Because Black Lives Matter

By Sonia Gipson Rankin

While on the red carpet at the Primetime Emmy Award in 2017, Issa Rae, co-creator of HBO’s critically acclaimed show Insecure, was asked whom she was rooting for to win.  She directly, elegantly, and succinctly replied, “I’m rooting for everybody Black.”  This Black History Month, I am rooting for everybody Black because Black lives matter.

Black History Month started from the seminal efforts of Dr. Carter G. Woodson who noted that Black children would excel if given a sacred time to study their heritage, history, and culture.  A set-aside time to delight in Black excellence to help them thrive through their lived experience.  What Dr. Woodson codified was the principle of Sankofa.  Sankofa is an African word from the Akan tribe in Ghana which reminds us that the past serves as a guide for planning the future.  These principles were exemplified in the work of our own New Mexico scholars, Dr. Charles Becknell, Sr., Dr. Maisha Baton, and Dr. Cortez Williams who used education to liberate.  These scholars and others have been some of the catalysts of Black excellence in New Mexico.  And an educated people is what our community needs for the change that is coming for the next generation.

The murder of George Floyd by a Minnesota police officer on May 25, 2020, sparked a massive global multicultural recognition that historic systems of inequality would no longer be allowed to stand.  

The Black quest for equity and justice has gained many new sojourners and I welcome them.  You are all encouraged to unite with me in rooting for Black people.  

I root for the Black community in New Mexico. The newly elected Black officials in our state, New Mexico Court of Appeals Judge Shammara Henderson, New Mexico State Senator Harold Pope, and Doña Ana County District Attorney Gerald Byers, are an indication that New Mexico is embracing Black excellence. I celebrate Black teachers and entrepreneurs, doctors and lawyers, artists and scientists.  They are the engines of ingenuity in our community.  I applaud Black barbers and beauticians, preachers and scholars.  They are the keepers of the Black wisdom.  I honor Black parents and caretakers.  They nurture our tomorrow and our past.  I embrace the incarcerated, the forsaken, and the forgotten. They are our promise.  

New Mexico’s Black community gives me encouragement.  We are courageous and vulnerable, grounded and visionary, learning from our yesterday to ensure a prosperous tomorrow for all.  We know who we are and whose we are.  The joy we have, the world cannot take away.  And so this Black History Month, I will continue to root for everybody Black.  I charge you to do the same.

Sonya M. Gipson Rankin, an assistant professor of law at the University of New Mexico School of Law, inaugurates DPBC’s celebration of Black History Month in today’s newsletter.  Professor Gipson Rankin is a member of the state Commission on Equity and Justice, which will study issues related to race and bias in the state’s justice system and promote diversity among judges and judicial employees.  Before joining the UNM School of Law faculty, Gipson Rankin served as the Associate Dean for Curriculum and Program Development in University College and as a Senior Lecturer in Africana Studies, both at the University of New Mexico. She regularly presents on kinship care, mass incarceration, microaggressions, gender equity, and issues related to the Black American community and has taught lessons on Black New Mexico history, the constitution, and ethics throughout Albuquerque public schools and instructed at continuing legal education programs through the New Mexico State Bar. She is a former President of the New Mexico Black Lawyers Association, and a member of the State Bar of New Mexico Committee on Diversity.