My experience at a Black Lives Matter protest

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Photo provided by Fozia Ofleh

Senior Yasmeen Ofleh and junior Ashton Brown attend a BLM protest over the summer.

Yasmeen Ofleh, Reporter

I hooked arms with my best friend and someone I had never met before as we formed a barricade against the police officers trying to push us away from the area. My heart jumped into my throat as I felt the officer’s baton push against my stomach. 

I feared for my life, knowing that at any moment things could become violent. Then I heard chants of “Black Lives Matter” coming from the crowd nearby, and I felt the emotional strength of all the black people there with me. I felt at peace, and I knew this was where I was meant to be. 

The protest I attended was a life-changing experience for me. After learning about the death of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, I was devastated. I began to feel extremely disconnected from my non-black friends because of the constant disregard for black life in America. I felt it was unfair, knowing that they didn’t have to experience what I was going through. I knew that there had to be some way to feel closer to the black community, so when I learned that there was a protest in Houston, I was determined to attend. 

The night before the event I had trouble sleeping. My mind kept imagining dangerous situations that could happen to me while I was there, and I felt anxious. I knew that I would be taking a risk by attending and that if I was killed at the hands of those officers, I would be in the same situation as Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland and all of the other black people who had their lives wrongfully taken. I don’t think that a teen should ever have to worry about their lives in front of those who are meant to protect them, but I do. I know that many of my black friends and family members feel the same way.  

Throughout my life, I’ve had to carry the burden of activism. I’ve always been the one to call people out when they’ve said anti-black slurs. I didn’t realize the toll this took on my mental health. I internalized these hurtful phrases that were told directly to me or about my race. and it caused a lot of disillusionment in how I viewed myself. 

The stress that comes with constantly advocating for what is right is something that isn’t talked about enough. According to his autopsy, when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated at the age of 39, he had the heart of a 60 year old due to the stress he endured during his career. This crosses my mind often, especially when I see new information regarding police brutality and anti-blackness on social media or other news sites. I always feel helpless and I know that the tightness I feel in my chest is the constant stream of painful news negatively impacting me. 

When I attended the protest that occurred on June 2, I finally felt like I was able to share the emotional turmoil I felt with everyone else there. I was able to feel a connection that I hadn’t had for months due to Covid-19 and quarantine. 

I cried, knowing that I had 60,000 protesters there with me marching in support of the movement. Knowing that they were marching in support of my life. Knowing that the black people walking around me carried the same burden that I felt I had always carried by myself. I went into the event feeling apprehensive and nervous, but I left with a sense of empowerment and hope for the future.