Theme: “Ella’s Song” by Sweet Honey in the Rock
Each morning, we wake to find ourselves wrapped in the heavy embrace of a revolution. Perhaps you have only recently been awoken to the devastating impacts of our racist systems and structures. Maybe you felt a stirring in your spirit, an intensifying desire to move from observing the liberation struggle to becoming an active participant. If that is the case, welcome, friend. It is no small thing to begin to understand that the air we breathe and the water we drink has been filtered and flavored by white supremacy and patriarchy. That the American dream is in fact a pyramid scheme that was designed to keep some of us at the very bottom and a few at the tippy-tippy top. The understanding that is beginning to unfurl itself before you now is the first dose of anti-venom that will help you stay awake and contribute to the transformation of these systems and structures in order for us to all get free.
It can be daunting, this journey towards liberation, but know that you are not alone in your freedom dreams. The truth is, we have been dreaming together for a very long time, and now the moment of realization is upon us. As you go forth on this journey there are a few principles that can serve as guiding lights as you continue along the way.
“To tell the truth is to become beautiful, to begin to love yourself, value yourself. And that’s political, in its most profound way.” – June Jordan
Revolution is a dedication to unrelenting honesty. It is a distinct ability to stand in the light of the sun unashamed and the willingness to fight for the right to take the reigns of reality back from those who would seek to steer us into collective darkness and submission. It is manifest in a thousand decisions that we make every single day, each breath we take is alive with the possibility of choice. We owe it to those who can no longer do so; to breathe in freedom, justice, love and truth. When we experience wrong, witness it or even glimpse the potential for it to take form, it is our duty to choose differently, to intervene and to assert justice. This begins with a commitment—to learn how to see past the trappings of white supremacy, capitalism, heteropatriarchy, militarism and war. As we learn to see these things for what they are, forever onwards we will live with a mandate and a mission to disallow those systems of oppression to thrive in our presence. Within the context of your workplace, your places of worship, your family gatherings, your innermost being—make it so that inequity can not gain a foothold nor find a home. If you examine your surroundings and find yourself surrounded by racial injustice, it is time to DO something. Name it, assess it, and establish a path that will lead you to measurable transformation.
“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” – Lilla Watson
Survival without one another is an impossibility. As we move deeper into this work, it is critical that within our liberatory practices, we embed a deep-rooted belief and understanding that none of us are free until all of us are free. One of the most maniacal aspects of white supremacist culture is the ill-fated notion that we are to be divided and conquered, each human separated into distinct categories and subcategories never to venture beyond the places we have been planted. The reality is we are each other’s hope and harvest. Audre lorde said; “It is not our differences that divide us, it is our inability to celebrate and recognize those differences.” Our diversity is our ultimate strategic strength—the differences we bring provide the wide array of perspectives required to transform the systems of oppression that seek to separate and dominate us. This is the opposite of colorblindness. “Colorblindness” is an inherently racist idea that does not adequately honor the beauty, strength and strategy that lay within our various tones and textures. The trick is not to embrace erasure, but to open ourselves to the wonder, beauty and brilliance that is your kindred. If we do not seek to support one another in rising to the task of making revolution real, we do nothing but ensure our painfully slow mutual destruction. It is an irrefutable fact that my liberation is bound up in yours, which means your wellness and wholeness is also a requirement if I am to enjoy mine.
“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” – Audre Lorde
As we continue to journey further down the path of seeking justice and liberation, it is our duty to inspire and ignite others to also find their freedom dreams. Freedom is nothing if you keep it to yourself. Looking for the opportunities to share your learning, the practices, readings and conversations that keep you going serve to steady you on the path while bringing others closer to the fire. We know that building power requires bringing people together for a shared purpose. Now is the time to look for your people. Who are those around you who have also found a desire to disrupt and dismantle systems of oppression? If you haven’t found them yet—how can you? Often when we talk about racial justice, we believe that it is our duty to move those most rigid in their beliefs. But the dyed in the wool racists, people who cherish, claim and nurture white supremacy, are not the majority. The majority of us are merely so many moving gears in a machine that was built before we took our first breath, and maintained by our pre-configured actions—it is what you do once you discover that the machine exists that matters. What would happen if we decided to stop participating in inequitable practices? What if we embraced a reality where initiatives to advance racial justice was not a moral nicety, but a strategic mandate? Inspiring others involves sharing, demanding and advancing conversations, policies and practices that can seed and cement sustainable and irrevocable transformation. Inspire yourself and others with the fierce brilliance that is the power you wield to effect change. The time for being afraid and unsure is passed. Now is the moment to move, settled in the strength of your place in the long march towards freedom. The flame you now carry is the fire you must share.
Key Jackson is a Black, Indigenous, Queer radical somebody that is dedicated to advancing racial justice by any means necessary. Key is also Senior Director of Movement Capacity Building at Race Forward, which publishes Colorlines.