Tag Archive for 'Trayvon'

learning to respond to the world as a non-organizer

as usual, so much is happening.

in the past couple of weeks the voting rights act was overturned, trayvon martin’s known murderer was released, detroit declared bankruptcy…these are three of roughly a billion things to respond to.

my response is rarely surprise. it is often: right, that is what happens next in this scenario, in this system. and the need for self and collective love and liberation persists.

the other day the news of detroit declaring bankruptcy came down and i went through a series of responses.

so what?
surviving is detroit’s default.
we make it look fresh.
i love detroit.

how did this happen?
can people actually survive on any less here?
i don’t want to even try and become an instant expert on city bankruptcy. just like i didn’t want to become an instant expert on emergency financial management.

but then how can i imagine a viable solution?
…i look at the cultural wealth of this city, don’t they see it?
…i reflect on what capitalism allows in terms of stratification – how many people are succeeding in this city, off the development of this city? don’t they see?

and how do i respond as myself, as a person?
i love detroit. as she is, has been, and will be.

(hands over ears)

the facts are on our side right now. but the facts alone don’t seem to line up with when and how communities rage and riot, resist, or renew.
…i don’t want to give the actions of people who don’t care about detroit so much of my attention.

i love detroit.

the other night, sitting with some of my favorite detroit minds reflecting on this moment, i realized part of my resistance to emotions around the emergency manager and the bankruptcy is rooted in residual guilt about knowing i am not an organizer, and my growing/ongoing questions about other ways to show up.

recently someone from outside detroit questioned me on why i wasn’t organizing responses and direct actions here, with all that’s going on. i struggled to respond without feeling defensive, dropping into what i know to be true for myself and for the city.

first, detroiters are responding. hearing of some of the efforts, i am reminded of the AMP principle: “Wherever there is a problem, there are already people acting on the problem in some fashion. Understanding those actions is the starting point for developing effective strategies to resolve the problem.”

amplify the efforts happening, yes. maybe more support is needed. but trust that there are passionate and strategic responses afoot.

but second, i am not an organizer.

i have tried various approaches to organizing. the way i was developed as an organizer was to learn tons of information, tactics and theory, and based on that data to form an opinion, a strategy, and wage critique through my words and actions. whether that waging was effective or not (and i can humbly say it often wasn’t) it was righteous, backed up by fact.

i have seen this approach work gloriously for folks who had a nature of warrior, or researcher. i literally don’t have the natural skill set of an organizer (my extroversion comes in spurts; my memory is inconsistent, numbers free and creative; my vulnerability thrives in written form; i really prefer to be alone more of the time than most people know; approaching strangers gives me anxiety).

also, my theory of change (we must transform ourselves to transform the world) has me focused on internalizing the site of transformation. i am working to evolve beyond the capitalism, competition and individualism within myself, my family, my relationships, my writing, my reach.

and as y’all know, i have not thrived in the burn-out culture of organizing, which i acknowledge is the state of most of the movement now.

i have been building a life of things i am called to do, and love. i am a facilitator and a writer, a creative practitioner. a doula. a coach. i am a lover, a budding philosopher. a hybrid. i excel in the inter-nodal work, the intermediary work.

if there is anyone i place on a pedestal it is organic organizers, the kind of people i regularly support through facilitation and coaching, who are out in the world knocking on doors, approaching strangers, spending the majority of their waking hours in group processes to strengthen community. i respect and admire them, i need them to succeed.

i know i am not them.
they are better people than me in many ways that matter to me.

but i also love me.

my curiosity is peaked by conversations more than news, by emotions more than policies, by relationship and healing more than long-term strategies. and i don’t think this makes me less serious, less strategic, or anti-intellectual – i think am just oriented towards other types of intelligence.

i deeply believe in collective action. i don’t believe everyone in that collective has to be an organizer. i think the more clearly everyone seeks the roles in society/family/community that give them pleasure and fulfillment, the more effective and creative any collective action, resistance and living will be.

so i am learning, honing my ways of responding as an artist. as an emergent strategy facilitator, i am focusing on healing strategies, relationship depth and emotional growth at the collective level.

this means when injustice happens in a major ways, it brings me to questions about the emotional realities of communities i live in, love and support.

these are the kinds of questions i sit with:

what can i create, write, build, birth, hold, make easy?

what is in our hearts that makes us internalize oppression, resist, or create alternatives?

how much heartache can a people take before we walk away from participating in oppressive systems?

how many dreams must be deferred before a community withers – and what is it that breathes new life in…anger? love? some perfect juxtaposition of the two?

how do we give our all to the creation and practice of ancient, alternative and new systems within the shell of the current…knowing they could be smashed like the acorn community in parable of the talents?

or is that the inevitable point, that we must build new systems without attachment, growing philosophies and practicing belief systems grander than our current endeavors, discovering new ideas about ourselves, literally new futures, from within?

rather than fighting for the political/physical place we are, how do feel/find the place that can hold and love us?

it’s speculative fiction but i suspect that what we long for might occupy the same physical space we are in, but is a parallel emotional world determined by how we show up.

Keep going Trayvon

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

keep going Trayvon don’t look back here,
nothing here for you but our stranger’s/
familiar’s love
twisted tonight to a grief.
go on home,
this place doesn’t know how to love you.
axe.

i didn’t watch the trial.

i watched loved ones watch the trial, and i wondered: what is right action? where should i put my attention?

i focused on releasing Trayvon from being a story or statistic, and then loving Rachel, sorry to know their names in this way.

(from the moment you were made to feel afraid, there was no justice to be had for you.)

i love many children i know to be irreplaceable. if anything happened to them, if they were hurt, if they died, afraid, i know this country’s justice could never appease their ferocious spirits, or mine.

i hope that we wouldn’t have to rely on the system that set them up for death to deliver their justice.

not guilty. hmmm.

the peace we are expected to hold in these moments is some mandela coming out of prison with a smile peace, some truth and reconciliation amongst piles of skulls in rwanda peace, some continental cultural genocide-survivalist peace.

…something not matured in me yet honestly.

…something I am growing, because I suspect both justice and evolution are tied up in that sort of massive constant practiced inner peace.

…something seemingly required to be a parent in this country, which thinks so little of our children’s lives that we shoot them, accidentally and on purpose.

(it was the familiarity of assumed powerlessness that i felt when i heard you’d died, and saw your beautiful face, in that order.)

i think about all the people expressing their anger on social media and wonder, do we miss the opportunity of our collective fury as we sit alone together? or do we build a beautiful pattern for feeling too much?

(wouldn’t riots be an appropriate second line for you though? how can we sing you home while your killer picks up his weapon again?)

the riot that comes is inside our hearts, on our streets, in our words and music and art. it is keriah writ large, our torn garment of grief for centuries of sitting shiva.

(i sit still in the dark with your name on my lips. i light candles and sage and send the qualities of the four elements to your parents.)

we keep seeking something greater than our suffering to share. ‘we must love each other, and protect each other’ as assata taught us, fiercely, outside of boundaries, borders, bars, laws and the myth of safety – ‘we have nothing to lose’…

(you are long gone.
i’m tired of falling for ghosts.)

i hear coyote wailing in the distance and it sounds like grief. i wake up thinking of blood on the leaves, and bloodletting. then i feel it all over me. i slap at my body, but i know i’m defenseless.