“Keep Pounding the Pavement”: Black Lives STILL Matter

Green during protests

TVOC (via instagram)

Green during protests

Since May 31, 2020, Latora Green has stood at the corner of Sepulveda and Ventura with a poster and the will to evoke change. Rain or shine, Green stands proudly, center stage through an orchestra of crowded streets, screeching tires, the occasional car honk, and screams of “BLACK LIVES MATTER!”

Green is a founder of the 501C3 nonprofit organization called The Valley of Change (TVOC) , which has surpassed 300 consecutive days of protesting since May. Starting days after the violent death of George Floyd at the hands of police officer Derek Chauvin in Minnesota, Latora and the community have rallied on the corner right outside of the Sherman Oaks Galleria to speak out against racism and make it clear that Black Lives Matter, and they will always matter.

Green herself experienced a massive transformation in attitude and perspective since the movement began: “Before, we were just going to work, living our lives, you know, we see all the killings that were happening, the police brutality and so forth, but [now] we’re holding everyone accountable. Everybody. We’re sending in emails to city council and the mayors, we’re on the calls, we’re not taking ‘no’ for an answer. We put those people in the position, government officials, we can get them out. It’s about holding every single person accountable.”

This proactive mentality is what defines the BLM movement. Since May of 2020, it has evolved into so much more than simply a shouting match between Black Lives Matter and the opposing All Lives Matter movement. Green and others have been working to better the communities in which these consistent problems of police brutality and violence are still largely pervasive and work to demand accountability from those in power in order to counter it.

While for many, the pandemic has been a cause for gripe and grievance, Green took a different approach. “I always tell people, the pandemic is a blessing in disguise because if COVID didn’t happen, the pandemic didn’t happen, I’d still be working at my human resources job. So with COVID happening, everyone’s been out of work. We’ve had time to protest. We’ve had time to make noise.”

Many businesses and organizations have had to remain in postponement until certain COVID restrictions were lifted, but this organization and the campaign as a whole, led by Green, has not only survived in spite of the pandemic, but thrived because of it.

Using the momentum fueled by the pandemic, Green has driven the campaign to reach new levels of success. It has expanded beyond the BLM movement into influencing all aspects of community life to create systemic change. TVOC has worked to register people to vote, feed the homeless, pick up trash in the neighborhood, partner with schools, and work to elect government officials that will represent the goals of the Black Lives Matter movement and who can be held accountable for their actions.

It has been over a year since Breonna Taylor was fatally shot by police in her own home. The fact that her name, along with others such as George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, and Dijon Kizzee are still being shouted loud, goes to show how far the BLM movement and The Valley of Change have come. But, it must be remembered how far they still have to go.

These unprecedented times , dubbed by Green as “a blessing in disguise,” are being taken advantage of by other activists as well. The new power in this movement will be key to making substantive systemic change in the coming years. In their fight to abolish police brutality, these organizations mainly advocate to defund the police and reform the criminal justice system.

One major first step towards these issues was when the new LA district attorney, George Gascon, ended cash bail. Additionally, Representative Ayanna Presley and Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Ed Markey have proposed a bill to end qualified immunity for police officers, and California’s very own Representative Karen Bass introduced The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020. The progress made in just the past year is worth praising, but the work of Green and other BLM activists are just beginning.

The Black Lives Matter Movement has Seven Demands that summarize their message as a whole, including but not limited to, convicting and banning former President Trump from running for office, defunding the police, and passing the BREATHE Act (a bill sponsored by Representatives Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib that institutes a recreation of our current policing system and public safety as a whole).

However, activists participating in other organizations branching off from the BLM Movement are focusing on more than just seven demands, and are ready to hold people accountable past the dates in which these prospective bills are passed: “We need to see policy change. How do I know when the mission’s accomplished, you know?… When [we] start holding people accountable for their actions, they will know when it’s time to end the protesting of every day. There is not an end date, absolutely not,” Green explains.

Organizations branching out from Black Lives Matter, such as The Valley of Change, and other activist groups across the nation, have embarked on a journey to demand accountability from those in power, as there have been ongoing examples of police brutality and systemic racism in our communities. While the BLM Movement listed their Seven Demands, that does not mean that the fight will end if the demands are fulfilled. This will be an everlasting fight to ensure that generations to come experience equality.

Young people across the globe have been taking up the mantle, and the responsibility, to keep pushing forward on this path towards equality and making sure that these efforts outlive and outlast them. While they are not all part of the Black Lives Matter movement per se, names such as Malala Yousfzai, Greta Thunberg, and more have become household ones, showing how young people can change the world. Maybe the BLM movement and names such as George Floyd and Breonna Taylor have not been recently trending on Instagram or Tiktok, and have not been as heavily reposted over the past few months, but that does not mean that the effort’s effects have dissipated.

It has been deemed the young people in our society’s responsibility to be the backbone of these organizations, and continue to advocate for those who are not receiving justice.

There have been sizable gains in all types of activist movements throughout the globe during the year of turmoil known as 2020, and Latora Green knows that it can prosper with the help of young people: “Keep pounding the pavement… Use your voice. When something’s wrong, say something. You know, when you speak up, it’s powerful. When you’re silent, that’s violence.”

Society is undergoing crucial changes as Generation Z takes advantage of its unique circumstances in the quarantined world they live in, and demands basic rights for generations to come. There have been remarkable progress for all of these movements, including the Black Lives Matter organization. But in order to make change, it is imperative to keep pounding the pavement.