Be quiet. Move with people who were working to transform this world before the election. Listen to them. Join them. Don't move too fast. Because you, like me, just might have your own self-work to do.
What I am saying is:
STOP FREAKING OUT. STOP BLAMING. JUST STOP.
Movements for human lives have taken place ever since the first European slaughtered the very people who cared for him on this land. Connect with them. If there is no hierarchy of oppressions, then we must stop and realize that there are thousands of people all around us who have been waiting for you. They have been waiting on you to speak. They have been waiting on you to move. Some have simply been waiting on you to just be quiet and listen.
I am one of them.
I have been shouted down over racism, homophobia, and sexism for quite some time. When the people who have watched you be shouted down, do nothing, and then become the people who now want to lead in liberation, it makes me very nervous. Very cautious. When the people who tell me they are so happy for our work fail to consider that I, like so many others, could be dead right now, it makes me nervous. This tells me that they do not understand the depth of this work. Fighting oppression is not glamorous.
And here we are. It's after the election and people, still only a portion of this country, are completely freaked out. They want to do something. They want to act. This is one of those events that tends to wake people, even if it is just for a moment. But when privileged, yet marginalized, people (i.e. women who are white or men who are black) engage liberation movements, there is much listening you must do in order to see a fuller picture.
To undo the oppressor within you.
To hear voices of groups marginalized much longer, or even worse, than you.
Because the assumption that you with all of your unchecked privilege can liberate anyone is in and of itself oppressive.
Find someone who says #BlackLivesMatter, find an indigenous person, find the person who seeks sentencing reform, find the modern day abolitionist, find the artist that conveys resistance in every stroke, find the ones who have been seeking liberation for centuries. Start there.
Be quiet and listen.
Read Audre Lorde's Open Letter to Mary Daly.
an interactive poem written by Sapient Soul, featuring links to Angela Davis, James Baldwin, Malcolm X, Nina Simone, Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde, Maya Angelou, & Alice Walker
Music from Ian Morris of Listening to Smile
to give all of this magic to the world
"Is there another witness in the house? Is there a word?" --Rev. William Barber III
My brother is black
My brother is 20 years old
My brother is a college student at a Southern university that used to be a Southern plantation
and in his lifetime he has seen history books
come alive on a campus where the KKK solicits membership in 2016 and police murdering folk plays live on his Facebook news feed
My brother knows he fits the descriptions
of George Stinney and Emmitt Till and Sean Bell and Philando Castile
I am watching as his eyes grow empty
It's like his mind is somewhere between the noose he has made for himself and the one this country makes for him
Afraid for his life by suicide or homicide
I mutter the words "Just stay focused"
Like some sort of mantra, hoping he will just graduate
Even though we all saw the improper arrest of Professor Henry Louis Gates
Degrees don't prevent him from fitting the descriptions
So I'm telling him to be strong in who he is
Rather than see himself as hunted
Most times poems are prayers
So excuse me y'all, this is not just a poem
I must reflect to him how god he is
In a country that still kills "niggers" for sport
And my brother--yeah, he likes to say "nigga" for short, trying to claim ownership of an evil that was never his to begin with
Whether in a suit, jogging pants, or sagging his jeans, his black life matters to me
He is enough, human, alive, and never alone
Simply young and trying to learn himself
In the same way that all young adults have to learn themselves
Except he is not white and passing for innocent in this country
He knows respectability has never saved a life
He knows that meritocracy is a spoon fed riddle
So I tell him about our ancestors, the cosmos, and our Mother God
That we are always held and rocked steady
I tell him to be led by a compass of courage and compassion
Though they place 1-50 targets on his back or his chest or his head or his entire black body
Whether it's in carrying signs, seeking radical reconciliation, chanting Assata, or strategizing to transform this nation
We must do this work
My brother is in college to be an educator
He will one day be a superintendent and
He has the fire of 100,000 candles lit,
holding vigils for the fallen in his spirit
He is divine
And though legislation, policing, wealth gaps, achievement gaps, and poverty
All riddled with white supremacy
He is still light and we know that this country fears it's shadow,
constantly shooting in the dark
And still my brother is black and tall and smart and ratchet and loving and godly
And still my brother rises every day for the culture, for this life, and for you
His life, and so many other lives, call us forward in a struggle, requiring risk and power out of each and every one of us
And it is on each and every one of us alive to build something different
Sapient Soul © 2016
I had the honor of sharing this poem during the Repairers of the Breach Moral Revival in Charleston, SC. Invited by the amazing activist and spiritual leader, Susie Smith, I had to say yes. It was a powerful night of music, preaching, and testimony.
In one night I witnessed several powerful things happen that I had never seen before in a historically black church:
It was such a powerful experience! It left me motivated and inspired as we go into Election Day. I am voting. I am voting because of my ancestors. As someone aware of social injustice and its insidious nature, I am not happy with the choices that we have, but I know that these choices are a result of the ideology of white supremacy being so present within our systems of government. However, I choose to concern myself most with what happens after Election Day. We must engage the work of transforming hearts and minds. We must continue to work on ourselves. We must not stop being concerned once we cast our ballots. We must share the gifts we bring for the betterment of our world.
Peace & Poetry!