i just came from the kind of meeting i have been avoiding since i moved to the bay: a local organizing action meeting in oakland.
that sounds so awful…but i have this thing, as a military brat who has moved every couple of years of my life, and loves new places and never quite expects to be from anywhere – it’s a thing that gives me a low tolerance for people who come in from outside of a place and act like they know everything. big fish in other people’s ponds. i’m a virgo, an oldest child, a facilitator, and a boss – its nearly impossible for me to not come off like the eager kid with her hand up in class at every question. my life is a short story called “Stepping Back”. politically i believe most people have to get themselves rooted, and i haven’t found the place to put my roots – is it detroit? ny? an unnamed island in the south pacific? i don’t know yet, but that doesn’t keep me from having my analysis about things, and my good ideas. and the bay is full of people like me, who come from somewhere else, have a lot of analysis and good ideas, but may not stay for the long-haul.
this eager, well-intentioned throng can make it hard for the voices of people born and raised and rooted in oakland to be heard. oakland specifically, and the bay area in general, can feel more like an experiment in progressive-gone-wild than an actual place. folks already know everything, and they’ve got the non-profit or consulting firm to prove it. i have spent a lot of my 2+ years living in oakland traveling to other places where there is less of a sense of overt movement, less of a non-profit 501c3 culture, and more humility, or at least an acknowledged desire for systems and visioning and facilitated processes and action training.
since i got to oakland, i’ve gotten many invites to different organizing efforts, and i usually find a way to invite someone else from ruckus to go, to offer up what ruckus can offer in an official way – the gear we have, the network of experienced action folks to develop logistics or communications or action strategies. that makes its way back to me, and i keep doing my job, which these days is mostly making sure there is money in the bank to keep our gear up to date, get people to actions, pay folks who need it for when they do trainings, and so on.
i’m a writer, so i write when i can, when i think my speed or general framing might help. i’m a believer in the power of network as being much more effective than the power of celebrity leader, so i connect folks when i can connect, but i try not to place myself in the seat of local strategist or leader. and i actually love that way of living my life. i feel like a mechanic more than anything else – i can hear the problem and i have some tools. at the end of the day, i just want folks to feel like their car sounds real good and gets them where they wanna go.
but 2009 is gonna be a different year for me, i can tell. my love just came to be with me in oakland for a while, and one of my best friends moved out from milwaukee, and i smile sometimes just driving along with my window down, and folks know me at my favorite restaurants, and when something horrible happens in oakland, i go to the action meeting, and offer what my organization can offer, and then put on my mechanic hat.
this is all new. getting past the fear of commitment to place, people. its like throwing a lasso around the moon and drawing it closer, and it actually comes closer, and things feel brighter, lighter, more sharply outlined by light. what it feels like to go all in, completely bananas believing in what the world has to offer and the change that can come from human will – i don’t fully know that feeling. i’ve always held a few cards back, cards like: the police are gonna shoot us! my country is going to fund war crimes! people will take every chance to create factions to make themselves feel more powerful! common sense is a burden! the human species is showing suicidal behavior in how it treats the environment! i need to lose weight!
the cards are random. now i beginning the see the next phase of my life, where i hold these cards up to my face, to the light, and see what can be done about them, and then – play them.
can young black men survive oakland? survive america? survive all the forces in the world that seem to rush so comprehensively against black beauty and brilliance? i want to play in this game, i want to make the answer yes.