By Chol Dhoor

May 25th, 2020 was a Memorial Day. Millions of Americans look back on this day on the quintessence of protecting the global order or the continental homeland by the United States military. I, too, did my own reflection and went for a quiet walk on the Charlotte Village Loop Trail, all the way to Ethan Allen Highway. Though I was running at first, I decided it would serve me well if I took the pleasure of walking instead. Where you do this leisure matters a lot.

Mine is in this small town of Charlotte. A town filled with three things: life, hospitality, and convenience of trails. The seagulls, the tractors on the fields, the runners on the streets and the firefighters who answered the emergency calls all speak to that uniqueness, among others. These characteristics validate what a vibrant neighborhood looks like. I would like to share a thought on life while I save gas on others for the future.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m up for a self-recollection here, because I live so close to a trail. Such vicinity helps me to appreciate the value of the trail to the town and residents every time I take those few minutes to walk on a mowed path. Every step I make in the woods serves as a timely reminder of how much work and leadership goes into planning and maintaining it yearly.

It’s amazingly beautiful once deep in the woods. It’s full of life, to put it lightly. The birds have returned. They were busy doing their singing, perhaps making sense of everything that has changed since they escaped the blizzards and below zero temperatures of last winter. I can’t of course prove that was exactly all they were doing. But what else can I say, when the cool shade from the trees above me was much better than a roaring indoor air conditioner. How can I not assume their uninterrupted echoes were not coming from the pathways of their short beaks and muscles of their elegant necks. How can I not assume everything I heard or saw has nothing telling about their ways of life. You got the point.

Contrary, so much has changed since that same day and the last few weeks and months. A recent case in point is the brutal killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, by a police officer–not to mention incarceration rates, among other serious problems. Americans are on the streets to ask an old question: Should enforcement of the law be lethal, especially on unarmed fellow Americans? That answer varies depending on the case. They are on the streets to reaffirm and speak to the long and well documented occurrences of similar incidents where equal protection before the law felt preferential to some. All is to say, they are renewing unfinished work from historical civil rights, voting rights, women’s rights and many other legal provisions. Each of these milestones were painfully slow and many thought they wouldn’t be realized in their lifetimes. Today, they are practical reminders of the work at hand toward a perfect justice, or full interaction with the law and power without heavy lifting.

Clearly, making a case for racial equality and justice will always be dividing given the political and institutional cycles of today. Pronunciation of solidarity and collective rejection of existing national conditions can permanently improve historical racial relations so the likes of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and many others should be alive today. That can only happen if we all believe justice has a place across this land.

In the next few years or so, we will reevaluate what we didn’t do now as individuals, towns, states and as a nation to meet judicial gaps for many who feel differently historically. This journey can be incremental. However, it’s a duty of every individual American to make a difference racially, judicially and economically for blacks, indigenous and people of color, not only when events happen, but always.

With that point rested, I make sense of consequential days, as it has been recently, at my own speed when I go for a walk on the trail. So, what is the best way to honor this work? Yours might be different but taking a walk with a family or a friend is just one way to honor those who made it accessible for all of us.

Chol Dhoor is a founder and executive director of Charlotte-based Sudanese Foundation of Vermont Inc.