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Hopeless in D.C.

In my work, I was able to curate a 2 day tour experience of Native American and African American History with 22 detectives, attorneys, anthropologists, genealogists, and community partners. It was an intense itinerary, but I know most of them got so much out of it. As I am wrapping up our final training day here in the U.S. capital, I wanted to share a few things with you all as I am also telling myself:

1. For those of us who are fighting daily for equality, land back, justice, peace, freedom of expression and choice, etc, there are deep moments of despair, revelation, and hopelessness that I know we all experience, and may not always have the courage to admit to. Every single SMALL piece we have to contribute, fits into our bigger picture of resistance and existence. Without you, there is a hole in the picture of history. The work we do matters. YOU matter. Keep fighting.

2. We may not always understand HOW much of what we have to contribute fits into the bigger picture of this life. Contribute with your best INFORMED intentions anyway. I play a small role in managing the Emmett Till Cold Case Prosecution Program, and I reflect on the years I spent trying to “create impact” and trying to “ignite change”, and they have all led me to this very moment. Sometimes we are not seeing the bigger picture because of our perspective or proximity, CHANGE your position. Your gifts will make room for you. Remember YOU are the gift.

3. This is my 4th experience at the National Museum of African American History and Culture and I walked away this time feeling, hopeless? I understand they strategically designed the top of the museum to make us feel good about our progress. For example that we have Black billionaires and a Black president- that's great but that is individualism and not collectivism. I shared that I felt HOPELESS because now I know, I see, and I experience the truth of this reality for what it is in real-life today.

Today, as we aid Israel in a genocide. Today, as students camp out on the grounds of the prestigious Ivy Leagues where they claim to educate the best intellects of our time, yet want to silence their voices. Today, I asked myself, “Do my contributions even matter? Does my life and this career matter? Is this my calling? Will I need to write a book so that people will remember me?” We had an exercise with our group to close us out, where I “randomly” chose a rock that said, “HOPE”. I laughed out loud because God is so funny like that . My husband reminded me, HOPE is also the name I gave a hummingbird that visited me every morning in the backyard while I was mourning our mom. HOPE is also in the scripture Jeremiah 29:11, which I also have tattooed on my arm.

This article was shared with me, about a cold case of a 12 year old Black boy who was lynched in Houston in 1973. The Detective who opened this case under the Emmett Till grant is a Black woman, who we actually have here in DC with me right now. I am honored to know her and to be restored with a NEW sense of HOPE— to be able to resist and exist another day, and to play a small role in this work of reconciliation and HOPE.

I am honored and LOVE the work that I get to do.

Roicia Banks Stewart

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