Edith Lee Payne poses with her iconic photo from the March on Washington.

The photo is in the National Archives of the museum

Detroit’s share of social justice is as rich as any South American city.

From its roots in the subway to the 1967 riots, Detroit’s history is full of stories of the struggle for social justice. In recent years, millennial organizations have been created to continue the legacy and push for racial justice in the city and beyond. Looking back, we can measure how far the traffic has gone and how far we still need to go.

Travon Martin, Tamir Rice, Sandra Blend, Michael Brown – these are just some of those who caused national outrage in black communities. With very public affairs America has gained a place in the forefront in the complexity of racial, police relations and overly diligent vigilantes. More recently, the murder of George Floyd has become a catalyst that has ignited African Americans in the city and in many cities across the country to rise up and help end the killings at the hands of police. However, the struggle for reform began long before George Floyd and continued after his death.

For decades, Edith Lee-Payne has advocated for social and racial justice, education, police and public relations, and other pressing issues. Killed in history, Lee Payne became a major element in the struggle for justice in August 1963, when she was photographed during the March on Washington as a child. Together with her mother Lee Payne learned early on the activity and continues to leave a mark in her community.

“I’ve always had a passion or desire to stand up for things as a very young person. Respectfully express my opinion, otherwise my mother would not want to. When I went on the march, the first was in Detroit in June 1963, and then the March on Washington, and that’s because my mom had some experience, ”Lee Payne said. “The experience she gained gave her a desire to be part of the Civil Rights Movement and what it means. That’s how I ended up on the march. “

In 2020, protests in the city were a five-day protest following the assassination of George Floyd. Opening the door for hundreds of young people to have their voices heard, the streets of Detroit were filled with organizations and individuals who opposed police brutality in America, but especially within the city of Detroit. Not someone else’s struggle, Detroit once again found itself on the main stage of social justice.

In the board of the 12th Precinct Public Relations Police, as an active member for more than 30 years, police reform is a hotspot for Lee Payne. Despite the marches and protests of 2020, she believes very little progress has been made as leadership in the new era of the movement has been overshadowed.

“We have not yet seen any police reform that we need to see because the message obscures the message,” Lee Payne said. “If you have someone who is a leader, then you make sure that the clarification of what is intended is stated – it is clear.”

From the first days of the arrival of black bodies in America to the present day, shifts in laws for Africans and their descendants have had a drastic effect in the laws that govern the nation. Real reform needs not only a legal impetus, but also through the practice and enforcement of legislation.

“I think we’re certainly not where we need to be when you look at where we came from, and it’s been 403 years since the first enslaved African touched the shores of America,” Lee Payne said. “The civil rights movement, of course, was a very important time that helped us get the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act, but it’s more than just passing legislation. This must be done; it must be applied. “

Black leadership is at a dead end compared to iconic leaders and movements of the past. Lack of direction and dedication, the organization of a new era of movement seems bleak.

“I, of course, welcome everyone who wants to speak and have their voices heard, but notice, I came during the nonviolence movement. The message was clear and the message was different. The movement was an organized movement; he had the leadership, ”Lee Payne said.

What used to be loud and bold in its approach has now become silent, as organizations and individuals who rallied in the 2020 protests seem to have lost momentum. All this makes the revolutionary leaders of the previous movements think about what awaits us.

“We’ll go and chat, but what’s next?”

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