If we're talking feelings: I have felt small, insignificant and unheard. I feel lost and powerless. Like many of my friends and family I've been thirsty AF for information; magic words and magic instructions for how to fix the current chaos. The journey has been maddening. We attempt to start moving in a direction (any direction!) and before the glue has even had time to dry we're berating any and all ideas...they're never good enough...we're ripping the pages out...hitting the delete buttons and we're back in the same.damn.spots. and THAT can mess with your spirit just as intensely as the initial trauma that afflicted you in the first place.
I've been in that space and it hasn't been good so I've been looking for ways I could join the conversation. For someone who has never been super active in the community that was easier said than done. Finding a conversation outside of facebook took some time, but a conversation I did find (shout out to Kim Smith of Kinesis--a gym, workout center, spirit junkie mecca.)
So on a rainy Sunday afternoon I drove my butt down to Culver City and attended an event Capoeira Batuque put on to honor Zumbi (a Brazilian king who represents black liberation and black consciousness.) The discussion consisted of panelists who gathered for a meaningful discussion on current events, providing tools for peaceful actions and solutions. I just couldn't resist the promise of magic i.e. solutions to all the madness.
I wanted to share some of my notes because I think this conversation was meant to leave that studio's walls. Warning: it's lengthy, but collectively it added so much to the conversation and blew my damn mind so I have to share it all. Trust me it's worth it. Get comfy and dive in.
- One man read scripture from the Yoruba Bible about the power of community, gathering, and cooperation. He shared passages which explained the divine energy that resides in our heads as well as the significance of putting ones head to the ground to remove the negative energy that clouds our divine energy (something that many faiths practice.)
- A professor from Occidental College who teaches history spoke about her responsibilty as a white woman teaching history. Specifically, her responsibility involving centering people of color appropriately. At one point she mentioned that an important objective of slave masters was to destroy the spirit while preserving the body so she read documented examples of slaves (women specifically) who affirmed their humanity while living in a system bent on destroying it. The women who nursed and fed the babies...The women who dressed the wounds of the beaten...The women who stood in the way of the whip to protect young black boys from being beaten.
- An officer attended the meeting as well. He shared local programs the police departments have implemented that teach officers tools for tolerance. He mentioned the coffee with a cop program and stressed the importance of needing the community to know that the cop shootings we all keep hearing about are "mistakes...isolated incidents."
- A man who runs programs that advocate and assist foster care youth, children who have been in juvenile detention centers and prisons also attended and shared a heart breaking story of a gifted boy who went to jail. When he was released he was sent to his grandmother's to live, but because of zoning laws that prevented a felon from living there he was kicked out and sent to his aunt's home who happened to be a drug addict. Her apartment was raided. He was there and therefore arrested. He was out of jail for only two weeks before they threw him back in. He encourages us all to locate our local juvenile detention centers and work with them to help these young people.
- A former mayor and congress woman spoke about needing to see those in the community represented by those who live in the community (read: it's all white men. She is the 5th woman in the history of the city to ever serve as a local official.) She mentioned the quote, "If you're not at the table then, you're on the menu."
- Another gentlemen had just returned from filming at Standing Rock for a project Robert Redford is leading. This Mexican American man quoted Malcolm X, stressing how important our history is. He took it back to Christopher Columbus and the Pope's Doctrine of Discovery that encouraged Christians to go out and take the land of Non-Christians. He spoke about the treaty of 1851 and a Lakota prophecy that warned of a black snake that many believe is the Dakota Pipeline. He mentioned the women who are being shot in the face with pellet guns for protecting their water and how we can starve and destroy the snake by pulling our damn money out of the banks that are feeding it.
- The final woman, a white anti-racist activist, made sure to stress that conversations like this demand that her voice be the smallest voice on Black Conscious Day. She spoke to the white audience specifically suggesting they and you (if you're white) use your resources to help. It is not enough to be non-racist. You must be anti-racist. Find other anti-racist white people. Meet! Discuss! Do the work together and learn how to help without triggering people of color because it is not our responsibilty to help you figure it out.
Once the panelists were all able to speak the moderator opened the floor up for questions. A mental health worker spoke about how society is just now researching trauma. They've learned that the body remembers trauma...we carry it in our DNA. The great grandchildren of Holocaust survivors experience the trauma of a period of time they weren't physically apart of... yet they harbor trauma.
Another woman shared her story involving the father of her child and how he was locked up for marijuana and came out of prison a completely different and broken man who suffers from PTSD.
They asked us to think about how we can be an activist (and not a slacktivist). I pledge to keep reading and keep sharing what I learn. I also plan to be a conscious parent. It's my start.
My overall thoughts: They achieved magic. They identified roots of the problem and had honest conversations. I learned a lot and that knowledge is power. There's a catch though. This is probably the most pessimistic stance I've ever taken on education, but I believe the more you learn about racism and this broken government and system of ours, the more you realize it's an infinite hole of discovery. You will never stop pulling the scarf out of the magician's hat. You just have to keep pulling...keep learning while honoring and appreciating the progress.
I also learned that if you want to do something you have to study history. (A friend sent me a list of great books if you need suggestions.)
I learned if you have privilege or power you have to speak up for marginalized people. The system can't and won't change without folks on the inside actively dismantling these broken systems.
The white anti-racist woman's words keep popping back up: You're not being a true ally if you're defensive. The gentlemen who just returned from Standing Rock urged people to be proactive and not reactive.
I saw the problems that occur when people forget those nuggets of wisdom. One example: the officer. I appreciated seeing him there and was curious to hear what he would add. He shared some personal stories but overall he was defensive. I left early, but every time someone asked him a question about police brutality all I heard were defensive arguments. I heard scared and hurt people who just wanted him to say "Yes, those cops who are shooting men and women are a problem. We want to fix these horrendous issues just as much as you all want to." Instead he just kept emphasizing that they were mistakes and distancing himself and us from the conversation. (Note: people don't want to hear that people's deaths are reduced to mistakes on the job. And asking us to do the work of reaching out to police and building trusting relationships fell on deaf ears...at least my ears.)
Listen. Learn. Lose your pride. Don't be defensive. This is what I'm sitting with tonight.