BENTON HARBOR — Ti’Era Wallace of Benton Harbor said she recently became politically active because she wants a better world for her Black sons, ages 3 months and 2 years.
“I was sitting there and I was way too comfortable watching my Black men being killed by police,” she said. “I have to be able to look at my kids and say – you are a Black king and you are worthy of everything you put your mind to. And to be able to show them that I wasn’t silent. That I stood up and fought for you guys because you are worth fighting for.”
So she started the Facebook page, Voice4BlackLives, and helped organize the June 13 protest march between St. Joseph and Benton Harbor calling for an end to systemic racism and police brutality.
“It’s not OK to be comfortable right now,” said Wallace, 27, a former medical assistant who is going back to school to specialize in skin care. “We’ve got to get uncomfortable in order to make a new comfortable where everybody is safe.”
She said that future events that she plans will be posted on her Facebook page.
Wallace talked with Staff Writer Louise Wrege recently about why she became politically active.
What inspired you?
I need to be out here using my voice for my sons. They’re both Black males – my kings. I have to do it for them if nothing else. To have that fear as a mom to know that your Black sons aren’t safe in this world, how can you just sit and be quiet about that? I have to get up and say something.
A lot of my generation is out here doing what needs to be done. I feel like I need to step up.
Do you feel like you made a difference?
I feel like I’ve made a little bit of a difference. There’s way more that we can do as a community. It was awesome seeing a visual of us coming together and to know that we’re not alone. There were many different kinds of people out there. It was eye opening and heartwarming. It was just awesome. I loved seeing everybody get together. I definitely feel like it made a mind shift change for people. For people to see that they’re not alone. For them to know that there are people like me who believe in the same thing. There’s people who aren’t like me who believe the same thing – that Black lives matter.
In the marches I’ve covered since the death of George Floyd, it looks like more white people are marching than Black people. Why is that?
We have to realize that we fought for a long time. After you’ve fought for so long, you kind of get tired and uninspired when nothing changes. It’s easy to lose faith and not want to show up to events because you feel like it’s for nothing.
The white community, I feel like, is now being woke up to everything that is going on. We’ve already been awake because we’re living it. The white community is waking up now and standing beside us. I feel like we can’t keep quiet. We have to keep going. It’ll even out and everybody who is for the cause will show up.
When I’m talking with a lot of my white friends, some people just don’t know what to say. They don’t know what to do. But they feel the pain, and they want to stand up.
I was talking with a white business owner in St. Joseph and she was asking me different questions and you could tell she was a little bit nervous. She was scared to ask her questions because everybody’s on edge right now and she didn’t know what to say or how to say it. I told her to go ahead and speak openly and ask your questions that you need to ask and let’s just talk.
We sat and we talked and it was awesome. It was awesome to sit and connect with people who are different from me and get their point a view and tell them my point of view and have the conversation.
It’s OK to ask questions. It’s OK to ask for clarification. Because if we don’t have clarification of what both sides and all sides need, then we’re still going around in the circle that All Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter and the Blue Lives Matter.
At the end of the day, it should be All Lives Matter, but right now, it can’t be.
I’m a strong believer that All Lives Matter. We’re all God’s children. We are all here to serve a purpose. But right now, our Black lives are being killed. We have injustices in our court system. Just living every day. It kind of frustrates me when people water it down to say All Lives Matter. It’s kind of a slap on the face and saying that yeah, Black Lives Matter, but hush, hush, we’re going to throw a blanket over this and say All Lives Matter.
And there’s some people who don’t know they’re doing it in a negative way. They’re not trying to be negative, but they are. They’re trying to water down the fact that there’s a community that’s in trouble right now. We need to be lifted up. We need a shoulder to lean on right now. And to throw that in our face, it sucks.
Do you have an analogy that helps illustrate why Black Lives Matter is important at this time?
I like the one in the Bible where there’s a farmer who had sheep and one of the sheep ran off. He had to stop everything and find that one sheep and leave the rest for a minute. But that doesn’t mean that all sheep don’t matter. They do, but right now we’re focusing on that one sheep that’s in danger.
What is the next step?
Voting is our next step. We can protest all we want to, but if we don’t have the legislation pushed through that we need to push through, we won’t be able to change anything.
We can’t let the energy fade away. We have to keep being active. We have to keep pushing. We can’t let our light dim because if we let our light dim, that means that they win. We have to keep fighting for our country.
What needs to change?
There needs to be a shift in the Berrien County Courthouse. Just in police in general all over the nation. One of my biggest concerns is police brutality. The people who are supposed to be protecting us are taking advantage of the power that they have and using it for their own negative motive. All police aren’t bad.
I want to get together representatives from all generations and sit down and figure out what we need to do and how we need to make change. We need to know what we’re asking for before we take a strong stance on an issue. We need to have solutions to the problem.
I, personally, want them to re-evaluate how they are training the police. Because if they do something and it kills someone and that’s the way they were trained, then there’s a problem. We also need to change that difference between living in St. Joe and Benton Harbor. I really want a level ground, because we’ve fought for so long and we’re still fighting and it’s like we get nowhere.
It’s sad that we have to worry about what we’re wearing and how we walk and how we talk. It’s crazy that we have to be so self conscious of everything when we’re just walking to the store or we’re just driving our car or in the store standing in line. It’s draining. It shouldn’t be this hard to live in this world as a Black American.
We can’t be quiet anymore. We have to make sure that we’re using our voices in the right way to make sure that our voices are being heard. People try to water it down and make it seem like we’re angry Black people. We are angry, but we have a right to be angry.