Tuesday, July 26, 2016

two steps forward, two steps back

Someday, I'll have 28 minutes to watch Bernie's speech at the DNC last night, and will watch Michelle Obama's speech again and again.  As a parent, I needed to get up this morning and read the text again, though, after I wrote 5 pages of my own book.  It's been a really frustrating, hurtful and difficult few weeks, as I've been watching so much happen in the way of police brutality, attacks on police officers in the U.S., attacks in Nice, in Munich, in Kabul (84 people were killed in a blast and I barely heard a blip about it as the U.S. media focused on the literal wrestling match entry of Donald Trump at the RNC in Cleveland last week).  It was Sandra Bland's 28th birthday, Aiyana Jones' 14th birthday, Emmett Till's 75th birthday, the anniversary of the beginning of the '67 riots in Detroit.

All of this leaves me in a strange place, as I reach back to my 21 year old self to work on completing a book I started way back then.  In a professional transition and feeling very strong in terms of work, we have been visiting my family in Michigan for a few weeks and I have been focusing the part of my identity that I am least confident in -- that of being a parent.  So Michelle's speech last night hit me particularly in the feels, as I wrestle with who I was at the outset of my education career, and reflect upon how much I've grown.  I am now a parent, a wife, a veteran teacher, have a Master's Degree, have developed my consciousness and speak and teach about race, class, gender, sexuality and so many other aspects of my identity as they face the characters we read, view and write.

So, as we move toward this election, as I'm considering what it means to be raising children in this world, I am moved by the role of a president being a role model of perseverance, and struggling again with a two party system that has never spoken to what I believe in, I find myself again in that minority of people who want to open up and examine the wounds of our country, collectively.  Figure out and re-trace our steps.  How did we get here?  How do we move forward?  Why do folks want to "go back" and what does that mean in a national context?

I have been arguing with folks and Audre Lorde's infamous quote popped up, the one that I use to begin each year in my classroom.  The one I will use for United Playaz this year, "The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house."  It expresses where I'm at right now, because I'm struggling with being called naive when I'm questioning the "fall in line" and #imwithher posts from many of my democrat friends.  I am troubled by the request to fall into line and reinscribe the status quo, even if the request is being made by a woman who has been in politics for decades, who I generally like.  I am tired of settling for a politician who has recently shifted her views to the left and taken up issues that are important to me, but who chose a VP who is actively anti-gay and anti-woman.

All in all, I know what I must do, because it does come down to the kind of country we are leaving for our children, one of whom is just waking up from a nap.  As I comfort her tears and attempt to make her giggle, I am not worried about her shattering glass ceilings:  her fists are poised to break any barrier in her way.  I find myself worrying about her life mattering to a legislature who still doesn't see her as human, and won't regulate keeping guns out of our neighborhoods. I find myself worrying about students in Highbridge who are facing funeral after funeral in this deadly Bronx summer.  Chicago summer.  Detroit summer.

My friend Samirah said it best when she said that she already lives in the kind of world that Trump proposes, as a black woman.  I want this ceiling shattered for all girls, all boys, all students around the world, who need their families home from prison for petty crimes, who need rebuilding and funding in their communities to build the village that it will take to raise these children right.  Michelle's resounding ending about America already being great is the ache in my heart right now:  I so wish this weren't fiction.  I want to believe in a dream like this, I want my kids to see this, but it's just so hard to trust a system that is designed to deceive and reinforce who is already in power.

We will be organizing around gun violence, congressional seats, local elections, making connections and trying to make an impact in our community, where I do not feel lost, but feel like I can empower students, other teachers and families to take a step forward, even when we threaten as a nation to stumble backward.

Yours in struggle,
a reticent and exhausted mom

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

predictable heartbreak

I am shaking as I'm sending my child into the other room to watch a show while I burst my heart over the keys.  I am letting him have all the sugar and all of the snacks today, because his life is more fragile than my own in ways he won't understand for years.  State-sanctioned violence inside of a white supremacy hasn't surprised me in a long time, but the rage is still there, it's a low, guttural moan with the stench of strange fruit and public lynchings, it's howl of the MOVE bombing in Philadelphia, with the predictability of any attack being blamed on an "other" that we've created an acronym for, just like we created the very illusive group we are now "fighting", with our own weapons on both sides.

I want to be an active voice, but I know that I am an ally and that the pain is not my own.  I am empath, and think that I understand sometimes, but it is important to recognize, now and always, that I could choose to turn the story off and go back to watching something else.  I cannot, and I will not, but I could, and most white folks do.  How do you continue having hope for a movement when all attempts at public outcry, at all positive outlets for rage are shut down, fizzled out and systematically dismantled to continue the disempowerment?  How can I use my voice and place of privilege to call out what those in power will hope to blow over?  This is a movement that has been building, and must keep collaborating, networking and taking action.  We are exhausted, but we must move.

I am sick in the stomach every time that there is a new name, or a new number broadcast on the news, but I am also sick in the stomach when it is not national news, and why I have made this my life's work. We who glorify the guns cannot reckon with their damage until it hits home.  Why isn't this hitting home for so many folks?  When will it?  I do not like hashtags and trending topics, cannot stand twitter for its snippets and soundbites, but the need to move, to be active, to stop white supremacy in its tracks and undo this system that is predicated on the backs, bodies and blood of people of color (Native peoples, immigrants from Europe, Asia and Mexico, with varying degrees of "whiteness" ascribed to them upon entry, queer and trans folks, people of mixed or multi-ethnic heritage, and of course African-Americans) is pulled to the front burner, each time.

Spare me the shock, this predictable heartbreak will result in no indictment, no jail time, few consequences and we all know that rinse and repeat cycle of 24 hour news. Alton Sterling's family deserves more.  I am sending all of my love and healing to them, and to all of the families impacted by gun violence, police violence and find themselves the victims of white supremacy.  There are too many to name, but yet we must stop and name them.

Rest in Power, Mr. Alton Sterling.  Ms. Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Mr. Eric Garner, Mr. Trayvon Martin, Mr. Michael Brown, Ms. Sandra Bland, Mr. Freddie Gray, Mr. Tamir Rice, Ms. Renisha McBride, Ms. Aura Rosser, Mr. Jordan Davis, Mr. Khalief Browder, Mr. Oscar Grant, Mr. Alex Nieto, Mr. Amadou Diallo, Mr. Sean Bell, Mr. Akai Gurley, Mr. Ramarley Graham, Mr. John Crawford III, and thousands more.  Your stories, lives and legacies are embedded into my work every single day.