Curtis Hayes, 31, from Charlotte, North Carolina, articulated to three generations of black men his views on finding a better way for progress, as protests demanding justice following the death of George Floyd take place in major cities across America and peaceful rallies have turned violent.
Video of Hayes’ impassioned speech quickly went viral after it was first posted on Facebook by Christina Black. But since the video was posted on Twitter by a user online with the caption, “I just felt like more (black) people needed to hear this #GeorgeFloydProtests #BlackLivesMatter,” Hayes’ speech has been viewed over 12 million times.
— teee ❤️ (@g0ldie_teee) May 31, 2020
In the video, an older black man in a white tank top yells, “We’ve been standing around as the older ones taking all this bull****. Always just standing by for a ‘Kumbaya’ … and I’m tired of seeing this s***. Ain’t nobody going to protect us. We got to start our own f***ing riot. … I’m ready to die for what’s going on.”
Hayes says, “I understand. How old are you? You’re 45, and I’m 31. And you’re the older generation than me! I’m angry, too! But let me tell you something,” before bringing a black teenager standing by into the conversation. “He’s 16! He’s 16. This ain’t the way. They are ready to let loose. It’s the United States. The president says, ‘You loot, they shoot!’”
Pulling the 16-year-old boy close, Hayes says in a calm voice, “Let me tell you something. What you see right now is going to happen 10 years from now, and at 26, you’re going to be doing the same thing I’m doing. Ten years – you’re going to be right here, too. So, what I need you to do right now, at 16, is come up with a better now. Cuz what we’re doing isn’t working. He angry at , I’m angry at 31. You’re angry at 16 – you understand me? Put yourself at harm’s way — it’s not the way.”
Hayes says, “Come up with a better way because we ain’t doing it. I watched four years ago,” referring to Keith Lamont Scott, who died from an officer-involved shooting on September 20, 2016. “[People were] doing the same exact ya’ll doing, night after night. … It don’t matter. Come up with a better way. Keep yourself safe.”
Hayes Is a Longtime Activist & Business Owner in Charlotte
Hayes, who’s the owner and operator at World Class Property Maintenance LLC, has been an outspoken activist for years. In 2016, following the riots that arose in his city after shooting of Scott, the father of two participated in a press conference with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Major Mike Campagna.
Campagna, who walked alongside protesters for six nights and 60 miles, and Hayes, who was described by WBTV 3 as a person who “worked hard to keep the peace during the unrest,” found common ground. Hayes was appreciative of the veteran officer who only wanted to listen and not provoke violence.
— Kimberly King (@KimKingReports) September 23, 2016
“When they were talking to you and you made the decision to talk back, they were like, what could they do? You de-escalated that whole situation right there in itself,” Hayes said. “We’re all humans at the end of the day, whether we wear a badge or whether we don’t.”
Hayes Followed Up His Viral Speech With a Powerful Video Message on Facebook
After the video of Hayes’ speech went viral, he took to social media to further address his message. He posted a video on his Facebook page with the caption, “My People, power is in number and in unity! We must all understand the root of this problem so that we can grab it before it literally ruins the foundation of us a people forever!”
Wanting to clarify the meaning behind his speech, Hayes said:
Why did I tell them there’s a better way to handle it? The first thing I wanna address is … the other black men – I made a post the night of the protest and I asked for 50 to stand stand strong together and to bear arms, that is is our right as an U.S. citizen. And we have black men that will go out in our own neighborhoods and our own communities … and we could carry pistols for days … but what I am saying, until black men stand up as a true king of our communities, of our neighborhoods, of our people, change is not gonna take place. …
But black men, every day you go out here and do what you do, but you carry your illegal pistol, A.R.’s sawed off shotguns … all these suped up toys to be glorified on social media, but you’re not using it where it needs to be used, black man.
“You’re using it against your own people,” Hayes continued. “You carry a pistol in case you feel another black man threatens you. But what I’m here to tell you is that these people don’t care about us, man. They don’t. So, when I say we have to seek a better way, I’m going to be honest with you. I don’t condone violence, destruction – any of that. But what I’m saying is to not do it in your own neighborhoods.”