Being Black in America: Gianina Baker

In her own words, an African American community resident shares a first-person story about what it looks, feels and sounds like to be black in America.

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Continuing a conversation we’re privileged to host, The News-Gazette asked African American community members to share their stories and solutions in the wake of George Floyd’s killing.

Featured today: GIANINA BAKER, assistant director of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment and vice president of the Champaign school board.

If you’d like to share your story, email jdalessio@news-gazette.com. To view the entire series, click here.

Gianina Baker

Gianina Baker

‘Hope is what I left the protest with and hope is what I am carrying into the days and weeks ahead’

By GIANINA BAKER

There are so many thoughts going through my head, all the time. It’s hard to put words to paper. Especially as situations change at a moment’s notice. While the context and tensions differ, history itself repeats — case in point, the loss of black lives locally and nationally.

I will never forget what is was like to see the protest this past week through my children’s eyes. I know the responsibility I have in protecting their black boy joy while making them aware of the realities of the world, but for that moment and even though they might not have known it, we were there in solidarity with others to support them.

We were all there to acknowledge that black lives matter.

Attending the protest was me engaging in some needed radical self-care. Not just self-care, but radical self-care. I’m still learning what that means. But I can tell you I spent some time reading Audre Lorde’s ‘The Master Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House’ and actively planning next steps on how and where I can serve and am needed. In the words of John E. Lewis, ‘If not us, then who? If not now, then when?’

One resource that has been instrumental for my self-care and survival is Girl Trek’s 21-day walking meditation in the footsteps of our foremothers. I’m only four days in but am motivated each day to hear and process the quotes of Audre Lorde, ‘Revolution is not a one time event’; Ella Baker, ‘We who believe in freedom cannot rest’; Shirley Chisolm, ‘You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines’; and Georgia Gilmore, ‘Be a committee of one.’

Two reminders that have stuck with me on my walks: 1) that we are somebody’s ancestors and 2) to continue to trust black women. Such powerful thoughts to reflect on during a morning walk.

Hope is what I left the protest with and hope is what I am carrying into the days and weeks ahead. As we all attempt to do the next right thing, my husband and I realize the opportunity and responsibility we have to foster uncomfortable discussions that consistently seem to come up to us both and engage others who want to do this work with us.

And through such discussions, we are building relationships, working on solutions and taking action, but with much more intentionality in taking time for ourselves and our family.

If you’d like to share your story, email Editor Jeff D’Alessio at jdalessio@news-gazette.com.

 

Gianina Baker is the assistant director of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment and vice president of the Champaign school board.