I often wonder if my ancestors would be disappointed in me. Sure, I'm confident, fearless and proud to be an African American woman. The stories I hear about black civil rights activists, abolitionists, and inventors continually adds to my esteem. Not to mention, I've had the privilege of witnessing the swearing in of the first African American President of the United States.
But I'm conflicted, because--believe it or not--I feel I may be out of touch when it comes to racial issues in America today. I know what my ancestors suffered through and fought for, but I still feel that I may need a reality check. I believe black lives matter, but I also believe blue lives matter, white lives matter, and that all lives matter. Does that make me a disgrace to my people?
I have never felt the need to use the race card, although I know I was born with a full deck. As a matter of fact, I have personally never been discriminated against due to my race. I am aware that I'm lighter skinned than most black people, but I still carry myself like a strong, black woman, all while being very much aware of the injustices that black people face every single day.
I recently read "First They Came," a poem written by German pastor Martin Niemoller:
"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."
This poem cut deep within my soul and left me with so many questions: Who will speak for you? and Do you really have to be mistreated to know mistreatment exists? It forced me to put myself in the same shoes as anyone that had ever been wronged for any reason. The poem helped me to relate and to be open to what I don't understand in all capacities. This poem is not about racism; it's so much bigger than that. It's about injustice, and injustice isn't just black or white. It affects us all.
It's hard to speak of injustice, without mentioning the life of Jesus. He spent 32 years on earth, saw all that was going on in the world--the good and the bad--yet his focus remained on love. This man healed, fed and forgave. He chose to be a leader and do what was right, to show us all the way to righteousness, to peace, to love.
The more I think about his life and his purpose, I realize that I should not feel conflicted because I've chosen to follow his lead. I choose to pursue the love in the world. I choose to pursue the peace that is in the world; the same peace that Jesus gives to us all freely, everyday.
I believe that my choice to follow the path of Jesus has prevented me from experiencing what so many deal with daily. By choosing to walk in love and forgiveness, I've been unknowingly putting on the armor of Christ. It's a small way that I'm able to be the change I wish to see in the world, and honor my ancestors. I think they'd be proud!
Leslie Pugh is a professional singer from Shelby, North Carolina. She has had the privilege of traveling the world singing with the likes of Gloria Gaynor, LaToya Jackson, Pink, Chaka Khan, The Pointer Sisters, Grace Jones and the list does not stop there. She has over twenty years of performance experience under her belt and currently travels throughout the US performing with the private party band she co-owns, Perfect 10 Band. She is married with one daughter and resides in Springfield, Virginia.