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‘Black lives matter more than black deaths’

  • Thursday, June 18, 2020
    Gus Roberts at the June 13 Towson University protest

    By Augustus Roberts Jr. 

    Seeing people shot and killed by police on your TV and phone screens for what seems like my whole life is traumatizing.  These images repeated over and over start to have a numbing effect on your thoughts and emotions when those people, with their own hopes dreams who were killed, look just like you. 

    It's a reality - and fear - that as black men in this world, we have to face head-on.  It's gotten to the point where the pain we are feeling must be transformed into power and progress. 

    From the sight of people wearing face masks in public, no groceries on the shelves at one point, and being indoors more than I expected headed into the summertime, it's safe to say 2020 has brought its own lessons for all of us affected - whether we realize or not. 

    One lesson we must remember, though, is that black lives should matter more than black deaths. 

    It is difficult not to list the names of all the African-Americans who recently have been killed at the hands of police, but I write this with George Floyd in mind. 

    The constant updating of events in the daily news cycle has been spinning at its fastest in my lifetime.  As quickly as factual news is relayed, the wrong information on COVID-19 and protests turning into “riots” seems to spread twice as fast on my timeline and TV screens. 

    This is overwhelming at times and has compelled me to take more breaks from social media and cable TV - and spend more time during this pandemic dedicated to my interest in photography and graphic design.

    A Towson protester captured by Gus Roberts' camera

    In light of recent peaceful demonstrations and protests turned violent by troublemakers not really down for the cause, I initially was hesitant to go out and produce photojournalism of the demonstrations. 

    I recently did a little community project, however, capturing images of people wearing masks in public at local shopping centers, but that did not come with as big of a risk of getting caught up in a peaceful protest turned violent. 

    Eventually, I embraced the fact that recording the cause with photos was greater than my fears.  A friend sent me a flyer for a June 13th protest at Towson University, where this time I was sure to take my camera. 

    From the moment I arrived, the energy was empowering.  I was partly focused on getting the right angles. Another part of me focused on making sure the residents even one block down the street heard my voice along with others chanting: “No Justice, No Peace. No racist POLICE.” 

    There were moments during the demonstration where I began to realize “Wow, I'm really here and part of this.” 

    My biggest takeaway from the Towson march is that there is power in diversity.  Chanting alongside people from all walks of life helped me realized this.  The only way to fight oppression is with black excellence and support from all around. 

    When my fellow UMES students and I return to campus later this summer, it will be interesting to see how the events of the past several weeks have affected and motivated us to influence the public conversation going on around us. 


    Gus Roberts is a rising senior from District Heights, Md. majoring in English with a minor in digital media studies. He also has a start-up company, ProfoundPix Visual Media, LLC.