From Tabatha Holley, Peacebuilders Camp Counselor…
During my second week as a counselor for Peacebuilders Camp, the campers discussed the article which reads “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.” Throughout the day, campers maturely discussed decisions that their individual conscience influenced them to make. At one point, campers were asked “Does your conscience or religion tell you that it is okay to break the law?” There have been several times that my conscience and religions have guided my decisions not to break the law, but there have also been several times when this has not been the case. Each day that I have an opportunity to work with young peace builders, I think back to my own childhood when I looked forward to the day I would be arrested for justice. My parents were never hesitant in allowing me to march with them as they fought for the rights of oppressed groups in Southwest Georgia, however, they were a bit hesitant one Friday evening when their 19-year old daughter called them to ask what they would think about participating in civil disobedience.
In the spring semester of my sophomore year at Spelman College, I knew that there was something significant happening in our state, the Moral Monday movement. I heard that there was a revolution happening in the great state of North Carolina, organized by Reverend Dr. William Barber, the state president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, a man who I admired from afar for many years in my childhood. He was bringing this action to Georgia, and I had to join this movement!
A few months before my conscience led my decision to be arrested, I was compelled to join the Atlanta protests following the trial of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin. I remember sitting in my apartment on the Sunday morning after the verdict was announced, praying a simple, 2-word prayer I had never been so anxious to pray before, “Use me.” During the heat of a plethora of debates in the South, I wrote a letter to the editor of my local newspaper, the Albany Herald, entitled “A letter to my unborn son” to bring attention to such a horrendous injustice.
It goes without saying that on the cold winter February afternoon of my arrest, I was afraid, but I knew that my work the previous June was not complete. I knew that I would never be at peace with the killing of 19-year old Renisha McBride, whose death and many others, have been justified at the hands of such an unjust law as Stand Your Ground. Watching the life of 17-year old Trayvon Martin stand trial caused me to stand in solidarity with young black women and men innocent enough to wear hoodies, take walks, and enjoy packs of skittles and cans of Arizona Iced tea. It was my conscience, flooded with images of black bodies lying in their own innocent blood that called for my refusal to leave Senator Jesse Stone’s office. It has been my conscience that has called me to serve as a camp counselor for young people dedicated to radical justice and peace building.
It is my hope that there has been a saying or an action during the past two weeks that have awakened the conscience of these brilliant and dangerous young people to gracefully accept the challenge that painfully waits for them, to fight for justice. Building peace will only happen as we fight, protest, get arrested, and put our individual lives on the line, for justice.