“A riot is the language of the unheard.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Those that make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. “ — John F. Kennedy

“The child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth.”African Proverb

“What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore —
And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over —
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?”Langston Hughes

A couple years ago I was leading a discussion on racism about with a group of mostly white pastors after a screening of Marvel Studios Black Panther.

At the session’s conclusion, one pastor said “I’ll be honest with you, Julian. Killmonger makes me afraid.”

For those that haven’t seen the movie, Erik Killmonger is Black Panther’s relative who re-emerges after being orphaned and abandoned by his family. Though cast as a villain, his rage is fueled by the searing pain of his own broken heart. He dedicates his life to bringing vengeance on a world that took from him everything he ever loved.

Killmonger doesn’t scare me very much.

Because Erik Killmonger is me.

The first time I realized that I was Erik was in the 1st grade at Nicholas Elementary School in Sacramento, California.

I was being bullied by a big kid named Joe.

With flaming red hair, orange freckles and a bulldog-esque snarl tucked behind a snaggle tooth grill he was a bully straight out of Central Casting.

He terrorized everyone, and no one dared challenge him.

He was the unquestioned powerhouse of the playground. He would mock my small stature, my hand-me-down clothes and my chipmunk like cheeks.

He was the bully. I was the bullied.

Joe was big, strong, and tough.

I was little, weak and extremely scared.

So I accepted life’s lot and tried my best to stay out of his way.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

I got my love for movies from my Dad.

Flight of the Navigator, Raiders of the Lost Ark, War Games, James Bond, Bruce Lee, The Last Dragon, Batman, the Karate Kid, and so many others. Inspired by a Western, one day he brought home brown leather boots with elaborate stitching and extra thick soles for me to wear.

I can’t say I liked them but Dad did, so that was that. Though great for the Wild West, they were terrible for running, jumping, and playing.

In my attempt to do so, I scuffed them up pretty bad.

Dad wasn’t pleased.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

It was morning.

There was dew on the grass and the sun peeked through the early day clouds. I carried my Charlie Brown lunch box, a few books and a GoBot toy as I walked to school. As I strolled past the school gate, my heart sank.

My cloggy brown boots shook.

It was Joe.

He stomped toward me with a mean kid named Richard who was riding a bike.


I pretended I didn’t hear.

“Julian! Get your butt over here!”

I didn’t move.

If I went to him, he would punch my face off. If I ran away, he would tackle me before the pummeling.

I was frozen with fear.

Then all the sudden, Joe charged like a brahma bull.

Still as a statue I stood.

A split second before he made contact, I dropped Charlie Brown and stepped sideways with my hands straight out. Maybe I was trying to blunt the impact, protect myself, or maybe a combination of the two. But as I moved right, Big Joe kept moving forward. His mometum carried him forward, and he lost his balance.

I guided/pushed him down, face first into the wet grass.

Then it happened.

As he tried to get up and attack me again, I discovered what big cowboy boots did best.

Bully kicking.

I kicked him in the stomach.


Joe won’t push me anymore.

I kicked him in the chest.


Joe won’t laugh at me anymore.

I kicked in the arm.


Joe won’t scare me anymore.

I kicked him in the shoulder.


Joe won’t take from me anymore.

I kicked him in the groin.


Joe won’t ever make me feel small again.

I kicked him on the side of the face.


Joe turned red and burst into tears.

The cowboy boots stopped booting.

The bully whimpered quietly while the short chipmunk cheeked brown boy towered over him.

In a rush, Joe jumped up and wailed while he ran.


Rich slowly rode toward me on his bike shouting the decision like a grade school Micheal Buffer.

Fresh from my TKO victory, I flexed my spaghetti arms and feinted like he was next.

Rich let out a yell and pedaled away.

What. Just. Happened.

Standing alone, breathing hard, adrenaline pumped through my veins at a million gallons an hour as I tried to make sense of the last 120 seconds.

What. Just. Happened.

I was shocked.

I had never done anything like that before.

What. Just. Happened.

It was like Peter Parker leaping over a box truck, climbing up the side of a building or beating up Flash Thompson while discovering his newfound spider abilities.

Who was this short little kid with the super powers?

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

Something broke that day.

The dam inside me gave way and every sob, tear, drop of shame, pain, fear and anger came rushing out of me that morning before class.

This cowboy boot wearing little boy bullied the bully and sent him running.

But what happens when you been bullied for weeks?


For years?

For centuries?

What if you were kidnapped and forced to work without relief for those that stole you?

What if your town was burned to the ground simply because you were making something of yourself?

What if you fought for a country that asked for your help when they needed you, but were lynched when you needed them?

What if they bombed your place of worship?

Killed you while you prayed?

What if they assassinated your icons and disrespected the first President that looked like you in 232 years?

What if they bloodied you on the Lord’s Day when you tried to assert your humanity?

What if they blocked you from educating yourself, and you were told that you were ugly?

What if they told you that they looked like God, and people like you were cursed to be slaves?

What if they created an entire scientific category to prove that you were subhuman?

What if they locked you into a cycle of poverty, while creating a clear path to their own enrichment?

What if they wanted you to entertain them, but they wouldn’t let you make eye contact with them while you did?

What if they made your children zoo animals?

What if they devalued the land simply because you lived on it?

What if their government leaders stoked the fires of racial hate toward you while pretending that they weren’t?

What if you quietly resisted these injustices and they made you the enemy?

What if they said you disrespected the flag but were silent when the flag disrespected you?

What if you needed a law passed so you could wear your hair the way it naturally grew out of your head at work?

What if you watched countless people that looked like you murdered and harassed while unarmed or posing zero threat?

What if one of those murders lasted 8:46 and it was captured on video?

What if this was just weeks after watching a black jogger in Georgia shot in broad daylight?

What if that was right after a story about a black woman being shot in her own apartment?

What if the country you’ve tried to call home has had its knee on your neck for 400 years?

What if they loved your culture but hated the people in which the culture came?

What if you were expected to love an America that didn’t love you back?

What if America ravaged your history, your ancestors, your family, your legacy?

What if America broke your heart?

What if you had no more tears to cry?

What if the sadness left and rage took it’s place?

What would you think? How would you feel? What would you do?

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

The deferred dream that so many have been waiting for became a nightmare on May 25th, in Minneapolis, Minnesota with the murder of George Floyd.

The latest hashtag broke the dam and centuries of pain flooded American cities. Communities all over the country have burned and and are filled with ashes. Law abiding justice seekers have been persecuted, arrested, and taken away by those that were sworn to be their protectors. Helicopters with search lights hunted American protestors in a nation historically founded in protest.

All the while a President posed with a sacred book, in front of a sacred space, while tear gassing those he was elected to lead.

The irony of being black in this country is this hybrid identity that you embody.

Though called “African-American,” it doesn’t really tell your story. You aren’t African, and you aren’t truly American.

Weirdly bi-racial and racially lost at the same time.

So you live this personal paradox, culturally homeless and regularly reminded of your transient race status.

It happened to me yesterday.

Someone sent me a meme that had a picture of Dr. Martin Luther King marching arm with other marchers with the words, “Never burned one building, never robbed one store, never destroyed one town. Changed the World.”

They asked me what I thought about it. I knew what they were getting at, but I engaged anyway.

I said that I thought it was incomplete.

I would add that the people that he was standing against burned buildings, lynched black bodies, destroyed families, looted communities, and robbed black people for generations their human worth and diginity. And they killed him too. Black people have had it with being treated like subhumans for 400 years.”

Then I said it.

“America was never designed for non-white people.”

Then the Someone went off on me.

Telling me that I wrong, how I was rude, and how I should go back to Africa if I didn’t like it in so many words.

Then they “blocked” me (as if I was asking them questions!).

I didn’t have the chance to prove my point by saying that 75% of America’s Founding Fathers owned slaves, and Indigenous Americans were called savages in the Declaration of Independence.

I didn’t have the chance to say that the seventh President of the United States, Andrew Jackson based his political platform on the extermination of indigenous peoples and the “Trail of Tears” happened as a result of his leadership.

I didn’t get to tell them that the 3rd President Thomas Jefferson wrote his racist ideas in a book and fathered children by an enslaved woman named Sally Hemings.

I didn’t get the opportunity to discuss President Abraham’s troubling thoughts on race that contradict nearly everything our school books teach us about him.

I wasn’t able to talk about how America has a monument to Confederate Civil War Leaders bigger than Mount Rushmore.

That the American Woman suffrage movement didn’t include black women.

At the genesis of America, we were already in complete violation of our professed American ideals.

But me not proving my historical point wasn’t the biggest issue.

The thing that gets me is the crazy contradiction of the commonly used “Go back to Africa” edict.

The statement actually makes my argument.

If the “house” of America truly was for all of us, and my name was on the “deed” as an American, how could I be evicted out of my own house?

The eviction threat communicates that my rights and privileges are conditional based on the conditions in which the owner(s) deem appropriate.

It could only be possible if I was guest or a renter in America’s house.

The underlying idealogy is that I’m not a true American and I don’t really belong.

Like so many before me I’m a Lost Boy of America, a grown-up kid without country, another scarred refugee of racism.

But just like that little boy at Nicholas Elementary School, I ain’t getting bullied anymore.

Fury rises in me like a flood, anger shakes my soul, and sadness weakens my knees.

I am tempted to quit. To throw up my hands and abandon the cause.

A friend messaged me after I expressed the difficulty of this latest day of darkness and despair:

“Yes, I get that. But our parents faced this. We will continue to stand.”

My friend was right. I will not run.

I will continue to stand.

Like my ancestors did.

I WILL STAND by writing flaming words mixed with hope that challenge the status quo and point to the vision that Dr. King saw from the mountaintop.

I WILL STAND by speaking with boldness calling America out on her injustice with the clarity and the conviction like Brother Malcom did.

I WILL STAND by living bravely and loving my neighbor/stranger with the bravery in which Dietrich stood for Jews in Nazi Germany.

I WILL STAND by resisting racism in all of it’s ugly forms, fighting, guiding and instructing like Rosa and Claudette.

I WILL STAND by creating a legacy of financial opportunity, and financial responsibility for my children like Madam Walker and Mr. Amos did many years ago.

I WILL STAND by being an artistic trailblazer that inspires, provokes, and confounds like Oscar Micheaux did in his day.

I WILL STAND by being a great father to my daughters, giving my best like Kunte Kinte did in Alex Haley’s Roots.

I WILL STAND by following a poor brown skinned working class Nazarene from an urban community that showed that love can truly change the world.

With hearts that are breaking and fists wrenched into a furious clench, let’s use our anger to build something better on the ashes of what used to be.

I pray that we may in our life, inspire change like George Floyd did in his death.

We bless your memory, Mr. Floyd.

Your death will not be in vain in our generation.

We won’t stop. We won’t be silent. We won’t lose faith. We won’t quit.

Though there are some in places and positions of leadership have neglected their responsibilities choosing to hurt rather than heal, we commit to courageous compassion.

We will run with the baton of justice until our race has come to its conclusion.

We run for love. We run for hope. We run for family. We run for future’s children.

And when the annals of history tell our story, they will remember this:

We stood.

We seized our moment.

The revolution starts with us.

Let us go and change the world.

Used with permission. Originally posted at medium.com.

Julian Newman

Julian Newman is a church planter, artist and founder and CEO of Culture Creative, a nationally recognized certified diversity and inclusion thought leader based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. As a cultural intelligence strategist, author and motivational speaker, Julian has spoken to more than 100,000 people nationally and internationally during the past 20 years. Julian has a unique gift of bringing people of diverse backgrounds together to find common ground and become more beautiful together. Julian speaks on behalf of the National Diversity Council and serves as an advisor to the Disruptive Technologists Think Tank. He has published writings with various media outlets, including Relevant Magazine, and will be releasing a series of books and cultural intelligence reports in 2020. Learn more about Julian Newman and his agency at www.culturecreative.tv.