An advertisement for a trip to Hawaii in 2022

The sign in my front yard is compliments of a person whose name I do not know, who lives several miles from my neighborhood and who had a stack of them in her front yard for free.

I saw the signs while out jogging, and so still grimy in sweat from my run, I drove back to retrieve one and promptly planted it in our front yard.

Our Homeowners’ Association has tight rules about yard signage – none are allowed – but on this one I was granted a pass. Soon, other neighbors called and wanted to know where they could get a sign.

Black lives matter; it is not a political statement, although it is certainly politicized. It is not a racist statement, although it is certainly racialized.

I have the sign because it is true. Black lives matter.

Some continue to argue, “all lives matter.” At the risk of stating the obvious, but apparently it is still not understood, of course, all lives matter.

Life matters, which means Black lives matter too. For too long, Black lives have not mattered for many of us.

I know this because I know history. I know this because I can read the newspaper. I know this because I have colleagues, friends and students who have felt the brunt of not mattering.

I am complicit in this accusation. Through apathy, indifference and denial I have conveyed the message that Black lives do not matter.

I have written elsewhere about how some of us (particularly white people) stand when we should take a knee, take a knee when we should stand, and step up when we should step aside. That is me.

I grew up just a few years after public schools were integrated.

My county was small, mostly rural, and with only one public elementary, middle and high school.

My classmates and I spent the better part of 12 years together and then, like most graduates, we were scattered like the duff of a dandelion.

Some graduates stayed home, a few went to college and others simply disappeared. Roughly half of the school was African American. It has been decades since I have talked to or seen any of my classmates.

What message did I convey way back then? Did Black lives matter to me? What did I say? What did I not say? What should I have said? I am not sure if they heard from me, clearly, Black lives are beloved. Black lives are important. Black lives are a gift. Black lives are beautiful. Black lives matter.

I do not know what sermons my children have remembered or forgotten. There are some words and actions I hope they treasure, but there are a few I pray they forget.

Knowing that Black lives matter is a message that can save the world, as well as our souls.

I have a simple sign. Maybe the homeowners’ association will eventually make me take it down.

One thing is for certain; more than a sign, a slogan or a hashtag, I need to work for the rest of my life making certain that Black lives do matter.

For the sake of the world and for the sake of my own soul.

Postscript:

After the original publication of this article on my blog, I received a letter from the chair of the architectural compliance committee for the Homeowners’ Association instructing me my yard sign was not in compliance and to please remove it.

This contradicted the association’s original decision allowing me to display the sign.

Rather than argue with the committee chair, I decided to post on the neighborhood’s Facebook page an apology for displaying the sign outside of compliance, but that I hoped black lives would continue to matter in our neighborhood and beyond.

I accompanied the post with a picture of the sign in my yard.

This created a week’s worth of strongly supportive comments for my sign.

Ironically, taking my sign down may have generated more positive attention to Black Lives Matter than when the sign was displayed.

Since then, I have discovered a loophole; there is nothing preventing me from displaying flags on my doorposts.

I am choosing a different theme each month to promote compassion and justice.

Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared on DeLoach’s blog. It is used with permission.

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