and all of his supporters. That message is simply:
Bowing Down Is Not An Option!
In the third chapter of the Book of Daniel, the Bible gives a vivid description of what happened in the lives of three Hebrew boys who refused to adhere to a decree that the king had established, which required them to bow down to a golden image that he had set up.
In that passage of scripture, King Nebuchadnezzar’s decree specifically demanded that each and every person under his jurisdiction had to bow down and worship that golden image as soon as they heard the sound of musical instruments, and specifically mandated that “whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.”
As the story goes, we know that the three Hebrew boys – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – had been appointed to major positions by the king, and were responsible for handling the affairs of the province of Babylon. These young men flat-out completely refused to honor the king’s decree to bow down and worship the golden image he had set up, which made the king furious.
King Nebuchadnezzar brought Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego before him and gave them an ultimatum to bow down or perish. They refused and were cast into the fiery furnace, but survived because of their faith in God and their refusal to waver in the midst of adversity.
Once the king realized that God was with them, not only did he demand they be removed from the fiery furnace, he promoted them in the province of Babylon, and also delivered another decree – a new decree that stated:
“Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.”
The story reveals that by trusting God and standing up for what is right, even when the people who are currently in control are passing laws that force you to go against what you believe is moral and right, you can stand up against them and change the situation for the better.
People are protesting, marching and getting engaged in the political process, now that many of them are being impacted. The Black Lives Matter movement took a lot of scrutiny from people because they were seeking to point out the gross miscarriage of justice that African Americans have been receiving. All Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter advocates rose up to try and counteract the Black Lives Matter movement and silence them, but they refused to stay silent.
Now, the news shows that the same resistance and vocal animosity that Black Lives Matter expressed to the nation because of their cause, has now been mimicked by others who are facing the same level of scrutiny and injustice. There is nothing new under the sun.
At the recent NNPA Mid-Winter Conference, Rev. Dr. William Barber II, who serves as the President of the NAACP North Carolina branch, challenged members of the Black Press of America to speak up, write fearlessly and shame those who would dare seek to force the Black Press to remain silent. He challenged the Black Press to continue speaking truth to power and delivering editorial content that counteracts any communication from President Trump, or his administration, that deliberately misinforms the general public, delivers “alternative facts” and paints a false picture of where we currently are, and where this country is truly headed.
“Somebody has to write from the position of crisis,” said Rev. Barber. “Somebody has to look back on the annals of history and see through our writing that there was somebody who was not in agreement with what was going on.”
The Black Press, the Black church and established Black national organizations, who have a history of championing the civil rights of Black people in America, cannot wait on the mainstream media to speak truth to power and hold this administration accountable. The Black Press, the Black church and established Black national organizations must speak truth to power, especially as injustice is being carried out in plain sight and lies are being dispersed – towards Americans who are being targeted regardless of race, gender or religion.
Since we are at the start of Black History Month, we can learn a lot about never bowing down and speaking truth to power from several historical individuals – one of those is Ida B. Wells.
Ida B. Wells was born a slave in 1862 in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Both of her parents knew how to read, so they taught her how to read at an early age. Growing up around political activists gave Wells a sense of hope about the hope and future possibilities for former slaves in American society. After both of her parents and her infant brother died unexpectedly when she was 16 years old, she had to take on the responsibility of raising her five younger brothers and sisters.
While in Memphis, Wells had become accustomed to riding the train in whatever seat she chose, but in 1883 she sued the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad because they forbade her from sitting in the ladies coach. This incident sparked Wells to write an article about the experience, which became an instant success and helped influence her to change her career to become a journalist.
Wells continued to fight against injustices all throughout the South and decided to use the power of her pen to expose the motives behind the violence against Black people.
As lynching had become one of the main strategic tools to terrorize Blacks in the South, Wells wrote about lynching and began to expose it, becoming the focal point of her crusade for justice.
When three of her male friends, who were successful businessmen, were lynched on the pretext of a crime they did not commit, Wells wrote about the situation with a clarity and forcefulness that riveted the attention of both Blacks and Whites. She advocated for both an economic boycott and a mass exodus, and traveled through the United States and England, writing and speaking about lynching and the government’s refusal to intervene to stop it. This so enraged her enemies that they burned her presses, and put a price on her head, threatening her life if she returned to the South. She remained in exile for almost forty years.
Eventually, Wells purchased partial interest in a Black newspaper, the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight (later renamed Free Speech), and became its editor. Wells did not shy away from controversy in the pages of Free Speech. A turning point in her career occurred when she wrote an article that was very critical of Memphis’s separate but not-so-equal schools. The anonymous piece described the rundown buildings and teachers who had received little more education than their students. Such revelations did not sit well with members of the local Board of Education.
Along with everyone else who had heard of Free Speech, they knew that Wells was the one who had written the article. The uproar cost Wells her teaching job.
Wells earned enough money to purchase a half-share of Free Speech and under her leadership the circulation increased from 1,500 to 4,000. Readers relied on Free Speech to tackle the most controversial subjects, even when that meant speaking out against African Americans as well as Whites. When Wells received word that her friend Tom Moss, the father of her goddaughter, had been lynched, she quickly came to the realization that lynching’s were not being used to punish criminals, but was being used to enforce White supremacy. Moss’s only crime was that he was successfully competing with a white grocer, and for this he and his partners were murdered.
In a series of deeply scathing editorials in Free Speech, she urged African Americans to boycott Memphis’s new streetcar line and move out west if possible. African-Americans listened to Wells and began leaving Memphis by the hundreds. Two pastors of large Black churches took their entire congregations to Oklahoma, and others soon followed. Those who stayed behind boycotted White businesses, creating financial hardships for commercial establishments as well as for the public transportation system. The city’s papers attempted to dissuade Blacks from leaving by reporting on the hostile American Indians and dangerous diseases awaiting them out west. To counter their claims, Wells spent three weeks traveling in Oklahoma. Upon her return she published a firsthand account of the actual conditions. Fast becoming a target for angry white men and women, she was advised by friends to ease up on her editorials. Instead, Wells decided to carry a pistol. Wells continued her advocacy work until she died in Chicago on March 25, 1931, at the age of 68. Her legacy of never bowing down lives on, however.
There is an old adage that states, “The only time people should see us on our knees is when we are praying.”
President Trump is carrying out actions that are impacting a lot of people, not just African Americans, and it is clear that other people are beginning to feel the effects of things that African Americans have been talking about and have been seeking to have addressed for centuries.
It is time for the Black Press, the Black church and established Black organizations to step up to plate, and be the leaders they have always been, especially during times when this country has historically thrown the weight of its prejudice and bigotry against African Americans, by using the all three branches of the government to harm us – Executive, Legislative and Judicial.
Bowing Down Is Not An Option!