And this is a movement.
Vanessa W. Lynch | @madamechocho
Black lives matter has never been just a hashtag. It has always been the language used as a concise and powerful explanation of a reality that America was founded on exterminating. Black Lives Matter is a network that serves as an umbrella organization and recognizes that there has always been revolutionary struggle in black communities, that there have always been black freedom fighters and inter-racial supporters.
Black Lives Matter is the linguistic expression of a reality in an America that killed Trayvon Martin and set his murderer free. It is the brainchild of three mourning, woke, black womxn with intersecting identities who decided to come together and transform our collective pain and rage into something useful.
Capitalist america likes to imagine itself a lone bastion of glistening hope isolated from the real problems of the world. The truth is that it is a lone, crumbling imperial state that in its desperation is frantically pushing out increasingly more unbelievable fanatic propaganda attempting to reassure the world that all is fine in the land of the free.
With the 2016 election circuit happening in the background of the roar of black death it seems – and rightfully so – that Black Lives Matter is on everyone’s mind. Certainly everyone has an opinion.
The danger is that some of these opinions are half formed. What this round of struggle has done for black america is give us a way to stay connected and hold all of our intersecting personalities in a way that has never happened before in this country and in the universe. This is the same movement that saw survivors of Operation Protective Edge tweeting survivors of the Mike Brown rebellion how to deal with tear gas moments after they were attacked. This is the movement that allows for us to cross borders and identity labels instantaneously.
This movement is powerful.
America has always been threatened by black folk who refused to stay in their place. It doesn’t matter whether we were staging slave rebellions in West Africa or the Caribbean, poisoning the men who saw themselves as our overseers, refusing to put out our cigarettes for a white police officer or grabbing the mic from a presidential candidate. We were never meant to have power in this country. Hell, we were never meant to have voice. Our survival is even somewhat puzzling to the white folks who convinced themselves into the lie that we were simply niggers, bred for them to accumulate more of their never ending american dollar.
But it was clearly a lie. Everyone can see that. Especially white folks, which is exactly why they are clinging to it so tightly. They need us. They always have needed us. If not to care take, clean, work the land and raise their children for them then to assure them that they are not the bad guys. White folks have a deep awareness of what their people have done to this world, and continue to do to this world, and they need us to make them feel better about it. Ultimately they need our help, because – and I’m still not positive how this imbalance first happened – but white folks simply don’t have the capacity for the same kind of spiritual awareness (compassion, understanding) that everyone else in the world has. It’s an actual physical deficit. Their pineal gland is calcified and they are cut off from access to spiritual thinking. I write about this extensively in another piece so I’m not really going to get into it here.
Black people have survived so much insanity I call this the post apocalypse. Here we are in 2015, many of us speaking english, wearing clothes and on soil that were never our own, and we have found a way to create our own language, culture, families, gain control of some plots of land, and gather under the moon again to scheme and strategize a path towards freedom. Not only this, but we have maintained our humanity – our compassion, our love. Despite centuries of slavery and massacres we have the ability to love each other, and have not made any attempts at all to do to these people the things that they have done to us. Think about it. We are not even talking about revenge; rape, scalping, land theft, deportation, humiliation, separation of families, whippings and rendering their culture invisible. We are talking about justice, equality and freedom. We are talking about ending the system wherein they have the power to kill us indiscriminately. We are not talking about enslaving them, like they are still doing to us. We are still talking about fomenting love in our communities, and fighting for the right to live.
Welcome to 2015. This movement that many Americans thought (and certainly hoped) would die is not only still alive but is growing in numbers and is currently the largest, most active, most talked about grassroots movement in the country and part of the global conversation on freedom and ending white supremacy.
With america’s first black president america’s fantastic lie starts to expose itself so loudly that it cannot be ignored. White supremacists (dressed up as devout christians, republicans and tea partiers) launch the most hilarious and terrifying attack on an american president that’s probably ever been seen. From demanding his birth certificate and calling him a Muslim (which is islamophobic, by the way) to actually, literally, shutting down the government a few times, it got more and more uncomfortably clear for anyone who was still buying into america’s fantasy that things were not all soaring eagles and fireworks.
Enter a mess of nuclear waste and plans for an oil pipeline throughout indigenous territory in the us and canada and we saw a massive revival of Indigenous Resistance throughout the continent. Enter the result of 500 years of colonialism and repression – the ever present stomp of boots of indigenous people from latin america grew steadily louder as more people were left with no option but to migrate to the very place that caused the violence and poverty in their homes. Through all of this the prisons remain and steadily grow larger as the black and brown population increases. It’s not politically correct for the cowboys to defeat the Indians or the european sailors to treat africans as their personal property so since outright mass murder isn’t an option, some people columbused a way to keep those bodies and still make money off of them. In this way they are removed from society, told that they are being punished so their families carry the burden of loss, humiliation and economic weight and you can still make money off of them! But of course people will rebel. And in the late 60’s throughout the 70’s despite mass media campaigns, singling out and terrorizing known black and brown freedom fighters, creating billion dollar networks of agents, spies, informants, and military units these people continued to fight. We are resilient, after all. Even after leaders were assassinated and people were shown what kind of torture awaited them if they spoke against these injustices they continued to fight. Time for a new tactic. Enter the late 80’s and early 90’s where crack cocaine rampaged through communities of color, killing thousands and landing thousands more people in prison. Ah, heroin came at this time as well. Of course though, cocaine is being smuggled out of central america by the american military and heroin is being smuggled out of afghanistan and somehow all of this mess of drugs makes its way directly into the segregated quarters where black and indigenous folks are forced to live. Determined to survive as ever, some of us started selling this poison to make money to feed our families; others, tempted by the idea of a moment’s reprieve from the never ending onslaught of genocide, chose to try to escape reality just once by trying these drugs and we all know what happened next. White folks have always used chemical warfare against us. Whiskey and syphilis blankets and crack cocaine are all a part of that military tactic.
Enter a housing bubble*pop* where big banks doled out millions of dollars of predatory loans to families who had no feasible way of ever paying them back, and tens of thousands of people are homeless and in debt .
Enter Katrina and the lethargic response of bush’s america to black folks in New Orleans, no doubt white america just hoped everyone would die and they could write a nice obituary about it later, rather than deal with the issue of helping black people, but wait – cause it’d also make a nice new vacation spot for white folks.
But this colonized land is expansive, so all of this requires transportation. And although america created the auto industry cause it would make more money than railroads, (then killed it cause human life is disposable here) cars need gas.
1991 Gulf War. War on Afghanistan. War on Iraq. War on any single place that had oil reserves that the us didn’t feel like paying for. Freedom mission for Libya to kill the tyrant Qaddafi, who happens to sit on top of oil reserves, gold, millions, and is opening the doors of the country he leads to refugees from around the world.
-Folks are getting frustrated-
Enter spring of 2012 on a regular Sunday when Trayvon Martin leaves his fathers home, walks to the store to buy some skittles and iced tea and never comes back.
Enter Black Lives Matter.
Trayvon’s senseless murder and america’s response was this generation’s revival of our ever continuing battle for our freedom. It was not the new civil rights movement. It was not the new anything. It is a continuation of battle cry for justice and respect for black, afro-descendent human life that has been echoing for the last 500 years.
america and western culture have short term vision but also short term memory. Perhaps also it is just too difficult to accept the truth of our reality, drenched in blood and lies and broken promises and theft. One of this country’s greatest victories though, was the capturing and molding of the human imagination. america is not only founded on lies, it has a massive, never-ending livestream of alternating happy people dancing and singing and making their way to success and celebrity and total utter war and death and punishment. The television sludge that is poured constantly into our minds with advertisements reminding us that we have everything we could ever want and also that there are repercussions for asking questions. Maybe there hasn’t been hope for a long time and so many people resigned themselves into a kind of weary acceptance of america.
But sometimes uncalculated things happen that shift the world. Things that no one can predict or determine. These moments spark some kind of tipping point and act as a catalyst to shake the world upside down and demand that each and every individual reflect on their lifestyles and values and learn where they stand in the world.
Such was the case when Trayvon was killed.
Loss of life usually evokes sorrow and sympathy. And so for any objective human, it was an outrage. It was a devastating loss. It was a crushing blow. But americans are not objective. And how could we be, when two of the main ethnic groups have been at opposite ends of the battle field for so long, with everyone else caught in the middle.
So when Trayvon was killed, many people were heartbroken. Many people were outraged. But many people had some hesitation that didn’t allow them to mourn, and so were forced to immediately jump into opposition, which was not really opposition to Trayvon but was in defense of the idea of America. The assassination of Trayvon Martin exposed the truth of america, and the truth didn’t line up with the delusion that many people accept every day and call reality. And if you take away a lie that people build their lives around these people will have nothing left.
So the sides were formed with one half just mourning the loss of life, and growing ever more concerned, outraged and heartbroken with America’s response. George Zimmerman wasn’t arrested. The Dream Defenders appeared and fought and held space demanding justice. One half, caught up in their white supremacist excuses. “He shouldn’t have had a hoodie on.” “Skittles could have been a gun.” “Why was he in that neighborhood?” “If he had a father..” “Why was he walking out late.” “George Zimmerman was just doing his job.” The latter half’s excuses never dried up. In fact, they’re still forming new ones. The former half, awake, aware, and ready to act, were changed. Some of us who belong to that former group remembered so closely the sacrifices that black people have always made, and those we have always lost to this country.
We remembered Emmett Till, Amadou Diallo, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Bussa, Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, Crazy Horse…. We remembered.
The latter half started shining their guns and cashing their checks.
But it makes me think of that Bob Marley song, “you’re running – running – running away – but you can’t run away from yourself.”
White people – your false reality will crumble in the light of the truth. When you continue to kill us, you are also killing yourself. It doesn’t matter how many excuses you tell yourself about how much we deserve to die and you deserve to live, or deserve our land, or deserve our bodies, it doesn’t matter what you tell yourself. At the end of the day you will have to live with yourself, and your children will have to live with you. And because you haven’t looked at yourself in 500 years the exact same cycles are continuing. Your paranoia and hatred and sickness will only multiply and continue until you face what you have done and what your people are doing. The truth is not easy. It will require sacrifice. That is your burden to deal with. You will never succeed in killing us all, because we are too resilient and too strong, but even if you did, you would continue to kill each other.
“you’re running – running – running away – but you can’t run away from yourself.”
We cannot afford to be divided at this time. We cannot afford it.
When I hear people comparing the Seattle BLM action to the Boston BLM action I am disheartened. Black Lives Matter is a network. With autonomous organizers and chapters. We are two years old. Some of the chapters are much younger than that. This means that we are barely toddlers. The world is watching our movement and forming opinions.
To be clear this is not a dynamic of us v. them. It’s all of us live or all of us perish. It doesn’t matter if one group approached a presidential candidate in a back room and one group jumped on stage, what matters is why we have to fight and scream the simple declaration that are lives exist and are worth protecting and how we are going to move forward from here.
The election circus will continue. america, this colonial project will continue to do what it has always done – the only thing it knows how to do – it will continue to hold firmly onto power and do anything it takes to obtain more. So we who are conscious must do what we have always done. It is going to continue to be hard. More of us will die. It is going to continue to seem impossible.
But black folks have always accomplished the impossible so that doesn’t really bother me. Through slave ships and rape and beatings and cultural degradation, loss of our homeland and language, loss of faith in each other, silencing, crossing the atlantic, chains, prisons we have survived.
We already alright. We already won. And we need to start remembering that. Each day we wake up on this occupied continent we should celebrate and renew our vows to ourselves and each other. Each breath we take as black and indigenous people is a battle that we win. And for those who chant Assata’s ever relevant promise, please remember that it is a promise. Remember the words you speak because that vow is a powerful thing. We will continue to fight for our freedom. We will continue to win. We will continue to love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.