Sometime during August in the midst of televised city-wide unrest relating to another nonsensical killing of an unarmed resident by the police, this time in Missouri, i heard a sound--a phrase--that when it hit me brought to mind a pivotal scene from one of my favorite movies. When recounting her confrontation with the oppressive system of slavery that had defined her existence and brought her unrelenting physical and psychological torture for far too long, Shola the main character in the 1993 film Sankofa, remembers the encouraging words of her rebellious cohorts as they fled the plantation in a final act of defiance. Shots rang out from the weapons of plantation overseers who were giving chase and taking down the revolters one by one. Shola, who had managed to avoid the fire, heard the others call after her as they fell. "Keep on running, Sister! Keep on running!" She ran, on and on, until at last she reached freedom.
Similar words were said to have come from a slain Mike Brown during his final moments of life on a street in Ferguson, Missouri. "Keep running, Bro!" is what Brown's friend--present at the scene--recalls being the deceased's encouraging words to him as he took action to preserve his own life from bullets of a weapon fired by a local police officer.
In each of these scenarios, the sentiment--the encouragement--was meant to be taken literally. The physical act of running was the determining factor in whether a life would be saved or lost. Analyzed in a figurative sense, the command is equally if not more substantial.
The societal, economical, cultural, social, and psychological realities that lead to Shola's and Mike Brown's predicament were and are extremely relevant for many many people nationally and globally. Throughout time when there has been a struggle and/or fight for justice, freedom, or life in general among any group of people there have been those on the sidelines and those in the struggle themselves who worked to persuade the group to keep fighting, keep pushing, keep running. The process for progress is often defined by the ability to maintain stamina.
So, although these two individuals--one fictional and one not--were commanded to keep up the literal action of running, the surrounding conditions in the film and in Missouri make those words just as essential to survival than the context in which they were originally used.
This concept is applicable to our day-to-day involvements and activities as well, especially since we often face doubt and uncertainties while we're on our journeys. Holding on to the idea to keep running, pushing, striving, and doing despite adversity is essential to achievement. Our ability to remain steadfast in our persistence is certain to determine how far we go.
(Completed September 21, 2014)