it’s a beautiful day to be black.
woke up this morning to a brilliant new d’angelo album dedicated to ferguson and occupy, resistance. it’s full of love songs and funky grimy sexy beautiful man sounds over guitar and…so prince, so shuggie otis, so marvin, so bilal, so brilliant, so worth the long wait.
and then ava duvernay became the first black woman nominated for a golden globe (oscar coming soon i’m sure) for best director for selma.
and between those two things, i got to attend an action called by the blackout collective in oakland, flowing together efforts for #blacklivesmatter, #blackbrunch, #asians4blacklives and others.
i wasn’t planning to attend, i was heading to the airport after a tight trip to california mostly spent in petaluma at the strozzi dojo as part of my first generative somatics teaching team. i’ve been in training building to this for two years and think the work we do is mindblowing. and it’s massive, i usually can’t do social or event time around it.
but my ride to the airport was one of my loves, alicia garza, one of the three women who dreamt up #blacklivesmatter and spoke our longing into movement. we were heading to breakfast when the news broke, oakland police department shut down. so of course we had to go skip breakfast and see what was happening because social media had us both texting in exclamations.
(from the blackout collective)
if you don’t know me, a while ago i was part of the ruckus society staff. going to an action in oakland is family reunion time. today’s action was beautifully familiar, and also different in ways that deserve noticing.
on the action front, oh god it was so good, i was taking in as much as i could as my tears of joy and gratitude blended with the soft cold rain. i couldn’t stop hugging people, people who were white, asian, black, latino, taking actions to assert that black lives matter. i wanted to be close to these massive hearts.
the action, from what i observed, was perfection. every entrance into the oakland police department was blockaded. the street in front of the entrance was blockaded on both ends, abundantly. the banners were stunning and clear – ‘black and breathing’, ‘complacency is consent’, and a flag flying from the OPD flagpole, held in place by a brave human who scaled it with muscle and rope, with the faces of our recent martyrs, stating once again that ‘black lives matter’.
the action was so incredibly powerful because it clearly centered around the messaging, leadership and visibility of young black leaders, stepping and chanting and singing and marching and fists in the air claiming historical space. the blackout collective. you know that scene in malcolm x where they march to the hospital? it was like that but with no one appearing to call out the directions, with women and queer folks and locs and fros. they seemed to move as a body, dignity head to toe.
just as clearly, allies were providing cover, taking risks, embodying solidarity. such a necessary resource when done right!
the main OPD door was held by loved ones, asian comrades, with the banner #asians4blacklives. another door was held by white allies with a banner reading ‘every 28 hours a black person is killed by a cop or vigilante’. these door blockers were locked down, a good and organized mix of risk. the streets were blocked by what appeared to be white allies, and i saw latino and indigenous leadership as well.
i cannot overstate how powerful the container felt, with the blackout collective and other blacks yelling ‘show me what solidarity looks like!’ and the allies on the streets and locked to the doors and guarding the base of the flagpole all yelling back ‘this is what solidarity looks like!’
i am getting chills remembering it to share with you.
here are the protocols being practiced in this ally work:
every time the cops moved in for arrest, a hundred devices popped up, those documenting also chanting, to be clear that there is nothing, not anything, that will go unnoticed or unseen. vigilance. a plethora of roles. an abundance of ways to be OF the moment.
i was so moved, trying to smile and say hello to old friends with so many tears in my throat. the personal difference for me was getting to attend as a black person, not in the action, not in the know. i was dressed for femme bonding breakfast and then the plane, ruby woo on my lips, trench coat, boots, suitcase.
i’ll admit here that the whole time i was at ruckus i felt out of my league, the badassery around me so thorough, and me so library-nook-nerd trying to understand how groups and people change. but i felt so good this morning, like all the right people were in all the right places. i felt beloved and held. i am a facilitator and singer and writer and healer in a movement that evolves from and advances many movements. again, not a beginning or end, but not a phase either. a move forward. it isn’t confusing. i wrote afterwards to one of my friends in the action that i felt beloved. i feel it now, that my life is precious, that my life matters. it surprises me to say this, but…it feels new.
it’s such a tender green shoot of a thing, because i am not saying this about america, where i know it will be a long long time before i feel a real mattering, a legislated, cultural mattering. i don’t expect it in this nation state structure.
no what i mean is in the smaller space of movement, where i believe we have to embody the world we long for, where so many of us have been hurt and broken hearted and ignored and disrespected and kept coming back, where so many of us have been stepped on and over and still stood up and kept finding new ways, kept offering our love to this effort to transform it all, seeing the conditioning, working not to take it personally, finding an open artery to send our love into the blood cells of revolutionary work…i mean in that place? to feel that my black queer woman facilitator thinker writer artist healer lover life matters?
yeah i need to go listen to this d’angelo and feel all my feelings. thank you oakland.