A Letter to My Former Home:
Manchester, NH, in this moment I miss you. I miss the change of the leaves as I walk through Veteran’s Park and I miss the feel of the crisp air as the season change. My current home, Charlotte, NC, is hot. All the leaves are still very green, and the air is muggy and sticky; thick with heat and unrest.
As I’m sure you’ve seen, Charlotte is in the middle of an uprising. After another black man was killed here, we have erupted in frustration. I want to tell some truths to you, Manchester, because you know me. I am the same girl who, eight years ago, came to New Hampshire from Atlanta to serve your students through an AmeriCorps program. I was married in your City Hall, Manchester. And had my first child, a baby girl, at the Elliott.
I need you to hear me and hear the story that is not being told.
Our protests are peaceful in Charlotte. We are grieving the loss of life and, rightfully, we are upset. That does not mean we are inherently violent. The violent narrative that is being pushed is one that is incited by law enforcement. We march peacefully. We have a vigil, peacefully. Then we turn our heads and there is a line of police officers, in riot gear, pointing tear gas canisters at us. That type of aggression and negative energy brought to a place of mourning can only create an atmosphere of violence.
Last night I was on the front lines, standing face-to-face with SWAT. I had my hands up and I watched as they strategically grabbed peaceful citizens from the crowd. I watched as peaceful citizens were corralled into a small space and then attacked with clubs, tear gas, and rubber bullets. My eyes still sting from smoky air and the gas meant to send me home and silence my voice.
Manchester, I parted ways with you four years ago. And while it was a tough decision, I’ve never regretted making it; until now. Charlotte, the city that I call home, has become the city that tear gassed me. You would never do that, Manchester. You would never subject me to watch another, peaceful, protester get shot in the head by someone sworn to protect and serve us. Last night, I would have been sitting outside having an ice cream from the Puritan. Instead, I was in a city that forced me to aid others as they rinsed someone else’s blood off their hands and chemicals from their eyes.
Here’s the thing, Manchester; you and Charlotte aren’t so different. You are both filled with good people, like me, who have a lot of hometown pride and love their cities, you have two of the best minor league baseball teams around, and at any moment either city could erupt in frustration and hurt. Manchester, you are Charlotte, you are Ferguson, you are Baltimore. Take it from someone who experienced some of the best years of her life there. Heed my advice and stay true to equality, equity, and justice. Help lead the way, so that cities like Charlotte can find their path.
Charlotte is hurting. I am hurting. But we will keep up the fight against injustice and oppression. And, maybe, one day soon, I won’t miss you as much, Manchester… though I always will.
Your Faithful Servant,
Emerald Anderson-Ford is a philanthropist, wife, mother, business owner, and activist who currently lives in Charlotte, NC. with her husband and two daughters. She lived in Newmarket and Manchester, NH between 2008-2012 working with City Year New Hampshire. You can follow her on Instagram @elanderson85.