I come to you with humility and grace. I come to you asking for forgiveness.
In my public life; one that I come to with much reluctance and hesitation, I've been silent around the recent events in America and specifically, George Floyd. This is all the while being internally ravaged deep in my soul privately.
The truth is, like many of you, I've felt overwhelmed. I've felt overrun by the senselessness,
brazenness, frequency and compounding nature of it all. It's not just Breonna Taylor or George Floyd; it's stacks of Black bodies in my psyche. It's the story of "Esi" in "Homegoing." Or, Recy Taylor in "At the End of the Dark Street." Insert Black/Brown name here.
For the past two months, my family has started our days discussing the innumerable ways America continues to almost methodically fail people of color and specifically, Black people which such precision. We've spent weeks living our lives against the background sound of ambulance sirens; Emiliano now says "ambulance" each time one passes. He has almost perfected the word at 23 months. In response, I say "say a prayer;" not trusting the local hospital has the resources to save these Black or Brown lives. Sit with that.
We've listened to the daily reports of deaths from COVID19 with a heaviness that we've never experienced before and now, must find ways to deal with. Just the other day, my Mom and I sat in utter disbelief as we listened to the reports that almost 50% of businesses will not reopen. She turned to me "that's people's entire life savings and retirement plan." The majority of those business, owned by POC.
Then we hear about Breonna Taylor. Then, George Floyd. Then Amy Cooper. Then 45th calling activist, grievers, nonconformist - "thugs." Then, then, then. We literally can't catch our breaths nor find any real semblance of grounding. The truth is, keeping us off balanced and gasping for air is a tactic of the oppressor; we're slower to respond and easier to control.
So, I've sat in silence. At one point, refusing to discuss any of it with family and friends. To be honest, it took almost half a day before I watched the video. I became still reflecting on years of anti-racism organizing with the Undoing Racism Internship Project; my MSW internship from 2006-2007, a committee of The People's Institute for Survival and Beyond. I thought about the many nights we marched in the streets until daybreak. To the countless workshops we held to over the past 13 years on anti-racism organizing, white allyship, internalized racial oppression/superiority, etc. In fact, I went further back to my days in the United States Army where as a paralegal, a company First Sergeant issued a threat that I "needed to be reminded who I worked for" and that was not the defendant. Twenty years of my life dedicated to resisting and things have gotten worse: a police officer kneeled on the neck of a handcuffed Black man with hands in his pockets and a small camera crew filming while his fellow officers stood by in formation to protect him. And to be honest, I'm still wrestling with the fact that one of the main officers profiled was Asian. It's all too much. Wow.
I shut down and in that moment, as I battled community members not wearing masks and not practicing social distancing, a two year old who refuses to wear his, my persistent anxiety around the health and safety of my family, two full-time jobs, etc. Out of sheer exhaustion, I chose self-preservation. I feel guilty about it and yet, I know it's my right and it's necessary for my survival.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” - Audre Lorde.
As I near 41 years old, I'm finally accepting that my role is different this time around; I'm not on the streets protesting until 6am. I'm not organizing workshops. I'm not reading three anti-racism books at a time - dreaming about lynching and rapes. 20 years of resistance, I'm in self-preservation mode. And, I have to feel ok with that...somehow.
My friend Eleni and I, both social workers, organizers, critical thinkers and feelers and book lovers, recently chatted about drawing on those critical readings to inform our work. We both recognize the need to return to the words of ancestors and contemporary griots rather than relying solely on ourselves.
So, as a bookstore owner, organizer, social worker, mother, lover of humanity, die-hard for the Black community, ally of all POC and comrade of white identified folx ready to do the work, here are some of the titles that have sustained me in my organizing. Many of which I taught in the classroom - another site for activism. And to be honest, this list is a little dated yet, timeless.
I love y'all. I know I shouldn't apologize for being silent AND I do. I'm sorry. Here's my contribution. always, kqd.