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I've been reminded again that black lives don't matter. And I am exhausted.

He was a dad, he was a citizen of this nation, and he deserved better.

I woke up in tears this morning after watching the details of Alton Sterling's murder on social media all night.

The images played over and over in my head like a broken record: officers slamming Alton against a car, kneeing him in the throat, and shooting him repeatedly. I felt sick.

Sterling is the 558th person killed by the police in the United States in 2016.


Image by Arthur Reed/AP.

Last night and today, I watched the same routine play out. I've seen it so many times before, after police brutality takes another black life. The social media outrage. The Black Lives Matter activists demanding justice. The All Lives Matter mouths countering with ignorance and insensitivity. The frustrating responses from white people who claim to be down with black culture, but who step up only when it's entertaining for them, not when it requires a call to action against discrimination or injustice.

Today, it was too much. I am exhausted by this.

So I cried. I cried, and I breathed heavily, and I sobbed.

And then I looked at photos of my dad and mom. And my brother and sisters. And my aunts and uncles. And my cousins. And my best friends.

They are all at risk when they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are all susceptible to the same fate as Alton Sterling if they cross the wrong person or the wrong cop. They are endlessly ignored, swept under the rug, and subjected to injustice.

Then I got angry.

I got angry because the same system that killed Alton Sterling, that holds a threshold of fear of black men and women across this country, killed Emmett Till in 1955 when he had the "audacity" to flirt with a white woman.

The same system killed Tamir Rice while he was playing with a toy gun on a playground.

It killed Sandra Bland, an animal sciences student minding her own business as she was driving down the road.

It killed Michael Brown, an unarmed, recent high school graduate who was ready to start college.

It killed Rekia Boyd because she was talking too loudly for comfort.

It killed Trayvon Martin when he was walking home to eat his recently purchased Skittles.

Memorials for black lives killed by police brutality have become the norm. Michael Kunzelma/AP

Black bodies being brutalized is nothing new in this system.

This brutality has happened for 245 years in every town across this great nation. It happened during the Jim Crow era, when black folks dangled from trees like caricatures.

And it continues to happen. Despite outcry, despite rage, despite calls for change. It continues to happen. And I — along with so many other black people — am hurting. I am tired.

And I am tired of being told that our lives don't matter.

Protestors have been vocal for years. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

I am tired of being told that if I dress a certain way, talk a certain way, or behave in a certain manner, I'll do just fine.

Because all those things? In this system, they aren't true.

They aren't true when police can put an unarmed man in a chokehold and walk away without so much as a slap on the wrist or when they can kill a child on the playground in what is essentially a legalized drive-by shooting.

The Federal Department of Justice has just announced they are opening a civil rights probe into Alton Sterling's shooting.

This is a surprising step in the right direction for a department that usually defends police officers.

But what can we do? We can be sad. We can be tired. And we can be angry.

We can also demand that officers be held accountable when they use unnecessary force. We can continue yelling that Black Lives Matter, even when people retaliate, until our system proves that black lives actually do matter.

A memorial for Alton Sterling. Photo by Gerald Herbert/AP.

And we can remember Alton Sterling. Like the others, we can say his name.

He was 37 years old. He was a father of five. He was loved by those who knew him.

Say Alton Sterling's name and say the names of all of the black people who have fallen victim to police brutality: Mike Brown. Trayvon Martin. Rekia Boyd. Sandra Bland. Tamir Rice. Eric Garner. Tanisha Anderson. Freddie Gray. Tony Robinson. Walter Scott. And so many more.

And please don't stop saying them until black people get the justice we have always deserved.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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