The Revolution Will Be Revolutionized

Since the inauguration of Donald Trump, it’s quite evident that the world is going to Hell in huge plastic totes.

Political disasters are bombarding people simultaneously: the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the appointment of Betsy DeVos, the defunding of more than seventeen federal programs that greatly benefit the working class, and most recently the immigration ban that prevents even documented immigrants and refugees from returning to the United States for 90 days. While anti-Trump protestors target the newly appointed president, it is later revealed that Chief Strategist/Ex-Nazi Promoter Steven Bannon is the co-author of these executive orders.

The Left responds in drones, protesting major airlines while taxis driven by immigrants refuse to provide services in solidarity.  Most of us crowded the streets with signs, posted articles on our blogs and updates on our statuses.  When Uber CEO Travis Kalanick becomes a member of Trump’s Advisory Council, the response is a boycott that costs the transportation company millions, making Kalanick drop out of the council.  The resistance is powerful, beautiful to witness and—in some cases—be a part of.

Yet while reading updates about the immigration ban resistance on my computer screen, I’ve become increasingly numb and irritable, mentally and emotionally shutting down when scrolling down my newsfeed.  Eventually, I’d exit out of my browser, feeling psychologically jarred by statues about the Islamophobic executive orders Trump placed into motion with a stroke of a pen. I’ve since reduced my Facebook usage by only using it to either schedule social outings, post a few articles, or to write a status.

Another reason is the infighting among Leftists in all factions. The debates between and vague statuses about radicals, liberals, Democrats, Anarchists, and Socialists have become increasingly acidic.  Though I blame this behavior on Call-out culture and intellectual elitism, I also believe that elevating uncertainties for the world’s future triggers the recent disputes.  The intensity of the drama unfolding on my Facebook feed has affected my writing to a certain extent.  I was a day away from completing an article about the Liberal/Radical divide, but had difficulty even looking at it.

It has taken me distancing myself from social media to realize the reason behind my reaction:  we Leftists remain discordant towards one another, the distrust elevating to near-critical levels. Many of us can’t even have a political discussion on social media (or in person) without it resorting to a battle of wills. And this petty shit needs to cease effective immediately—especially if we are to revolutionize this world.

Because let’s be real:  To obtain political power, we must realize that none of us has the Ultimate Answer to dismantle this system.  This requires all Leftists to thoroughly evaluate, question, and challenge their assumptions and ideologies about one another.  Are all Democrats or Liberals unwilling to distance themselves from their privilege?  Are most of them White people who only chant “Black Lives Matter” to earn ally points?  Is it accurate for Leftists who believe in the system to brand Anarchists or other radicals as violent towards entire establishments?  In fact, from where did these stereotypes derive and what purpose do they serve other than to cause unnecessary division?

The mainstream and some independent media outlets play a role publicizing the detrimental assumptions about Leftists.  They observe the actions of certain factions, magnify it, and report on the dramatic moments exclusively.  We verify these generalizations by using some of our personal interactions with one another as evidence.  This is the reason why radical groups like the Black Bloc are considered destructive while Liberals and Democrats are deemed spineless.  When focusing on differences, we Leftists fail to establish the trust necessary to collaborate on innovative tactics to resist oppressive industrial complexes.

Forming trust among each other also involves inner reflection and the ability to accept constructive criticism.  I remember the backlash people of color and/or transwomen received after critiquing the National Women’s March. The former rightfully argue that the nationwide campaign have excluded them by adhering to White cis-female feminism.  Instead of hearing them out, many of the participants (mostly White women) accuse these marginalized demographics of divisiveness—a tactic often used to silence.  Even here in Rochester, organizers of the Solidarity March have come under scrutiny when one of them gave a shout out to the city’s police department. Some of the commentators (White folks) defend this status, stating that the cops have provided services worth noting.

Journalist Jake Fuentes writes “stop believing that protests alone do much good. Protests galvanize groups and display strong opposition, but they’re not sufficient. Not only are they relatively ineffective at changing policy, they’re also falsely cathartic to those protesting. Protesters get all kinds of feel-good that they’re among fellow believers and standing up for what’s right, and they go home feeling like they’ve done their part. Even if protesters gain mild, symbolic concessions, the fact that their anger has an outlet is useful to the other side. Do protest, but be very wary of going home feeling like you’ve done your job. You haven’t.”

Though he is referring to those protesting the immigration ban, his statement is very fitting for those who support oppressive organizations.  What some of the Solidarity March folks don’t understand is that their Whiteness protects them from being harassed and/or murdered by law enforcement during a peaceful demonstration.  Unlike Black and non-Black activists (and even our White accomplices), many of the participants will return home safely with the feeling of accomplishment and without the fear of police brutality. So if these particular individuals feel too obligated to study the history of law enforcement and the mistrust towards this industrial complex, they are not worth fucking with.

However, not all liberals (regardless of ethnicity) aren’t blinded by the system and second-wave feminism.  In fact, many of us radical Leftists fail to recognize the Liberals that are down for what we do.  These folks who attend our rallies or organizational meetings, but cannot devote themselves fully for whatever reason.  These are also the ones who check their White friends (without the hope to earn cookies), incorporate intersectionality into their political and personal work.  In fact, some of them have agreed with the radicals who’ve confronted the Liberals and Democrats thanking the police on the Solidarity March page.  So if we are staunchly against working alongside these radicalized liberals, we have to ask ourselves why and what is hindering our ability to do so.

Trust also involves the acceptance of non-traditional forms of activism such as online, radio, and literary activism, slam poetry—among others.  Many Leftists (regardless of age or generation) often dismiss non-traditional activism because it doesn’t involve able-bodied direct action.  “Please stop acting like social media activists ain’t shit,” states online activist/Ratchet Feminist Fiyah Angelou.  “Those are the ones that give your movements additional momentum. They use their platforms to support you and in return you foolishly minimize their contributions. These are the ones that share your shit and encourage people to be active in this movement these folks keep your street activism relevant. Stop that ableist shit!! The revolution will be accessible. The revolution will be revolutionized!!”

Angelou is absolutely correct in her assessment regarding non-traditional activism.  Many activists with hectic work/school schedules, family duties, issues with trauma and/or disabled cannot (or will not) engage in direct action.  They instead exercise other means to remain involved in their communities as well as the general population.  Activists such as Love Life of An Asian Guy, AO Anderson, and Fiyah Angelou use their Facebook pages to serve as a platform to educate and engage their audiences. To completely disregard the influence of non-traditional activism by deeming it a waste of effort is not only insulting but ableist.

Why am I writing this?  Because, as a Black Radical, I’m wanting my fellow Leftists to pull themselves together and function as a collective juggernaut. I want us to become more radicalized—if not shove our ideological differences aside to shut down the government and the industrial complexes employed by it.  And from where I’m sitting, we Leftists really don’t have much of a choice.

Violence in Radical Clothing: Sexual Misconduct Towards Black Women Within Radical Organizations

“In the end anti-black, anti-female, and all forms of discrimination are equivalent to the same thing:  anti-humanism.”

—Shirley Chisholm

Chicago’s Black Youth Project 100 Co-Chair and Organizer Malcolm London stepped down after his arrest for aggravated assault.

While his supporters consider him a hero for his work within the community, others conveyed a completely different narrative.  A woman identified as “Kyra” wrote an open letter to the BYP 100 organization and Chicago activists about how London sexually assaulted her and his reaction when confronted.  Though the letter itself was composed in 2015, the offense itself occurred three years prior.  Kyra only came forward when her newsfeed was “bombarded with images of the person who harmed me accompanied by descriptions of him as a hero and upstanding human” which “was nothing short of traumatizing.”

Unfortunately, Kyra’s experience with London and the retraumatization she endured is nothing new.  Sexual misconduct towards women within the Black radical community is prevalent, but rarely discussed.  Prominent Black male organizers like London often receive protection from the organization while the victims are encouraged to remain silent to “help the movement.”  Meanwhile, the male leader targets yet another innocent woman member of the organization with the knowledge that they will not be held accountable for their crimes.

So why do organizations such as BYP 100 work diligently to defend these predators?  For one, respectability politics plays a significant role. Young men like London present themselves appropriately enough to establish trust within the community.  They don’t patrol the streets with pants sagging, spewing street slang (which is perfectly fine if they did).  These charismatic personalities package themselves as quintessential Black male radicals: their speaking voices woven with articulation and queer feminist vocabulary as they speak highly of Black women.  They are the hype men at marches who always volunteer their time and bodies for an arrest, the sensitive professors who quote Assata Shakur like they’re free-styling.

These men exude superstardom while doing the work necessary to promote the organization’s mission through the mainstream media, a tool needed to attract potential White allies. Besides White demonstrators reducing the White demonstrators reduce the likelihood of Black deaths at protests, the participation of White folks makes the organization look “less threatening” to the White community in general.  The beloved Black leader is essential for recruitment, so any controversy regarding sexual assault reflects poorly on the organization.

The organization’s disregard for the safety of Black women also perpetuates anti-Black Woman ideologies.  In his autobiography, late Black Panther Party member Elderidge Cleaver speaks candidly about his hatred for Black women and how he sexually assaulted them.  He admitted that he and other members of the BPP dated light skinned women primarily because of their resemblance to Whiteness.  Regardless of their complexion, the female members were  berated into silence about the mistreatment they endured while forced to promote “Black Unity.”  The abuse wasn’t even disclosed until years after the original party was disbanded.

This brings me to the conclusion that these male-dominated organizations resent Black women. Though we’re branded as a detriment to the Black community, these organizations recognize that female presentation is also crucial to pushing their political agenda.   So in hopes to recruit Black women, the Black male leader is used to promote the illusion of a safe environment.

“The worst part of it all,” points out Vichina Austin when critiquing the Chicago-based organization, “is that BYP uses feminist/womanist language in order to attract Black women to their “movement”. This not only creates hunting ground for predators like Malcolm London and Timothy Bradford, but teaches them the language so that they become master manipulators. And this is the same language that they “re-teach” during these “restorative justice” processes.”

They impress us with Black Womanist ideologies, befriending many of us though something seems a little off about them.  Unbeknownst to us, they are lowkey grooming what they consider the most vulnerable demographic, earning our trust and secrets to seem dissimilar from the cis-heteronomative Black men who normally hate us.  In actuality, however, these so-called worshipers of Black women are just basic ass misogynists who studied the right literature and followed the right feminist bloggers.

Whenever Black women are victimized by a male member (a leader especially), the organization (and its members) encourages the female victim to remain silent for the sake of the movement. When she refuses, she is met with the burden of proof and receives no support from the organization.  “BYP hasn’t stopped at using a rapist as the face of their organization,” Austin continues. “When several women came forward about another abuser and BYP member, Timothy Bradford, the so-called pro-Black organization was (and still is) silent. Recently, another woman came forward about being abused by this person, and still no word from BYP or their chair, Charlene Carruthers.”

Bradford (a.k.a. Phade Wayze) is a prominent organizer/activist in the Chicago area—one known for his knowledge of Black history and African politics.  According to his victims (or people put off by him), he employed his intelligence to befriend fellow female activists, only to eventually sexually abuse them.  Unfortunately, two of those women are friends of mine who trusted him enough to consider him a brother and comrade, so even when I write these words I’m thinking about all the various ways he will catch these hands.

But I digress.

The fucked up (and unsurprising) part involves the army of Bradford Bots that shot from all corners to defend him.  This squad placed the burden of proof on the victims, questioning their motives, credibility, and even the validity of the evidence presented.  In turn, the latter is defending themselves on social media and through private messages, becoming more triggered by the backlash received from semi-complete strangers.  Luckily, these wonderful, strong survivors also have supporters who go to bat for them at the drop of a hot.  But that’s only if they are brave enough to disclose, given the statistics.

What’s even more traumatizing is that the severity of the male perpetrator’s manipulation is unrecognized until they’ve gained access to our houses, our thoughts, and in some cases, our bodies.  Because most women within the radical community are trauma survivors, we blame ourselves for “falling” for the bullshit again or disregarding our intuition.  However, it is not our fault that these men adhere to White supremacist standards regarding women.  Nor is it our fault that these organizations have a house slave mentality, kissing the boots of a demographic that ain’t paying attention in the first place.  By placing their reputation above women victimized by their leaders, organizations like BYP 100 are no different from the Catholic churches that transferred priests who targeted innocent children.

In Dear Sister, Disability Justice Activist Mia Mingus writes, “Many of us envision the kind of coordinated community capacity that could hold healing circles and develop safety plans for survivors; work to build deeper emotional capacity and educate community members so that they can confidently intervene in instances of violence and support each other to do so; and train folks in accountability processes and healing for people who have caused harm or perpetuated violence, who oftentimes have been victims of violence themselves…for example, not just the healing and safety of survivors, but also accountability, knowing the very real history we have of responses to violence that have resulted in harmful legislation and criminalization.”

We envision Black-operated organizations being a safe space for all Black people—especially women and gender non-conforming people. For those who’ve experience various forms of trauma and discrimination simply for having the audacity to speak.  But the reality is that organizations like BYP 100, the former Black Panther Party, and Black Lives Matter tend to support violent Black male leaders who aren’t trying to hold themselves accountable.  As a result, these violent predators are given permission to utilize their political power and popularity to victimize Black female/gender non-conforming radicals.

If that’s the case, what will it take for them to do so?  What would make them stop protecting predatory Black men disguised as leaders simply to keep up appearances?  Shaming Black women into silence backfires (and rightfully so) as they turn to social media to put on blast these men and the organizations harboring them.  Black women risk their lives for the Black community at large. That fact alone is why we are owed a safe space that guarantees protection and support from violent males in radical clothing.

 

 

 

 

The Same Fight: The Parallels Between Standing Rock and the Flint Water Crisis

 

About a couple of weeks ago, I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed when I suddenly stopped on this:

Flint Water Crisis.PNG

Right next to it was the question “Why aren’t we talking about this anymore?”

This was a reasonable questioning considering the consequences of the city government’s negligence.  Michigan Governor Rick Snyder issued an apology promising to provide a solution, but a significant amount of damage had already occurred. Even after a state of emergency was declared on both the state and federal level, Michigan state officials attempted to block efforts to switch the water supply from the Flint River.  Though they switched the water back to the Huron River this year, Flint residents still reside without suitable drinking water. They continuously rely on bottled water for basic necessities like showering and cooking.

Unsurprisingly, the tribulations inflicted upon the citizens of Flint greatly resembled that of the water protectors at the Standing Rock.  Since April 2016, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe protested the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.  The tribe argued the pipeline threatened to pollute the reservation’s water supply and ancient burial grounds.  Despite possessing an 1891 treaty, the United States Army Corps of Engineers planned to construct a pipeline in Lake Oahe.  What followed was #NoDAPL, a grassroots movement resisting the government’s efforts to damage the reservation’s only water source.

The more I researched the demonstration in Standing Rock and #NoDAPL, the more I discovered that the parallels with the Flint Water crisis was uncanny:

 

  • Capitalism involving a basic necessity

Capitalism was the foundation of the initiatives that affected both areas and its use of water.  In Flint, city government officials claimed Flint could no longer afford to purchase water from Detroit Water and Sewer Department.  Thus, to save $5 million over less than two years, the water supply was switched from Huron Lake to the heavily polluted Flint River, knowing it was contaminated with high levels of lead.  The irony was that the city ended up spending more money in the long run:  Governor Snyder sent $28 million to Flint for supplies, medical expenses, and infrastructure upgrades.  He also budgeted an additional $30 million to the city of Flint towards bill credits and local businesses. The City government officials also had to hire attorneys to combat the ongoing lawsuit pending against them.

As far as Standing Rock, the pipeline was nearly completed when the efforts were halted by the Sioux tribe, neighboring Native tribes, and protesters.  Though the Energy Transfer Partners and federal government officials claimed the supposed quality of the DAPL, history showed otherwise.  Numerous publications reported that these oil pipelines tended to burst and pollute the water source, leaving the water completely unusable.  In fact, The Huffington Post reported that the North Dakota oil pipeline exploded, leaking approximately 150 miles into the Ash Coulee Creek near Belfield.

 

  • Intentional Exclusion of the Citizens

In both controversies, the marginalized groups affected were deliberately excluded from the decision-making process.  The folks in Flint received no notification from city officials about the termination of Detroit Water and Sewer Department’s services, the change in water source, or the circumstances leading to their erroneous decision.  If anything, it wasn’t until brown water rushed from the tap that residents suspected that something was amiss. Despite outcry from the residents, Governor Snider and city officials insisted for two years that the water was safe to consume. Yet that was untrue and they were forced to admit that Flint River was contaminated. The City of Flint is predominately Black, so accusations of environmental racism soon surfaced. Considering the absence of urgency displayed and the assumption that the impoverished neighborhoods lacked the inner resources to protest, it is safe to conclude that this would have never gone down in the suburbs.

Historical, generational, and environmental oppression was prevalent throughout Standing Rock.  Not only were the Sioux tribal leaders unaware of the pipeline’s construction, but the tribe’s 1891 Treaty was violated courtesy of the state and federal government.  When the Sioux tribe filed a suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in July, it was denied in September.  Unfortunately, the disregard of Native voices, their culture, and overall identity is all too normalized.  The Standing Rock Sioux reservation itself had been the result of an 1889 treaty violation. During the same period, tribal spiritual practices were under attack as government sanctioned security attempted to arrest those performing cleansing rituals on reservation property.  In the early 20th Century, Native children were abducted from their homes and forced to adopt Christian European conventions.  The list of atrocities against the Natives is extensive and rooted in White superiority—as is the history of racism and systematic oppression against Black people in regards to commodities.

 

  • Government involvement (or lack thereof)

The Flint water crisis and Standing Rock was supported by the federal government and that of their individual states.  As previously mentioned, city government officials made the decisions regarding the water supply switch.  Yet when investigators sent the Environmental Protection Agency reports on the Flint River’s contamination levels, the federal agency dismissed the results by declaring the water suitable for consumption. It took the controversy reaching a critical point and the mainstream media for the Obama Administration to finally intervene.  And it wasn’t like the federal and local government were oblivious the entire time.  Four government officials—including one from the Environmental Protection Agency—lost their employment due to their mishandling of the crisis.

In regards to Standing Rock, not only was the DAPL approved by the local government, but overseen by federal government factions such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.  The Army Corps of Engineers greenlighted the pipeline project and attempted to disregard the sovereignty of the Sioux tribe.  Meanwhile, the Obama Administration did nothing to cease the Army Corps of Engineers’ efforts, only intervening (to some degree) when physical safety of water protectors became jeopardized.

 

  • Violation of human rights

The human violations in both areas were considered two of the worst my generation had ever witnessed, resembling dystopian short films.

In Flint, generations of children under the age of five were unknowingly poisoned with lead, which caused significant neurocognitive damage.  Due to the high levels of lead in the Flint River, approximately 6,000 to 12,000 children tested positive for high levels of lead poisoning.  In addition, ten people lost their lives to Legionnaires’ Disease while 77 were affected.  Citizens were denied assess even to contaminated water due to their justifiable refusal to pay the water bill.  Both a local and federal state of emergency was declared, but only after the mainstream and independent media highlighted the controversy. Though they switched the water supply back to Huron Lake two years later, the residents still alleged that the water was unsafe.

In Standing Rock, water protectors were mauled by security attack dogs, shot with rubber bullets, tear gas bombs, bulldozers, and long range acoustic devices that potentially damaged the hearing of some of the demonstrators.  The brutality resulted in many water protectors getting seriously injured, causing permanent physical damage in some instances:  Protestor Sophia Wilansky’s left arm was amputated after she was shot with a concussion grenade.  Standing Rock frontliner Vanessa Dondun (also known as Sioux Z) permanently lost sight in her right eye after a tear gas container struck her in the face.  Were it not for the Facebook Live feeds or independent news blog publications, the inhumanity inflicted upon tribal members and protectors would had gone unreported.

 

The Flint water crisis and the North Dakota pipeline are examples of what occurs when the government disregards the people.  The industrial complexes supposedly designed to enforce democracy chose to negate complete accountability for the well-being of those harmed until the situation reached a critical point.  Meanwhile, the citizens affected were either gaslighted into believing the poison destroying their bodies was imaginary or severely brutalized for resisting.  Similar resistance campaigns like the Civil Rights Movement, the Chicano Movement, the Red Power Movement and many others were spearheaded by people of color forced to protect their honor, right to basic needs, and to simply exist. Be that as it may, these efforts also made us resilient freedom fighters ready to defend what rightfully belonged to marginalized people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Gon Be Alright:  What to Do Now That Trump is President

 

It happened.

On Tuesday, November 8, Donald J. Trump was declared the President of the United States of America.  Though Hillary Clinton dominated the popular vote, the electoral college handed Trump the White House.  And, of course, nearly the entire world is confused, shocked, livid, and understandably terrified.

Unfortunately, I predicted this in a Facebook status a few months prior—before the election was a complete circus.  Granted, the status was a semi-political science fiction narrative, but there was also an element of truth.  Even legendary science fiction genius Octavia E. Butler foresaw an oppressive American government in her Parable series. In The Parables of the Sower and The Parable of the Talents, the Earthseed community (and others who are considered heathens) are targeted, traumatized, and even murdered by the supporters of the President Andrew Steele Jarret.

Like the fictional presidential candidate, Trump promised to “Make America Great Again” for White citizens while scapegoating the disenfranchised groups.  Black folks and non-Black people of color, women, the undocumented, the disabled, LGBTIQAs, Muslims, immigrants and refugees were immediately fell under the scrutiny of racist White people who feared having resources snatched from them.  Young women and girls were traumatized after finding out that Trump openly admitted to sexually assaulting women and young girls.  And like that of Jarret’s, Trump’s followers resorted to violence against non-White, non-Christian folks,  becoming increasing audacious as the months passed.

These facts alone are some of the reasons why people were so devastated about this man’s victory.  Why non-voters and third-party voters are feeling the wrath of those who voted for Clinton.  And why people are drawing lines in the sand, taking to social media to force Trump supporters off their Facebook pages due to his (supposed) anti-LGBTIQA rhetoric.

In the mist of the post-Election chaos, there was a glimmer of hope in Rochester that week.  On Thursday, November 10, I and many others in Rochester had the opportunity to meet Dr. Angela Davis, former Black Panther Party member, author, and professor.  Courtesy of MJS Productions, Dr. Davis blessed the entire East High School Auditorium with her kindness, wisdom, poise, and respect.  She not only critiqued the 2016 election, but understood that the government system (and the current party structure) never represented the people—the oppressed groups in particular.

“We have to reimagine politics,” she proposed, “to imagine a political party that represents the oppressed.”  She further emphasized that those who choose to participate in the voting process to work towards a multi-party system and a party that incorporates intersectional feminist politics.

I walked away from the event energized and validated as a literary activist and Radical in regards to my misgivings about this election.  A non-registered voter for eight years, I wasn’t going to have anyone place the blame on me simply because I didn’t hand Clinton a struggle vote.  Dr. Davis’s suggestion to reimagine politics resonated with me; another world is possible, but many of us seem hesitant to even envision themselves dismantling the current system to create a new one.  So I wondered what actions Radicals and liberals—especially comrades of color—can take from this moment forward. What can marginalized groups do to combat a fascist government at this point?

For starters, we (meaning Radicals) need to check those scapegoating non-voters and third-party voters.  We are not the reason why Trump won and Clinton has yet to represent anyone but corporate America.  And let’s not forget that the majority voted for Senator Bernie Sanders, who could have easily won the Presidency had the Democratic National Committee not sabotaged his campaign. The DNC’s intervention and the non-existence of true democracy left a bad taste in the month of many of his supporters, so their decision to Netflix and chill on Election Day is understandable. Also, voters pointing the fingers at those who refused to support Clinton are ultimately blaming the latter for the hate crimes erupting throughout the country.  What they don’t understand, however, is that these post-election assaults against marginalized groups would have occurred regardless of who moved into the White House.

Which is why I also urge Liberals and Radicals to genuinely recognize each other’s political efforts—especially those who choose not to vote or vote for a third-party candidate. The latter uses direct action, literally activism, online activism, protesting, and other effective, peaceful tactics.  Our initiatives are just as important as the Liberal’s right to vote, their trips to their state capitals, or petitions to their local representatives.  One of the many reasons why the Leftist contingent isn’t a political juggernaut is because of the division among us.  As we fight over ideologies and the corniness of John Lennon quotes, the Ult-Right disregard their differences to execute their oppressive agendas.  With so much at stake this time around, it is the duty of us Leftists to collectively organize, strategize, and implement our initiatives without hesitation.

In addition, we need to educate ourselves and each other on government laws so we are equipped with the knowledge to protect ourselves legally.  What I’ve learned as an activist and writer is that education is paramount to fight for one’s liberation.  In fact, education is the very foundation of our freedom and oppressors acknowledge this.  So, the more we Leftists know the more strategic our contingent can be as we organize.   I have comrades who are often recommending literature such as The Privacy Law and the USA Patriot Act and The New Jim Crow.  Folks can also Google information about protections against unlawful arrests, state and national anti-discrimination laws, how to shield your personal information from government officials and so forth.  If one cannot afford certain books, PDF versions are often available via the interwebs.

While organizing, we have got to learn how to protect ourselves physically, mentally, financially, and spiritually.  Trump’s victory granted racists the permission to traumatize/dehumanize at will, attacking the marginalized online and in public with impunity.  Assaults against Muslims have increased since Trump’s win while Black folks, children of immigrants and/or undocumented adults, women, and others face harassment through social media.  Therefore, we must take initiatives to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and those being targeted.  I plan on investing in various forms of self-defense because, as a Black woman, I’m more likely have a White Supremacist mistakenly run up on me.  Knowing that, I need to take all kinds of precautions.

And due to the elevating brutality and need for significant changes within the political system, we Leftists need to heavily lean on one another.  This is not the time to fight over tactics, political ideologies, and which organization possesses the most knowledge.  This is also not the time to place minorities in the position to wipe away White Liberals or give in to White guilt.  We’re now required to respect one another, for allies to listen to the pain, struggles, and solutions of the groups who are greatly affected by the outcome of this shit show.  Members of marginalized groups also need the space to support one another.  I went to a Building Leadership and Community Knowledge (B.L.A.C.K.) meeting on Friday night and I felt nothing but love, validation, and liberation at that moment.  I didn’t have to explain myself, my views on the election, or why I didn’t vote.  I was surrounded by Black people who heard my frustrations while allowing me to support them in return.  I needed that.  Now imagine if everyone had a squad such as mine.

The election triggered an arousal in people politically, forcing many to recognize that the current system is not only broken, but needs to be completely bulldozed and rebuilt.  Conversely, strong radical movements such as Black Lives Matter play an important part in pushing for the reimagining of political system that supports the social, physical, spiritual, and even nutritional concerns of its citizens—especially the disenfranchised.

 

Her Word Against His:  How the Azealia Banks’ Past is Being Used Against Her

 

When I initially heard about Azealia Banks/Russel Crowe controversy on Facebook, the thought that popped in my head was What the fuck did she do now?

According to TMZ, actor Russel Crowe was forced to remove the 25-year-old rapper from his private party after she threatened physical violence. But Banks’s tweet told a whole account of that night when she stated that the actor choked her, called a her a n****r, and spat on her as he threw her out of the hotel room.  She has since deleted the status, but it sparked a plethora of online discussions about what transpired that night.

Black folks were somewhat polarized about the alleged attack on Banks. There were folks argued that Banks was lying and, due to her offensive language against members of the LGBTIQA community and dark Black women, she was undeserving of sympathy.  But then I and other commentators felt the complete opposite.  As I much as I don’t care for Banks, I truly believe that she was victim of violence and White superiority in this case. Not only that, but that her mental illness and past transgressions are being used against her.

I’ve come to that conclusion while reading the witnesses’ account.  They claimed the trouble was initiated when Banks laughed at Crowe’s music selection and called him an “old White man.”  When a female guest told her to settle down, Banks allegedly responded “You would love it if I broke my glass, stabbed you guys in the throat, and blood would squirt everywhere,” before reaching for glass and drawing it back. Though Crowe supposedly remained calm, it was her violent gesture that prompted him to throw her out of his party.

Now, Banks is notorious for launching verbal assaults at dark-skinned femmes and fellow artists via Twitter. But she had yet to go beyond this form of abuse because, believe it or not, Banks is aware of her limitations as a Black woman.   I can’t even imagine her getting irate to the point of shanking someone in the neck…at an all White gathering. So, to me, the witness’s assessment of Banks was out of character and unrealistic.

So is her lying on a random White celebrity. In the past, Banks often expressed frustration, infuriation, and even oppressive slurs describing disenfranchised groups on her social media account.  She promoted lightening her skin and her ideologies regarding shadeism.  But not once had the artist fabricated entire experiences to portray herself as a victim of violence. She had never fixed her fingers to accuse anyone of harming her unless an altercation actually occurred.  And if she were lying, why would she file a police report on Crowe—risking what little social capital she has left? Falsifying a case against Crowe will be a detriment to Banks because of her past behavior.

Meanwhile, Crowe’s history of inflicting physical violence at random was rarely mentioned in regards to this latest controversy. Though him attacking Banks for knocking on his Muzak playlist wouldn’t surprise me, I’m bothered by the fact that his false sense of entitlement encouraged him to dehumanize this young Black woman.  He used his White privilege and superiority to encourage his other guests to weave an outlandish tale about this “mentally unstable” woman threatening to stab him, knowing that the press would believe him. In Crowe’s mind, no one will question (or challenge) the story because his skin color allows him to avoid personal responsibility and accountability. And due to Banks’ past behavior and mental illness, it was basically her word against his.

And unfortunately, the actor was right.

Those not taking the time to analyze the situation quickly dismissed Banks’ accusation, forgetting that the White-dominated media employed the “Crazy Black woman” stereotype to discredit her.  Online commentators (mostly Black folks) used her history of mental and emotional instability to determine that she must’ve done something to provoke the attack. I’m not surprised, though, because whenever Black women are assaulted, our behavior is the reason behind the provocation.  In the case of Banks, it was RZA (who invited Banks to the party) who claimed that she was acting out, which is why she was tossed from the party.

Long story short, Azealia Banks’s past behavior and mental illness is being used against her. Crowe put his hands on her and everyone at the party knows he did. But due to her past actions and political ideologies, no one (RZA included) isn’t even attempting to come forward and tell the truth.

Granted, I’m not a Banks fan. Until she was banned from Twitter, she continuously went after people for little to know reason with no desire to hold herself accountable. But she doesn’t deserve to be attacked, called a n****r, choked, and spat on. What happened to her isn’t about “karma” coming back at her tenfold. What happened is that a violent, racist, ego-maniacal White man using his privilege and social status to dehumanize a Black woman for “not knowing her place.”

Let’s be real.

Black Realism in Marvel’s Luke Cage

So let’s talk about Black television for a minute.

In an industry saturated with shows featuring predominately White cast-members, Black audiences are finally enjoying an influx of Black prime-time entertainment. Courtesy of powerhouses such as filmmaker Ava DuVernay and Writer/Producer Shonda Rhimes, programs like How to Get Away with Murder, Empire, Queen Sugar, Being Mary Jane are discussed on social media threads.  Among these dramas, though, is one caught and retained my attention:

Luke Cage.

Based on the Marvel comic book series, The show chronicles Luke Cage, a reserved, elusive, thoughtful Black man with unbreakable skin and immortality.  Before the groundbreaking web series debuted on Netflix on September 30, activists and comic book geeks anticipated its arrival. While many folks discussed the differences between the comic and more modernized version of the characters, others focused on the show’s political significance.  I myself shared the official trailer on my Facebook page, geeking out while watching actor Michael Colter calmly approached his adversaries as bullets ricocheted off his chest.

Yet when I was finally able to watch the series (Netflix crashed on the day Luke Cage debuted), I wasn’t ready for the pro-Blackness that played on my laptop screen.  Everything from the Black political literature to the music spoke to me.  Its blaxplotation-que references apologizes for the actual 1970s films that caricatured us and African culture.  Luke’s strength and immortality represents the resilience of Black people in general (and with the current political climate, I needed that reminder that we are survivors).  But what I truly appreciate is how the storylines in Luke Cage parallels the reality of Black people.

Let’s start with the origin of Luke’s abilities—how and where he gains them.  Known as Carl Lucas, Luke is imprisoned for a crime he hasn’t committed.  And while locked up, he obtains super powers when a cellular regeneration experiment goes horribly awry.  The fact that Luke’s in jail for absolutely nothing accurately reflects how the judicial and prison system targets Black people. According to the recent Federal Bureau of Prisons statistics, Black men are 5.1 more times likely than their male counterparts to be incarcerated in a federal prison.  As far as Black women, the number of Black women prison has increased to 700% between the years 1980 and 2014.  In fact, they are most likely to be placed behind bars, according to the Bureau of Justice.

There’s also the fact that Luke is experimented on against his will. In the episode “Step in the Arena,” Dr. Reva Connors assures Luke and the other inmates in her support group that no experimentations are being conducted at Seagate Penitentiary.   However, that turns out not to be the case.  In reality, government regulations prohibit prisoners and other vulnerable populations from being experimented on without written consent.  Until well into the 1970s, however, Black prisoners and mental health patients are used as test subjects, usually given false information by White researchers conducting these experiments.  This has caused the deaths of many poor Black people who’ve been injected with cancer cells and other deceases.  This is one of the many reasons why—to this day—Black folks distrusts the medical profession.

Speaking of professions, this brings me to the portrayal of law enforcement on the show. And just the cops on the show, there are those in real life who are secretly employed by crime lords.  If y’all watch documentaries like “Mr. Untouchable” and “Cocaine Cowboys,” there are numerous accounts of officers getting paid for doing everything from tampering with evidence to murdering witnesses willing to testify in court.  And because they’re “blue,” they’re more likely going to get away with it.  Furthermore, corrupt officers and crime lords attempt to break the will of Black folks who challenge corruption by targeting their support system. The majority of the officers Luke encounter, for instance, utilize their resources and information against the superhero’s support system. Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes exercises similar tactics when Luke dismantles his business.  If he remains silent about Cottonmouth’s crimes or dismantle his support system by framing him either murder or vandalism, the powers that be would ultimately break his spirit.

This incessant need to control Luke’s personal power is one of the reasons why the NYPD harass young Black and Brown men in “Take It Personal.”  In that episode, Luke is framed for a cop’s murder and the cops go off and shake down every single person who might look like a Luke Cage supporter. This is similar to the stop and frisk program that once went down in New York City some years back. Black and Brown people (mainly young Black and Latino men) are stopped at random and frisk by officers.  The said officers would then claim that the person “looked suspicious” though there is no proof.  This discriminatory practice continued until it is considered unconstitutional by Judge Shira Scheindlin in 2014.

And I bring up stop and frisk because knowing our rights against law enforcement and other industrial complexes is yet another precaution we Black folks have to take.  We’re often targeted and/or murdered by various industrial complexes, so being armed with information needs to be a requirement in order to stay alive.  Do you know you’re not obligated to speak to the police?  Or allow them to search your property without a warrant? Or even let them hold your attention?  If you said “No,” unfortunately, you’re not alone because it’s common.

The cops acknowledge that many folks aren’t aware of their legal rights, so the former employs intimidation to invoke fear and compliance.  But if those apprehended know the necessary information, then the fear tactics will be ineffective. This is why I love the interaction between a detective and Lonnie—the son of Patricia, a single mother going to law school to become a lawyer. While being interrogated at the precinct by the officer, the teen informs him of the illegalities of him being detained without the presence of his mother, which is illegal.

And did so with confidence (Thanks Patricia!).

That scene is important because the writers are demonstrating for the Black audience how to use knowledge against government-sanctioned oppressors. Not everyone is blessed with a parent who’s an aspiring attorney, so please educate yourself as much as possible. The more you know, the more confident you are when dealing with law enforcement.  And confidence reduces anxiety. Long story short, not only will self-education save your life, but it’s actually a form of self-care.

So is acknowledging sexual abuse and intergenerational trauma—another issue that the Luke Cage series covers very well.  Councilwoman Mariah Dillard is not only the member of a known crime family, but is a survivor of child sexual abuse. As a young girl, she is molested by her Uncle Pete, who still has access to her and Mama Mabel’s business until he is killed by teenage Cornell.

If y’all been watching the show, notice that Mariah’s offender isn’t punished on her behalf.  In fact, her molestation is swept under the rug as she’s sent off to a boarding school. On the surface Mama Mabel was trying to keep her safe. But by not removing Pete from the home and business, however, she basically blames Mariah for her perpetrator’s behavior. In real life, young Black women and young girls are usually held responsible for the sexual violence inflicted upon them.  And the offender is someone they know most likely, so they are going to show up at the house with impunity. Which is what happens to Mariah.  The moment Pete glances at her seductively, she averts her eyes away from his uncomfortably. Her body language suggests to the viewers that she wants nothing to do with her uncle’s advances, yet is most likely blamed her the man’s behavior thus receiving very little to adequate support. So it’s no wonder she snaps when her cousin Cottonmouth accuses her of enjoying her abuse.

Despite all she went through, Mariah is one of the strongest female characters I’ve ever known.  There are many think pieces about Luke and his political significance, but the women in the series are just as important.  Characters like Detective Mercedes “Misty” Knight, Claire Temple (my absolute favorite), Inspector Priscilla Ridley, and others are strong, intelligent, independent, resilient, street smart and so forth, utilizing their skills and inner resources as survival mechanisms (some of them work alongside Luke are accomplices in their own way).  These characters are no different from the real Black and Brown female activists who sacrifice their time, energy, freedom, and even their lives for the cause and their male comrades.

And, like real life female freedom fighters, these characters are accomplices to a fault. There’s this notion that women (Black women in particular) are to master their emotions at all times.  While pride is a wonderful trait to have, wearing an emotional shield continuously can also be our undoing.  The reason why Detective Knight almost loses her mind is because she thinks her vulnerability is the equivalent of lacking control–which places her in harm’s way psychologically.  Her mentality is a prime example of the Strong Black Woman stereotype that’s been forced upon Black women.  Again, there’s this reasoning that we’re strong, therefore we can handle anything thrown at us.  But that’s not true and it’s extremely tiring—as Detective Knight demonstrates.

As you can see, I love Luke Cage.  Its realism, complex characters, obvious admiration of Harlem for its identity and culture enriches the series.  For me, it’s more than a show about a Black superhero with unbreakable skin.  It mirrors the injustices Black people endure as a people and how corrupt industrial complexes attempt to annihilate our spirits—all to no avail.

Recharging is Just as Radical: Using Self-Care to Heal from Race Baiting

On September 16, the Black community mourned another hashtag.

Terence Crutcher was gunned down in the middle of the highway in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  He was on his way from class when his van stalled on the road.  His story was actually one of a few regarding the deaths of innocent Black people.

Like many others, I expressed outrage over his unfortunate death and that of other innocent Black men on Facebook and Twitter. Just as a few friends began commenting on my post, an acquaintance of mine named Kelli—a White woman—responded that the dispatchers and helicopter reporters told an entire different story.

The first thought that crossed my mind was not now…not today.  For one, the dispatchers and the pilots involved constructed the false narrative of Crutcher “exhibiting strange behavior.”  Not only did the father of four acted completely rational, he also cooperated (his hands were raised nearly the entire time as shown in the video). And did I mention that he was unarmed?  Even if he wasn’t, that alone didn’t warrant the cop’s response considering the many instances when armed White people were spared.

Despite me and other commentators pointing out these facts (and posting compelling evidence), Kelli continued to justify the cop’s violent actions towards Crutcher.  That and the lack of proof angered those who grieved over the man and the other Black lives that perished.  What broke the camel’s back for me, though, was her blaming Crutcher for his own death.  In a roundabout fashion, she used the dispatcher’s misleading assessment to maintain that Officer Betty Shelby had a legitimate reason to shoot him.

The online altercation ended when I unfriended Kelli for being completely out of pocket.

Though inappropriate, her response to attempted race-based genocide is nothing new.  Regardless of the collection of videos of Black people (and other people of color) being targeted by law enforcement, many White folks remain unconvinced. They claim we overreact, mocking us online and in the break room at our jobs, telling us that those killed by cops initiated the response.  This continuous exposure to unconcealed disregard for Black lives—and our assessment—resembles an abusive relationship from which we can’t escape.

The willful ignorance many White people display is deliberate.  In fact, it contributes to a much larger issue affecting the Black community:  race baiting.

According to the Merrien-Webster dictionary, race baiting “is the unfair use of statements about race to try to influence the actions or attitudes of a particular group of people or “the makings of verbal attacks against members of a racial group.” An example is a White internet troll’s comments supporting law enforcement for ridding society of a “thug.”  Another is InfoWars creator and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones publishing false propaganda about the Black Lives Matter movement. Or a supposed ally posting racist content on your page justifying the government sanctioned murder of Black people.  Shit, race baiting is the foundation of Trump’s entire presidential campaign.  Whatever the case, this tactic always results in us reacting negatively to racist statements—which awards these bigots the undeserved attention they already receive.

Because they don’t have the physical ability to traumatize all Black folks simultaneously, many of these fine American patriots do so through the “Comments” section of various social media sites. While news coverage pertaining to the racism often encourages sympathy or infuriation, it also attracts bigoted White people who thrive off the sorrow of Black folks.  They deliberately center themselves in the discussion by posting some All Lives Matter-type statements or playing “Devil’s Advocate. Both conjure unnecessary what-if scenarios that place the onus on those victimized by law enforcement. So instead of having thought-provoking dialogue about systematic oppression or paying their respects to lives lost, commentators are now cussing out an internet troll hiding behind a Pikachu photo.

This nonsense is one of the many reasons why self-care for Black folks is so vital.  Actually, here are a few ways we can protect ourselves against race baiting.

 

  • Know Thyself

Knowing yourself is byfar the most important step of practicing self-care. Self-knowledge keeps you aware of your own threshold:  your level of patience, acceptance, tolerance, and temperament. During my 12-Step program days, I learned about an acronym called HALT, which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired.  I know that if I haven’t eaten in five hours, been awake for longer than that last night, and angry about an innocent Black student being physically assaulted by White counterparts, please believe that I’m emotionally vulnerable.  Therefore, that’s an indication that I need to disengage from reality until I get myself situated.  I only know that much because I’m familiar with my own limits.

 

  • Unfriend and unfollow

Blogger and hip-hop producer Johnny Silvercloud writes that a form of self-care is calling people out on their racism.  You know what, though?  So is unfriending and/or unfollowing someone who’s sloppy like that.  Listen. Kelli had somehow deemed it kosher to post a bullshit “news” publication in a thread where folks are grieving Crutcher’s death. She then has the audacity to not only dispute factual evidence presented, but uncaringly centers herself to shine attention on her lowkey racist ideologies and White tears. The irony is that’s she’s trans and wearing a pride pen in her profile picture. And since I’m aware of my level of patience (which is significantly low these days), she is soon removed from my friends list.  I say that because we, the Black people, are not obligated to educate/debate with White folks who should already know what’s good (Google exists to get folks together). Nor should we not be automatically assigned to fight that one “friend” who only materializes when we post a police brutality video on our Facebook page.  I don’t need the aggravation and neither do you.

 

  • Reach out to fellow comrades

Please know that, in this campaign for justice, you’re never alone.  So reach out to your squad.  Let me say that one more time:  Reach.  Out.  To. Your. Squad.  Race baiters utilize a plethora of tactics to get at us–private messages, micro-aggressions, verbal intimidation and so forth.  They also tend to initiate the last two at a moment when we are at our most vulnerable–at our place of employment.   I’ve heard many stories about Black folks enduring racism on the clock, but couldn’t retaliate because they needed their bread and butter.  Therefore, when they come at you like that, reach out to your people in every way, shape, and form.  Having a squad is especially important if you’re working in a hostile work environment.

 

  • Stay away from the damn “Comments” section

Cyber racism, a phrase coined by Les Back in 2002, refers to the racism prevalent in the “Comments” sections throughout the interwebs.  It’s basically an online abyss for those who bask in the glow of trauma porn—especially that involving Black folks.  Enter that horror show if so desire, but you will never leave mentally/spiritually/emotionally unscathed.  And because the race baiter’s assessment of Black people is solidified, you’re literally wasting your energy, time, and words, y’all.  You can’t argue sympathy and understanding out of racist trolls who ridicule the deaths of our innocent.  So do yourself a favor:  don’t go down into the basement because we all know what happens to the Black folks who do.

 

  • Disconnect from social media

This is one of the reasons why self-awareness is paramount—especially if you’ve been diagnosed with mental/emotional health issues.  Inundated with news coverage featuring the deaths of Black people, we (those struggling with mental/emotional issues) are more likely to develop symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I myself struggle with depression, anxiety, and PTSD.  Whenever I watch a video of Black people being murdered in cold blood, it’s as if I’m standing at the crime scene witnessing a death.  I can’t intervene because the victim is completely unreachable.  Now imagine this sense of helplessness, infuriation, anguish, and fear replaying in your brain repeatedly and there’s no “Stop” button. Imagine yourself reacting as if the scene in the video is happening to you.  Imagine yourself being silenced by constant race baiting and All Lives Matter rhetoric. All this is the why I don’t view the footage.  So as important as it is to stay current politically, you’re also allowed to shut off your device of choice and decompress.

 

  • Allow yourself to grieve

We deserve to grieve the loss of our people, to weep on a comrade’s shoulder, express an array of emotions.  We’re allowed to construct a safe space for ourselves without having to deal with the hostility of racist White people.  A few nights after Crutcher’s murder and a few other victims, members of Building Leadership and Community Knowledge (B.L.A.C.K.) hold a candlelight vigil at the Rochester Liberty Pole.  As our White allies guard the area, we gather in a circle and verbalize our pain, fears, anger, and overall confusion about why Black folks are continuously walking targets in 2016.  People of color needed that moment to support other Black people and each other. For us, the candlelight vigil is a mental, emotional, and spiritual respite from the deceitful, yet hurtful message that Black lives are disposable.

 

Blogger Jasmine is right when they declare: “I love Black people. I love us so much…I worry for our wellbeing when we are inundated with racism.  Continuing to engage in confronting racism in the online space can mean taking a risk with your brain and psychological wellbeing. All of the interactions and conversations in the online space, can be received as micro-aggressions and race-based traumas.”  Like her, I love my people and everything about us.  We are an elite group of lit individuals that continue to contribute to this society.  Race baiters attempt to erase our history with over-generalizations and racist ideologies instigated by false propaganda.  Granted, those who acknowledge our worth can combat the comments, but it’s also discouraging and exhausting.  So please take care of yourself because recharging is just as radical as fighting for equity.