Chivona Newsome grazia
Credit: Getty Images.

I have to wear a bullet-proof vest when marching because of the death threats I’ve received from white supremacists. So when I’m on the ground, I never travel alone anymore. I can no longer just walk around, shop and take time for myself.

My hardest days were watching the video of George Floyd crying and begging for his life… and the day that we did not receive justice for Breonna Taylor. Those were very sad days for me. I cried for George Floyd. Breonna Taylor? I have no words. I turned off my phone, I posted a statement on Twitter. I shut down the day that we didn’t get a victory.

When I lost the congressional race, it was a personal defeat. I believe in my core that nothing happens for marginalised people unless there’s legislation in place.

[Editor’s note: Newsome ran for election to the US House to represent New York’s 15th Congressional District. She lost in the Democratic primary on June 23, 2020.]

You have those moments where you question yourself. You have those days where you feel defeated, but that next morning you have to dust yourself off. You have to continue to keep going… Not very much has changed since the 1960s where we had Malcolm Little and Martin Luther King Jr., but you have to believe that the world can be a better place.

You have to look at the history of policing in America to truly understand our attitude toward the police department. Police were sanctioned to collect property from men and women who looked like me and they would return them back to their plantations. So the energy around policing is that they are the frontline defenders of white supremacy and white supremacy is what creates systemic oppression. I’m a former financial advisor so things make sense to me in numbers. Data makes sense to me. Police do not prevent crime, police respond after crime. Most of the things the police are responding to involve mentally ill people who are dealing with things that should be handled by social workers. Using gun violence interrupts that.

I think we have to reimagine policing. We need to abolish the current police system and we need to think of public safety in a whole new way. It is very hard for a culture of racism to change.

I feel my most powerful… when marching. When you’re standing there – whether you have one hundred people or 5,000 people – it’s powerful. When it’s a BLM march, my co-founder, my team members and I are usually at the front. I feel like a warrior going into battle. Imagine the energy of thousands of people who feel exactly the way you do. It’s an indescribable energy. We can march for four hours, you can jump in front of tractor trailers and stop them as you’re walking over the George Washington Bridge – and you feel fearless.

I have a little tiny Ruth Bader Ginsburg doll. I strongly believe that she’s a model for what should be. When she graduated at the top of her class and then no one offered her a job, she didn’t take no for an answer. And once she opened that door, she made sure the door remained open for other women to walk through. She always spoke truth to power, even when she was out numbered. She was always on the right side of the street.

You have to ask yourself “why am I fighting?” I’m fighting so the generations that come after me will have equity, but they won’t be charged or discriminated against according to the colour of their skin.

Follow Chivona @newyorkvonni

Follow BLM Greater NY @blmgreaterny