This time on the clock of the world calls us to act.
Our young people are breaking the silence and the rest of America needs to listen, look itself in the mirror and act. We stand in solidarity with Baltimore, Ferguson and all oppressed communities responding to police violence. Locally, we remember Aiyana Jones, Shelly “Treasure” Hilliard, Terrence Kellom and others who have lost their lives at the hands of police officers.
In America, denial is the order of the day. Historically, Americans have only looked at contradictions in reaction to violent threats to order or property. We have consistently evaded looking at our deepest contradictions of race, class and gender.
White America, especially, has never paid any attention to the violence required to keep inequity and injustice in place. We tell ourselves we fight wars for democracy, not resources and power. We ignore the daily death and degradations of the soul that are part of the lives of all those on the outside of white society.
The national narrative vilifying young people has dominated the airways. Most recently we have witnessed that it took attacks on the bridge during Occupy, police car burnings in Ferguson and rock throwing in Baltimore to capture national coverage of the inequities of life common in oppressed communities.
We recognize the important lessons and decades of work Ron Scott and the Coalition Against Police Brutality has done to teach us about the militarization of police, the role of federal forces ICE, ATF, Border Patrol and others. This has been much of the Obama/Holder Legacy. In Detroit, we have witnessed the general expansion of repressive, surveillance powers post 9/11, further adding fuel the flame of mistrust between law enforcement and civilians in the city and the country.
Since the uprising in Detroit in 1967, members of what is now known as the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership, have insisted that there is a fundamental difference between a riot, a rebellion and a revolution.
· A riot is the term used by the power structure to emphasize the destruction of property and attacks on political and civil order. It casts those who behave disorderly as “criminals” and lawless mobs. It is often used interchangeably with rebellion because of its heavy use in the media to describe Black uprisings.
· A rebellion recognizes the legitimate outpouring of anger against injustice. A rebellion is a standing up against oppressive conditions and actions that defile people and place.
Rebellion is not enough. A rebellion is not a revolution. If we are to create a future of justice and peace, we must do the slow, deep work of rebuilding our communities on values of love, compassion, productivity, care and sustainable relationships with one another and the earth.
However, those who respond to rebellion by quickly decrying violence need to ask some serious questions of themselves. Do you cry out against violence when the US invades other nations? Did you cry out against violence the night before Freddie Gray was arrested and killed? Is your voice present during the soul destroying effects of poverty, poor education, and the withholding of basic necessities to life such as food, water and shelter?
For white Americans the leap to selectively denounce violence when property has been attacked, typically stems from their assumption that the hand of the rock thrower was black. The deep fear of whites, that one day justified black rage will emerge, blinds them to this hypocrisy. If you only cry out against violence when rocks are thrown through windows of corporations, such as what recently occurred with the CVS in Baltimore, you should
re-evaluate the negative impact your voice has had on perpetuating disparities in a society rooted in white supremacy.
· A revolution is for the advancement of human kind toward a more just, sustainable future.
Non violence is a philosophy, not a tactic. As Grace Lee Boggs says in an exchange with Angela Davis, “non-violence begins with the assumption that everyone can and must change. It acknowledges our human capacity for transformation.” She has also been quoted as saying, “Revolution is evolution toward something much grander in terms of what it means to be a human being.”
We need hope, revolution and solutions that involve young people in the re-imagining, rebuilding and redefining of our cities and our nation. For over 50 years the US has created a class of outsiders who have found meaning and dignity in speaking out against injustice and the murder and maiming of men and women of color. This is why the words “Black Lives Matter” are significant in asserting humanity and dignity, much like the words “I am a Man” as espoused by sanitation workers who surrounded Martin Luther King, Jr. when he supported them in Memphis.
Baltimore, like Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Bessemer Alabama and cites and towns across our country have developed with a failed attempt to mask the pain, the voices of anger and frustration and the cries for help from the oppressed, through building stadiums, waterfront developments, middle and upper middle class housing developments around medical centers and mega churches. Government and corporations have totally ignored the need to create community based solutions, new forms of work based upon community production and food security. They have proven that they have no interest in creating true solutions.
Since the “war on drugs” the government has put millions of people in prison, police have killed thousands and we have internalized the violence by attacking one another. The militarization of police departments has intensified the violence and deaths and young people are saying enough is enough!
In our own city, Detroit, because of the emergency manager/bankruptcy regime, which essentially stripped away the voting rights of over 50% of black residents in the state of Michigan, more than 30,000 people are facing water shut-offs, and more than 60,000 residents are facing tax foreclosure. This regime has been a form of “shock doctrine” disaster capitalism, stripping local residents of basic civil rights and liberties.
Waiting on city government to provide reprieve has run its course. We must continue to “make a way out of no way” while creating the future. Not a future of more studies or limited indictments, it is time to:
1. Create peace departments and not police departments: Train and pay 10,000 young people as Peace Makers. It is time to turn war zones into peace zones and put the neighbor back into the hood.
2. Train local residents to use fabricators and advance manufacturing to produce what people need in the neighborhoods. Advanced technology has been used by corporations to automate work and eliminate jobs. But visionary organizers in places like Detroit are combining new technologies like 3-D printing with urban agriculture to empower local residents to create self-sustaining, self-determining communities that produce the basic needs of life.
3. We must publicly acknowledge that there is no separation from racism and capitalism, so that we may begin to heal ourselves and our communities.
4. We must take the discussion and words Black Lives Matter to the white suburbs and have the tough, honest conversations.
5. Support place-based education by investing in young people and school systems that seek to create solutions in their communities and for their families. It is time we reimagined what education can become.
6. Invest in co-op fresh food buying clubs and co-op grocery stores. Educate young people and families on healthy food options and farmers markets in their communities. Support local community gardens and farms, rooted in their communities.
The time to break our silence and respond to the call from our young people is now. It is time to cry out for people, not property.