There's been an uprising of protests across the nation following the death of George Floyd, with citizens seeking justice for what they see as systemic racism in our country.
Many of the signs read "Black Lives Matter" but Thema, a 26-year-old woman who did not want to give her last name, had a different message to share. In a picture she posted of herself on Instagram, Thema holds up a homemade sign bearing a message that's striking a chord with people everywhere.
"I SAID WHAT I SAID‼️✊🏽" she posted alongside the picture, adding the hashtags #BLACKLIVESMATTER #BLACKOUTEVERYDAY #STOPKILLINGOURKIDS #VIRAL #FREEDOMFIGHTERS #justiceforgeorgefloyd #justiceforbreonnataylor #nojusticenopeace #washingtondc
In the striking photo that features her wearing a face mask and exposing her pregnant belly, Thema holds up a sign that reads, "We are NOT carrying for 9 months, Then struggling during labor for 9 hours just for you to kneel on their neck for 9 minutes!! Black Lives Matter." The sign refers to the amount of time ex-police officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on Floyd's neck.
"The sign was my idea," Thema told TODAY. "For the past few nights, I could not sleep. I have been staying up all night with George Floyd heavy on my heart. The video of his death and hearing him cry out for his mother will forever be embedded in my head. I truly believe that when Mr. Floyd called out for his mother, all mothers were summoned, of all ages."
Thema is already the mother of two black sons.
"My children are my world, we vow to protect them at all times," she said. "It is every mother's worst fear to get that call. It genuinely angered me just to know that we carry these babies, these black men in our wombs for nine months, experiencing troubles the entire time such as excessive vomiting, weight loss, weight gain, blood clots, hair loss, kidney swelling and that is just the tip of the iceberg."
"Then the drastic pain of labor, some of us are in labor for nine hours and some are even in labor for 30 hours. Some women even come close to death during labor by excessive blood loss or difficulties and so much more for hours! Then for someone who vowed to protect and serve the people of all colors, just easily take our baby's lives in 9 minutes! Eight minutes and 46 seconds to be exact with no remorse or hesitation! That alone called me to the front line to stand up for our children. Enough is enough. New laws need to be in place and true justice needs to be served!"
The fact that she is pregnant did not stop Thema from attending the protest in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday with the group Freedom Fighters D.C. She said that she was treated with respect from those around her.
"I decided to take a stance," she said. "Not only for all of the lives that we have lost from police brutality but for our children's future! As soon as I walked up to the protest, everyone was very peaceful. Food and water were provided and everyone there was also ready to take their stance to make a difference. There were thousands of people and everyone there made sure that I was not only protected but that I was also hydrated. During the march, it was made very clear that we do not condone violence."
Thema also shared an artist's digital rendering of her powerful image and thanked people for spreading the word.
"Let’s continue to make A BETTER FUTURE for our babies!!" she posted. "THE MAMA’s Had to step in on the frontlines‼️ "