The clean-up crews have swept all of the confetti from the streets. The ball has dropped and new resolutions have been made. Some people want to lose weight, others want to quit smoking, save more money or go back to school. With the dawning of a new year comes the desire for many to better their lives, their circumstances. A new year represents a new beginning, a chance to undo all of the mistakes you’ve made and start fresh with a clean slate. But for many people, old habits die hard. Within a month, most people have already forgotten their resolutions and are back to eating poorly, smoking, spending money unwisely or devoting time to things that they vowed not to.
For people in the social justice movement, the New Year brings new opportunity as well. We renew our commitment to justice – to eradicating and removing systems that keep people locked in a cycle that they have trouble breaking free from. Cycles of over-criminalization, poverty, lack of education and poor health care tear at the fibers of communities, creating stress that causes more problems. At National Action Network, we have reaffirmed our commitment to these issues and more. The next year will be more intense and more focused on creating pathways for people to achieve true equal opportunity.
Unlike some goals, when working to reform systems and eliminate barriers to equality, it doesn’t happen overnight. There is no short cut to getting there and there is just as much resistance as there is desire to change.
Those forces working in the opposite direction – whether it be people working to stop change because they want to keep things the way they are, people who want the same things, but who are distracted from the main goal by other objectives, or just the process of getting all of the things you need to affect change to line up and work together – can sometimes make progress seem like it will never come. But it is the precise reason why the goals have to remain the same.
At the end of 2014, we saw a nation’s awakening to the injustices we have been fighting against for years. We saw a diverse group of people – at times, separated by color, socio-economic status, educational background and much more – find common ground in a desire to end excessive force and brutality by police officers. This new life within the movement has made our collective voice much louder and will aid us to push the ball even further. But our commitment has to be justice.
When we allow the cacophony of voices outside the movement to distract and divert our attention, we lose sight of what we are really fighting for. At NAN that has been and will always be fighting for justice. The year 2015 will bring major anniversaries – the 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery Marches, the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act and the 60th Anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycotts. In the time since those things have happened, there has been a continued effort toward widening the doors of justice and we welcome the new year with the same goals and a renewed intensity to the fight.
Janaye Ingram is the Acting National Executive Director of National Action Network (NAN) and oversees NAN’s action agenda and legislative advocacy work under Founder and President, Rev. Al Sharpton. In this role, Ingram focuses on issues such as education, criminal justice, housing, technology, economic development and healthcare, among others.