i’m sitting in the birmingham airport, waiting for a flight to san jose where i will drive to santa cruz, train at the women’s donor network, then drive to l.a. for a couple of days learning large scale projection direct action skills.
i had to take a moment to write about the amazing experience i just had at the gathering of the elders, called by harry belafonte – i was invited by malia lazu. there was a lot of meeting and speeches, elders sharing their stories, young people feeling the pace in their spines. we had a sacred fire given to us and i got to watch my brothers biko, khari, david, kwabena, carey and others keep the fire going for the three days. it was a beautiful fire – a prayer fire, a pain fire – we took turns throwing our pain in.
the elders included folks who’d sat at the lunch counters, who sang freedom songs, stood up to gang violence, led the birmingham-selma march, all in the room with folks i now consider family, and also happen to be the groundbreaking activists of this next phase of movement. it was a passing of the torch and i brought ashes from the sacred fire with me to keep in my home. when i got asked in the closing cirlce to sing for the group, i sang my lord what a morning – you’ll hear the elders call the wake the nations underground, i’m looking to my god’s right hand as the stars begin to fall. you’ll the hear the youth rise up and say here i am, we are the nations underground, and i’m looking to my babies’ hands when the stars begin to fall.
after three days in the woods, with the lake and the smell of alabama earth where our indigenous family had left ancestors, where my people had left ancestors – on black owned land, worked by black farmers, we came together and honestly we spent much of the time feeling the distance between us and praying, healing together to cross that distance when strategy discussions couldn’t do it. we were focusing in large part on youth incarceration, as our current movement builders, many of them, are behind bars.
i let go of some pain i didn’t know i was carrying, i let go with tears and song and holding people. on the last night one brother learned his grandfather was transitioning and i got to give him a chain of shells i’ve carried from the south pacific, they were made to protect. its amazing in particular the pain that can exist between men and women, the violent experiences, the distrust we let color our interactions because of past pain. but i see this as a time of rising above expectations in the personal realm, rising above the weaknesses of flesh and meeting each other on a higher realm, holding each other in that space and being honest about what we think must happen.
folks were talking about the ills of our current society and how we need to get down to business, but i felt this huge patience rise up in me, the kind that only responds to great urgency. a reminder crept into my soul, that we have to be patient and loving and forgiving with those we claim to love, and as diane nash taught us, we have to release the concept of enemy if we hope to overcome oppression. i sat across from kathleen cleaver, from rose sanders, i danced with harry belafonte – oh the life in those people. who they have touched. i left that place so centered in myself, and then got to the airport and had to stand, legs apart, patted down intimately – i can’t let it hurt me that a black woman can get a job doing that to me. i have to love her.
i’ll have pictures once i develop them, forgot to bring my digital camera so i had to get some one time use ones, but i still got the pictures.
i’m looking forward to this night alone in san jose, where i have never been. i am looking forward to the work i have to do.
peace – adrienne maree