State of emergency: ‘Dear Culture’ podcast talks with activist Tamika Mallory”

“We’ve compromised for far too long,” said Dear Culture guest Mallory

A lot has happened in the year since the death of George Floyd and as people across the globe grappled with the heartbreaking video of his murder, a prominent voice in the movement for Black justice and equality grew even louder and articulated what so many Black Americans felt in that moment.

Now, activist Tamika Mallory is talking about her experiences as an activist and organizer, and carving out a path to liberation in her new book, State of Emergency: How to Win in The Country We Built. Mallory joined Dear Culture hosts, theGrio‘s Social Media Director Shana Pinnock and Managing Editor Gerren Keith Gaynor, this week to ask: Dear Culture, how do we win in the country we built? 

Our hosts kicked off the show by recalling some of their immediate reactions after learning of Floyd’s death and seeing the video for the first time. Gaynor said for him, the fact that incident happened during the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when so many Black Americans were being disproportionately affected by and dying from the disease, made the video even more painful and shocking.

“Here we see a moment of celebration, especially for Black people, on Memorial Day and we see a white police officer with a knee on his (Floyd’s) neck for over nine minutes,” said Gaynor. “Saying that even now, I get goosebumps because it was like he treated him like an animal.”

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George Floyd mural (Credit: The George Floyd Community Benevolence Fund)

Pinnock says it took several months before she was able to watch the video in its entirety. 

“I just remember feeling so angry all over again,” said Pinnock. “The crazy thing is, is that impactful as that video was, we all knew that there would be someone else just like him.”

The fight for justice is, as we’ve seen and experienced, long and arduous, which is all the more reason that Mallory says that in order to win in the country we’ve built, it’s imperative to recognize and acknowledge how far we’ve come. 

“We can often feel like we’re not making progress or we’re not getting further and I think we should always look back on from where we have come, and remember that the only way we’ve ever won is to fight,” said Mallory.

She added that the fight for justice is cultural, as well as political, which is part of why she called on iconic political activist and author Angela Davis and rap superstar Cardi B to pen the foreword. 

“This is not new,” said Mallory, citing connections between Al Sharpton and James Brown, as well as Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali

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“There’s always been a relationship between our leaders and our entertainers. The entertainers are sometimes able to translate a message to the masses that sometimes the leaders are not able to do,” Mallory continued.

The activist said part of why she asked the women to be in dialogue with one another for the foreword is because she recognizes herself in both women. 

“When I think about Dr. Davis and Cardi B, I feel like that’s me and most of the Black women that I know, not all but most, occupy that cross section as well,” said Mallory.

As the struggle for justice continues, Mallory says it’s going to take activists of all kinds making a difference and calling for change from wherever they are.

“We ought to be focusing on coming together and using the full power of the activist body to push from different points and not doing everything the same way because that, to me , is not what activism means,” said Mallory. 

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