I once was Janita Johnson, one of many Black kids on my block in East Pasco.
As far as I understood I was one of the boys—until Sundays that is, when everyone had to put on our best clothes for church. My sisters and I wore dresses that our beautiful grandmother handmade.
On the block we were all brothers and sisters doing our best to survive and protect each other as drugs hit the scene and stole our parents. Outside of North Beech and Owens was an entirely different world that reminded us often that we didn't matter nor belong.
Today I am Jayce Wright, a 40-year-old Black Trans-Male.
Although I always felt like one of the boys, I was taught I was a girl and was given impossible expectations from everyone everywhere.
It took me 35 years to battle all the things I had digested as truth without question or resistance. I knew what I was supposed to look like and act like and for nearly 25 years, I ignored my true self so well that I lost me.
I finally woke up and realized that not living as my true self was not living at all.
Today, not enough has changed. Black people are still being profiled, harassed, and murdered in broad daylight, by the guys in blue that swore to serve and protect us.
The current state of America is so bad that every single state and several other countries have held protests to support the Black Lives Matter Movement. Racism still exists and affects us all.
I have lived in fear my entire life for being Black. The amplification of race issues today and the complete disregard for Black lives in our country has created fear in the hearts of many.
But there is a light burning all around the world—one that is specifically bright right here in Tri-Cities
This time is different.
This time I have seen Black leaders emerge with power and magic and the wisdom to collaborate. I have seen people of all ages, races, genders, sexualities, religions, and socioeconomic statuses come together to support and protect us.
People are finally challenging themselves to take a hard look at institutional and systemic racism, and are educating themselves and each other.
Everyone can contribute to real change and the BLM Movement. With our powers and strengths combined, we can expose and eradicate the infrastructure of racism in America that has translated to lack of equality, lack of humanity, and blatant lack of respect for Black Lives.
I realize today that filtering my truths for the comfort of others was a huge disservice to myself, my family, my community, and the world.
I am special. I am beautiful in my Black skin. I am valuable and valued. I bring me. I bring love. I bring light. I build connections with and between people that remind us that we are all human and that we are stronger together.
We have to build each other up and watch out for each other. Everyone has a unique voice and role in changing the world. Celebrate our differences, remember to lead with love always, and don't forget to take care of yourself and our people.
Photo of Jayce Wright courtesy of Jayce Wright