by Kody Cross

This speech was delivered on June 25 at an Akron Minority Council rally. Kody has shared the text of his speech with us so that we can publish it. Find Akron Minority Council President Bree Chambers’s speech from the same event here, and Vice President Rianne Helms’s speech here.

Good Evening Everyone!  I am Kody Cross, the Public Relations Executive and co-founder of the Akron Minority Council. I would first like to thank everyone for showing up today so that our voices may be heard, and I would like to show gratitude to everyone who has worked so hard the last few weeks to make this happen. I could not have asked for better partners in the AMC leadership. We have so many passionate people, of every generation, who helped with planning and preparation, and that commitment has given me hope. I’d also like to shout out the safety team, they will be ensuring our wellbeing throughout the event, thank you volunteers.

That being said, I am angry (emphasize each word) . I am angry and I am grieving, grieving the loss of countless people of color, at the hands of oppressive government systems and violent police tactics. This violence is not new, it has been embedded in every American system of power for 401 years since slaves were forcibly brought here to build its infrastructure and economy. Even 401 years is not an entirely accurate time span to mark the devastation of American government oppression of communities and civilizations of color. I am scared! (emphasize each word) Not only for myself, but for my loved ones. My friends and family, who are denied the basic liberty, dignity and equality they’re entitled to as humans and citizens of the United States. Harassed by authorities due to discriminatory assumptions and denied opportunities they’re overqualified for because their skin is a couple shades too dark.

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For as long as I could remember, I’ve had this voice. Some criticize me for being too loud, (brief pause)some criticize me for talking too much. But this voice is a gift and it has a purpose. I am here to speak and represent those who are too often left unheard and unrepresented. I am here to speak for those whose lives have tragically been ended too soon, not because of what they did but because of who they were. I have a commitment to my people and to my community. 

The fact of the matter is in America we, people of color, are targets. We aren’t targets because of specific actions we are not targets because we are criminals, we are not targets because we are stupid or less than , we’re not targets because we are uncivilized. Those are all prejudices pushed up on us. We are targets because our society and its power structure benefits politically and economically from our subjugation. There is one race, the human race. But sadly, we are discriminated against on the basis of color. That’s not right!

We are all human, the same , inside and out, no matter our  color. But the sad truth is, that in this country,we are seen and treated differently than our white peers. Whether we are denied equal housing, equal employment, equal pay, or equal education, we are treated differently, lesser than. We are disproportionately targeted by the police, and we are more likely to be killed even when unarmed. You have those in our society, in our community,  who say that there is  not an issue of racial discrimination . You have those that say George Floyd’s murder was not centered in the issues of racial discrimination , but the truth, our reality  is centered on racial discrimination George Floyd and Brianna Taylor, Ahmaud Aubery, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner,Trayvon Martin and countless others have fallen victim to a racist and oppressive society. 

When we kneel in silent protest, they get mad. When we put our fists up in solidarity, they get mad. When we chant, they get mad. Well, I’m sorry to break this news , but we aren’t stopping anytime soon. If any of our brothers and sisters are taken from this Earth before their time, simply because of the color of their skin, we won’t stay quiet. We won’t be silent. We won’t go along to get along. . 

But what we will do, is we will vote. Come November, we will go to the polls and we will vote. And this election is not just about Donald Trump. He is  not the real issue. He is the latest distraction. Donald Trump is a symptom of corruption, greed and inequality that has infected America. The real issue is the influence of money and lobbying in politics. The issue is the devastatingly low voter turnout especially in local and state elections. The issue is, the under representation of minorities in leadership positions. The issue is corporate greed and predatory practices. The issue is militarized police departments and underfunded city schools. The issue is, mass incarceration. The issue is, the lack of adequate healthcare coverage in this nation. The issue is, the absence of a living wage. Don’t just vote for President, vote for a legislature that can enact changes and represent your voice. Vote for state representatives and state issues Vote for local representatives and local issues, those affect you most directly., Elections aren’t every four years, they happen every single year.

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Don’t let them drag us down. Don’t let them make us feel defeated. Utilize your energy and your anger, and push on to a better future! A future where we all are given an equal opportunity, an equal chance. A future which is bright and beautiful for each and every one of us.

To quote the late reverend, Martin Luther King

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live – a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

Thank you everyone! Stay proud and be loud! When I say “Black lives” you say “matter”. Black lives….matter! Black lives….matter!”

Kody Cross is the Public Relations Executive and co-founder of the Akron Minority Council.

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