To the Friends who Stayed Silent

A letter from a young activist.

Introduction from the Editor:

I was introduced to Henri Somadjagbi, a recent graduate from Clayton High School in North Carolina, when he joined Allies for Black Voices to discuss his massive social media platform and his use of it to ‘take action and do his part,’ for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Seeing the power of the next generation and their ability to organize, vocalize, and make a difference was moving, as a high school teacher and an activist. One of the most poignant moments was when Henri was asked if he lost friendships because of his more recent vocal activism.

Image from the Instagram of @jberg33

He responded, “Actually, yeah…a lot.”

He continued to explain that his anger arose from friends and classmates who partook in the products of Black culture, from music, to style, and slang, “Yet when we need you, you don’t want to speak up.”

“I spoke, and so much happened. I lit that match.”

Henri Somadjagbi

Under the surface of Henri’s measured response, you could sense the frustration and sadness, but also the very mature resolve in understanding that some friendships don’t withstand true tests of this magnitude.

When he created a post, directed to those silent friends, he received responses and comments asking him if he was going to let something like this ‘ruin our friendship.’ His reply:

“Yes. You are supposed to be my friend… You have to see my color…that’s what this whole fight is about. This is something that is a threat to my life. You have a voice too, you make a big difference.”

In that moment, from the voice of a young 18-year-old, wisdom and insight into the reality of relationships and the fight for equality in this country became sharply clarified. If you do not speak up and stand as an ally, it is your loss, not Henri’s.

From the Instagram of Henri @henrisomad

Below is a letter I asked Henri to write for the site, unedited:

To the friends that stayed silent,

When the black lives matter movement began, I immediately decided to take action &’ do my part. I consistently shared everything and anything I could on all my social media platforms to inform my supporters, friends &’ family.

As I got farther into my activism, I realised many of my non-coloured friends weren’t speaking about what’s going on, and it left me very upset and disappointed. I made a statement saying “if you aren’t speaking about what’s going on &’ you’re non-coloured… I don’t want you apart of my life anymore” Everyone has the right to say &’ do what they believe in, you have the right to be silent if you choose to… but I equally have the right to defriend you if you’re quiet.

Some of the same people who were asking me questions such as “would you be mad if I said the N-word” &’ get upset with me when I say yes are now saying “I don’t see color” or statements that are viewed negatively towards black lives… others just didn’t care enough to reach out to me and say anything, or stay silent.

I felt hurt &’ betrayed. Some of my friends that I’ve had for two years now… relationships ended. On top of that I know many of them use the n-word in the dark where no one can hear them, but in the light when black lives matter you can’t scream “black lives matter”?

Having “friends” who love black culture, using black slang, &’ having me as a black friend &’ then being silent when MY life is at risk…is one of the most significant moments of betrayal I’ve ever felt. 

Henri

And, as Henri said, you have a voice and a platform. What are you doing with it? Are you standing on the right side of history?

Follow Henri:

  • Tiktok: @Henriidanger
  • Instagram: @henrisomad
  • Twitter: @Henriidanger

Check out the full Allies for Black Voices discussion:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IiM3ESiX9Ek

And Visit the ‘Pick up the Battle’ Page on the side menu of the site to see where you can become an ally.