Tag Archive for 'slavery'

black band

i am going to begin wearing a black armband on my left arm, closest to my heart, to indicate that i am a warrior in mourning.
that #blacklivesmatter to me.
that i recognize i am of a targeted nation inside a violence-addicted nation.

i am so moved by and so grateful for the work of #blacklivesmatter, the blackout collective, BYP100, black organizing for leadership and dignity (BOLD) and so many others working to generate actions for our liberation. (give money to each of those groups if you are at a loss of what to do. redistribute a portion of your salary to their work. for serious.)

and…we can’t hope that these currently under resourced formations will just do all the work for everyone. we all need to act. we need a tipping point of brave people willing to move out of complicit silence into action. (yes, i am saying that the resistance in your head or even in righteous conversation between you and a few friends is not enough – honey i wish it were. no one wants to feel all of this and do all of this. but we are in a moment of genocide and anthropocene and we must take ourselves seriously.)

we need all kinds of action – direct action, organizing, healing, strategizing, redistribution. grieving is an action. feeling is an action.

and solidarity. not “ally” solidarity, but solidarity and action by non-black people who recognize we are in one struggle for humanity.

one action is actually being public and open about our resistance, to say we see what is happening and we say no more, not today, never again, stop. we see beyond what is happening and we know love must win.

so. i want to wear what i need – a black circle, a wholeness.

as i cut up a pair of black leggings to make my armband i felt all the things i am longing for. this isn’t what everyone who wears the armband may mean, but i wanted to share.

mervyn marcano posted #blaxit the other night and i thought – ‘yes!!’ and then, ‘but seriously how do we divest from this system of genocide?’

i want to stop paying the percentage of taxes that goes to police, ICE and military forces – to defund this perversion of justice and invest in community models, mediation and healing spaces.
i want to pull all the babies out of schools that teach them they are more than or less than anyone else – either with sloppy histories or preferential treatment and funding of education.
i want a landless workers movement to secure farmland. i want my hands in some dirt – i want octavia butler’s acorn and earthseed.
i want all my money to go to people who love me, love us.
i want the precious earth to be a shared precedent that unifies our decision making.

i want all white people to catch up to the white people i hold close to me, who show me what is possible – those who never make me wonder about our equality, who never say all lives matter, who never ask me to carry the weight of their learning and unlearning.
i want to banish any white people who don’t get it, and who aren’t working on unlearning racism, from my life and the lives of everyone i love (you don’t have the range).

i want significant work stoppage across the country every time our lives are stolen because someone imagined we were dangerous to them. our money matters, our labor matters.

i want people to know when they see me that i am to be treated like a griever and like a warrior and like a healer and nothing less. i want us to come out in our grief and radical commitment to liberation.

this is bigger than police killing of black people – this band is my public declaration of war on white supremacy in all it’s manifestations, including racialized capitalism, colonialism, difference-phobia, gun fetishes, violence as a way of resolving conflict – all of it.

it is also my public vulnerability – i grieve every time i see humanity turned against itself, i feel it. and i believe it is part of my life’s work to feel it and turn others towards feeling it, to un-numb us so that we realize we are on fire. i am not going to keep adjusting and maintaining the social status quo. i am angry and numb and overwhelmed and terrified. i am mourning and trying to step into the shoes of all my newborn ancestors. i need it to be known. i need the world to interact with me with more awareness.

in studying public signs of mourning this one seems most appropriate and accessible. it has also been a sign of protest and political affiliation at times. i think we need it to be both for grief and for resistance. i also know i would feel safer in a world where those who stood against the genocide of my people were visible to me.

i recognize i may be wearing this armband for the rest of my life. i keep thinking of the length of slavery, how not being the property of a white person seemed equal parts necessary and impossible for generations and generations. not being the target of police, ending white supremacy and racialized capitalism feels impossible to me now…but it feels absolutely necessary.

all the love i walk with only lets me move in one direction, towards our liberation.

join me.

#blacklivesmatter #blackband #blaxit

blackband

(and yes, join in all my non-black and international beloveds, especially those being targeted too – this week i have cried for so many people and places all over and i feel our togetherness in our resistance even if we start from different locations. i wear this band with love for palestine, syria, bangladesh, turkey, brazil, iraq – and that’s just this week. together we are the future.)

black love as a radical commitment

i am writing to you from a plantation, but it might also be the future.

this space, the franklinton center at bricks, was once a place that slaves were sent to be broken in. for centuries.

and then it was a christian school in the same white charitable tradition that led to many of our historical black colleges and universities. for decades.

now it is a retreat center and, if prayers are responded to, in the most tangible manifestations, the future home of BOLD – black organizing for leadership and dignity.

reparations, soil up.

i donate facilitation time to BOLD each year because i believe it is our best chance at liberation. not just black liberation, though that would be enough. but i believe that the liberation of black people represents a realization of the human experiment, the resolution of a tension born out of our distance from the sacred truth of who we are. stardust.

we are sentient miraculous beings. on a magnificent planet, possibly the most biologically diverse planet in an apparently infinite universe, or multiverse. at least so far. who knows – as far as we have seen, we are unique.

and within this unique species, there are so many oppressed peoples.

and within that, the primary sustaining hierarchy of our planet has been that of dark skin to light skin. to be a black person on this experimental rock hurtling through space, obsessed with the sun, is a dangerous thing. in some parts of the world our children are armed soldiers. in most parts of the world our children are the hungriest of the youth. in our part of the world, we are being publicly lynched at a higher rate than ever before in our history.

all of the systems are exposing themselves as built on shaky sand, at minimum obselete. iphone 3. we developed so quickly, so quickly we gained the cultural center, and the white house. but of course we needed, as a nation, to spend a few centuries healing, holding each other, getting our breath back from how this specific nation began just yesterday. genocide and slavery are stones woven into our skirts, bruising our calves as we run, trying to escape the weight.

we need healing.

we need to stop and reconcile ourselves with existence, though nothing ever pauses in evolution. but..i am 36, and i can walk on a piece of ground where the soil still shows bloodstains from my ancestors being broken, and breaking in. slavery is a visceral presence. cotton whisps in my hair, i walk through a school house here that feels thick, like i had to push my way through spirits; young, black, hopeful spirits.

and all of that is done in this place, BOLD, where we are celebrating and cultivating black love as an organizing strategy. the three women who birthed #blacklivesmatter are of this community, not accidentally. they were not created by this community, but gathered, noticed, honored. gathered by denise perry and others, because they, we, are not interested in short tem reactionary responses to systemic violence. because we want to keep our hands on the root of the problem – the solution: black lives matter.

our black love is what teaches us that we matter.

i can’t tell you how nourishing and restorative it is to be in this space, at this time. i cannot count how many of the people said they traveled long and far because they needed to fill up at the well with black love.

because we are lovable, as lovable as anything else on this incredible and utterly unique planet. and even though our recent history includes generations of self-negating branding, physical and psychological, we have begun to love ourselves again.

some people are terrified by this, just by black people saying ‘enough’ and ‘it stops today’. they will try to suffocate us all, put bullets in us all.

but!

we outnumber the ones who feel this way. black people and those who can see us for who we are, we are the ‘overwhelming majority of planet earth’.

bold is the black power movement of our generation. the medicine we claim will heal anyone who swallows it – black lives matter.

we know black love is a radical commitment. an aspirational and healing commitment. you think you are not us, but we know you are. black love means looking in the mirror and remembering who you, and we, are.

we danced in cotton fields, we danced in the darkness of ships, we danced on the biggest continent on this magical rock.

we dance now, screaming “i can hear my brother saying i can’t breathe/now i’m in the struggle saying i can’t leave/calling out the violence of these racist police/we won’t stop the struggle til our people are free,” in new york.

dying-in in small towns.

shutting down highways from the twin cities to l.a.

and singing our ancestors’ words in north carolina.

today i was part of a circle of black women evoking harriet tubman under the guidance of sister doctor alexis pauline gumbs. she had us chant harriet’s words, ‘my people are free. my people are free.’ we chanted until we were swaying, rocking, giggling, glowing, weeping, laughing out loud.

try it. chant it till your body believes.

or june jordan’s words, ‘we are the onces we’ve been waiting for.’

or fannie lou hamer’s words, ‘nobody’s free until everybody’s free.’

or audre lorde’s words, ‘i am who i am, doing what i came to do.’

or ella baker’s words, ‘give light and the people will find the way.’

or anna julia cooper, ‘the world needs to hear her voice.’

alexis had us chanting these words, in a space where folks were contemplating emergent strategy, black love, somatics and resilience.

and what we know for sure at this point is we need each other, and we as black people need to give other black people space to be themselves completely. we have to love ourselves so no one can be confused about our dignity, our preciousness, our brilliance, our lovability.

we keep turning inwards, and back out. breath, ocean, orbits, we are the fundamental rhythm, in flesh. and as we master ourselves, it becomes impossible to serve any other master.

our numbers are massive with ghosts. we are cultivating the liberated state. we know every person killed is a fallen soldier in the greatest war ever fought – and we grieve with parents and community, and we blow on fires of fearlessness growing deep in our bellies, to take action in and through grief.

it won’t be easy, but we will find every pleasure, every sacred instance.

we know we are on the right side of history.

we choose to be the light.

slave songs (on renisha mcbride, 12 years a slave, beloved)

i don’t want to write about renisha mcbride. i don’t want to know her story.

last week i saw 12 years a slave, and then beloved. it was an intense week in my body.

after 12 years i wanted to crawl into another skin that felt somehow further from, or alien to, what i had just watched and felt. as a multiracial person i watched it feeling everything, the whip on my back and the whip in my hand. all my people have lived in south carolina for generations, you know? i want to know these ancestral memories and i don’t.

after 12 years i wanted to be quiet with my blackness, quiet around black people, in black spaces far from the dangerous suburbs. i couldn’t move to a place of even having an opinion on the film…i was shook. because it felt true. through the hollywood lens, and the phallic frame of finding singular male stories through which to tell all of history, i still felt the pain of women, mothers, sexualized slave bodies, radically unfair circumstances, allies, and legacy, the legacy of slavery this country is still holding so tightly.

and it was powerful to watch beloved again so soon after 12 years. perhaps even necessary. i had seen and read beloved before, years ago, but was unfamiliar with the 12 years story. i watched both movies with my lover/scholar/friend lynnee. she framed beloved, which is a horror story, as an examination of a tenderness of storytelling, how do we tell the ugly truth in a beautiful dignified way? toni morrison took this story into her thorough speculative hands and shaped something immensely humanizing, focused on a powerful and complex female protagonist, where the black love and survival and even madness left a feeling of empowerment in us when it was finished. she indicts white supremacy – as we watch sethe stand in that shed we understand what happened to her, what slavery was. this time around, with children in my life, that scene was even more devastating than it was the first time.

so my mind has been returning to the scenes of both movies, wanting to write.

and then 19-year-old renisha mcbride was shot in dearborn. i didn’t see it at first, my friend dream has been posting about and organizing around it. renisha, from what i’ve gathered, was a young black woman who got in a car accident and was seeking help. instead of being seen as a human seeking aid, she was taken for a potential robber. an unarmed robber knocking on a front door in the middle of the night. so she got shot in the face? and as i write this no charges are being brought against her zimmerman, but pressure is mounting as more of us reluctantly say and write and scream her name for the first time.

it all feels deeply connected, to me.

from the first day we were brought here, until today in this obamajayzoprah era, it is still such a dangerous thing to be black – and let’s be precise, most every other shade of brown – in the wrong place in this country. and the wrong place is wherever there is sufficient fear and arms. the borders are invisible, because they are internal – if you fear us for any reason, you can shoot us to death and the word ‘justified’ will become your armor for the remainder of your shameful life.

before learning renisha’s name, 12 years already had me thinking about the modern day spaces where race and ethnicity are used to justify capturing, enslaving, disappearing, torturing, and/or eliminating people. i was thinking about guantanamo bay, about migrant workers and immigrant families, about the survival of palestinians and somalis which gets narrated as terrorism, about our industry of prisons and punishment.

watching a slave balance on his toes as he hung just so from a tree, as others moved about their day, i thought of herman wallace in solitary confinement, and of waterboarding – i already couldn’t stay in the past.

lynnee’s scholarship of late has focused on nina simone, and she just unearthed this line, ‘slavery has never been abolished from america’s way of thinking.’ it is a trauma, toxic in the soil. mostly we don’t want it to be this way, we want to be ‘post-racial’. but we shoot babies in the face, and over skittles, because we are not post racial. we are not even post traumatic. we are in an active, sustained state of ongoing trauma, and that state has no borders.

and it’s hard, because most of the time i think white people, particularly white people with southern roots, should be terrified. because of what their ancestors did, and what karma might be justified to demand as recourse. but black people aren’t out here raging against white people and exacting revenge in place of reparations. we barely engage in any kinds of social movements at this point, to our detriment. but we are being presidents, we are railing against glass ceilings in high fashion culture on the jimmy kimmel show, we are falling in love, we are working for ford motor company when they’ll hire us, our social justice efforts may be small but they are fierce – we are working to shape a society to somehow see our humanity even though we all know all day every day how we came to be here. when we do turn to crime, we take it out primarily on each other, and it’s driven by the economic state that emerges from being so recently the slaves of this nation.

it is hard to shake away the fact that slavery really helped capitalism take off here. today, how one is doing in the system of capitalism is the difference in most aspects of black life – whether you will work for others and barely survive, get sucked into illegal pathways of survival, or ultimately ride away. and it’s a markedly less discriminating slavery, this embedded modern version. it still shows a statistically trackable lust for black bodies, but will swallow whole anyone who can’t advance against the odds.

if you ride away you can be president. but if you were the president and you happened to be in dearborn heights and got into a car accident and approached a door for help? for the resilience of surviving slavery and being a nice guy and achieving status and titles and leadership and then surviving the car crash and getting to the door, you get nothing. you die, sir.

i am thinking a lot on how creativity thrives in such conditions.

how do we generate life in the midst of an ongoing war? how do we love in the path of such a mysterious borderless hunter?

the only answer that makes any sense to me is the resistance of creating, and letting that creation, that joy and love and generation of something new, press up against the fear.

this combination of movies has me reflecting a lot on resistance. throughout both films there are whispers and traces of love and intimacy as forms of resistance – feeling touched, connected, sweetness, sexual release, goodness. then there is the resistance of not engaging, which beautiful brave slave patsey employs in 12 years. there is the resistance of choosing to die, to kill one’s future, that both patsey and beloved’s sethe turn to or attempt. there is one woman in 12 years whose resistance is weeping, uncontrollably and unstoppably, for her children.

i love the full consideration of these forms of resistance. dream tweeted that resistance is never futile, and i agree – resistance let’s us know how severe the conditions of suffering are, and also let us know how resilient we are, that we still long for a taste of freedom, of action on our own recognizance.

to that end, i have always loved the stories of slow poisoning slave masters, of learning to read and write in the shadows and dirt, of doing the slave work as incompetently as possible without incurring punishment – i love these as much as the stories of running away and freeing others, and think they speak just as powerfully to the ways in which we bend but do not break, break but do not disappear, disappear but are not forgotten.

perhaps because i know myself, and how hard bravery is. and how radically i am living my resistance with every choice, though it may never be seen by others.

perhaps because i have been in the woods in the dark and it still scares me and i think that is some ancestral memory, and i know you can hear everything in the night in the wood, that an escaping slave must have been a crashing burden to the darkness. renisha mcbride. we have been getting shot at in the night such a long time.

i want hear the truth until it is made impossible. if that means lots and lots of movies and television shows and series about slavery and its foundations, its legacies, it’s breathing beastly present, so be it. i want these creative indictments of this viral system, until it can no longer justify itself the morning after. i want inspired-by-true stories like toni wrote, i want directors from all backgrounds to see this as a necessary story to tell. i want djangos, i want fantastical lesbian slave science fiction, i want slave narratives from survivors. i want big budget hollywood movies and small home crafted art films. i want oscar worthy performances and scripts, and i want the rest of it – i want us to obsess about this, to turn to it as a festering spreading wound that can only truly heal with our attention, our slowing down and attending to this place where we have never been well but could be. today, slavery is the rarely mentioned core narrative of this country’s existence – i want our narrative to be truth and reconciliation.

i want a justice for renisha that makes her the last one.

i don’t avoid the news because i don’t care. it is a sign of exhaustion about living in this country, about willfully turning the best of my attention towards creativity and solutions. but from a place of surviving, in case there is ever confusion. i am hanging on the line too, digging my toes in the dirt for purchase on some new stability, hanging on for a true freedom.