the Times 

Taking a R.I.S.K.


This last Sunday I was fortunate to be in attendance at the Peace Rally held in Walla Walla. I was there to take photographs for the The Times.

I was immediately impressed with the number of people who turned out for the event.

As I was taking photographs, I got caught up listening to the speeches from the impressive lineup of scheduled and impromptu speakers.

The topic of our country’s systemic racism and its effects on people of color is difficult to hear. It was a big reminder that we must listen, truly listen, to voices other than our own. Listening without feeling the need to respond or debate. Listening without feeling defensive or hurt. Listening with the understanding that we do not walk through the world the same. We can only strive to not cause harm by understanding what others are saying to us.

The following is an excerpt from a speech by Dakotah Fryatt, one of the young speakers, on Sunday:

Today is the day

from a speech by Dakotah Fryatt

"I remember the day my mom and dad sat with me and explained that in my life some people just weren’t going to like me because I’m black. I was too young to understand. I didn’t get it. But in middle school it clicked. I finally understood what my parents were talking about when another student would block the door to the locker room and tell me, “black people have to change outside.” Pretty quickly I began to get it.

I felt it again at 16 when I was buying school clothes and a security guard followed me around the entire mall. I continued to feel it when I went to Walmart every now and again. Every aisle I went down, I was watched. You’d think the security guards and I were best friends. Man, we did everything together! At 16 I thought that was the worst that could happen, right? Until 17 came. I’d been working at McDonalds. And I’ll never forget how degrading it was, when an older white gentleman told me he didn’t want me to take his order. And how awkward it was when my white coworker took his order for me. Again, I thought that’s as bad as it could get.

But nothing has hurt me more than when my closest friends and family have used the n-word. Racism didn’t end because Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream or when Rosa Parks took a seat. We carry their flame, you and me. And we’ll know it’s truly finished when it’s no longer you versus me, but when “I” becomes “we.” Racism is evil. There’s no other way to put it. It’s heartbreaking. It should break your heart to know that to this day people are still hated and discriminated against because of the color of their skin.

It should break your heart that it wasn’t until 2014 that Wilcox High School in Rochelle, Georgia had their first integrated prom.

It should break your heart that there are still “sundown” towns today in America.

It should break your heart knowing George Zimmerman started an auction for the gun he killed Trayvon Martin with, starting at $100,000. And that for a fan he signed a bag of skittles. The snack Trayvon had the day he was murdered.

It should break your heart that Breonna Taylor was shot eight times while she was asleep, during an illegal, unannounced drug raid on the wrong house.

It should break your heart that Nikolas Cruz the Parkland School Shooter was arrested peacefully after killing 14 students and 3 staff members, but Tamir Rice was 12 years old when he was killed by a cop for playing with an airsoft gun.

It should break your heart that one of these stories could be about me.

But this is the first time in my life that I have seen so many people stand up and speak out against racism so boldly. All I can say is, “thank you.”

What can we do today? I certainly do not have the answers, but this is something practical that everyone can do to speak out against injustice. We have to take a R.I.S.K.

R is for Relationship.

It’s hard to care about someone if you don’t have a relationship with them. It’s hard to care about anything or anyone that you aren’t connected to. Something you can do right now is take the time to get to know people who aren’t like you. Build relationships. You’ll be surprised by how much you actually have in common.

I is for Intentional.

Living a diverse life doesn’t happen by accident. Be intentional with who you surround yourself with.

S is for Speak.

All of our voices are needed. Actively speak out against injustice. Proverbs 31:8-9 NLT says,

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.

K is for Knowledge.

I know I just said to speak up, but also know when it’s time to listen. There’s a lot of stories out there that need to be heard. Be wise and seek to understand. It is okay to ask black people questions, or any person of color for that matter.Today is the day. Today is the day that you take a risk. Keep the conversation going and ask questions. We need leaders, now more than ever, to rise up and change culture.

This is my prayer, from Amos 5:24 MSG, the famous prophet couldn’t have said it any better:

Do you know what I want?

I want justice—oceans of it.

I want fairness—rivers of it.

That’s what I want. That’s all I want.

What an incredible honor it is to be here. Words are a very powerful thing. So, thank you Walla Walla for letting me share a piece of my heart today. Please don’t leave the same way you came. Today is the day."

Dakotah Fryatt is a 21-year-old resident of Walla Walla and is working on his teaching degree through Western Governor’s University after achieving an A.A. degree at Walla Walla Community College.


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