May 2015. Today is Mike Brown’s 19th birthday. This I learned from the political education and relationships that I have benefitted from through the It Starts Today campaign that ends today on Mike Brown’s birthday. April 2005. Ten years ago, I was invited by John, Courtney, and Jamie to apply to join the Advisory Board at Resource Generation. I did so. I entered my first board meeting at the Walker Center in suburban Boston in a cohort of rookie board members along with Andrew, Ajita, Penny, and Meg. We were some kind of board Fab 5 heading into headwinds of organizational turbulence, interpersonal challenges, and divine breakthroughs that I could hardly fathom when I first walked through that doorway as board member. It was revolutionary to attend meetings where the culture was to introduce yourself by saying four things: Your name. The place you live. Your class identity. Your “PGP” (preferred gender pronoun). I’ve been more schooled in and on gender and sexuality from the colleagues, friends, comrades, and confidantes of RG than any Women & Gender Studies classes could have instilled. At the first RG conference that I attended (circa 2006), multiple RGers did not only talk about their inherited wealth but told stories of how they could trace their white families’ wealth all the way back to slavery. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. It rocked my world. And, I was hooked. RG gave me the tools, the political education, the camaraderie to be able to say that “my mom grew up in a working-class, white family” for the first time. I had never understood this, nor seen this facet of my family tree before being immersed in spaces that were explicit and unapologetic about class, classism, capitalism, and class dynamics. Not by being outwardly focused and waxing philosophical about class in society, but by being inwardly focused on families and the belief systems and biases that color my choices. I have been off of the board for just about four years and forever give thanks and have multiple, daily appreciations for the gifts that having been a board member at RG has bestowed upon me. Wisdom, love, patience, courage, trust in others (in their anxieties and their daring feats and so much more), impatience, humility, a yearning to tell stories and write blog posts among them. And ask others questions so they will write their blog posts and tell different versions of their stories. Today, I honor the life, the premature death, and the legacy of Mike Brown and all the people of Ferguson, Missouri. As one more name, place, and episode in the long legacy of lynching and the addiction to violence that discolor the US Constitution. I had not known the name of Ferguson before last summer. The people and popular outrage of Ferguson compelled me to figure out how I could act where I was and with those people that I already knew. To inquire who were the small group of people that I could band together with in such a nauseating, perplexing, horrifying time. If you’ve got some change in your pocket, some discretionary dollars in your bank account then go and invest in Black liberation, in Black leadership, and in Black dignity. By investing in Blacks in America, we are investing in all humankind. Thanks, yall. And, praise Jesus that I’ve learned to see that those who believe in freedom are of all races, of all classes, of all nationalities. And, I will continue to seek out those who believe in freedom and civil disobedience.
What makes the Central District different (special?) is that for a number of decades at least until the early 1970s it was a black ghetto, meaning most of the people who lived there were not allowed to freely live elsewhere in the city.
– Quintard Taylor
Reading the words of Quintard Taylor this morning, I am reminded that what primarily defines a ghetto is exclusion.
Ghetto is about denying people the right to move freely. It is not defined by the constitution or composition of the people living within it. Nowadays, our language and the common usage of the term suggest that the word is more about the people who live within a ghetto not the social forces denying that group of people the autonomy to move, to live, to work or to go to school beyond a confined area. Taylor’s description of Central District as a Black ghetto in Seattle mirror the ghettos trapping Jewish families and communities in Poland and Germany.
This is what history teaches us. And how casual and sloppy use of language shifts blame and blurs who has power and who does not.
verb (used without object)
9. to become different:
10. to become altered or modified:
11. to become transformed or converted (usually followed by into):
12. to pass gradually into (usually followed by to or into):
13. to make a change or an exchange:
Different. Altered. Modified. I will add a few of my own choice vocabulary verbs: pivot. alter. release and incorporate new.
in the spirit of wordplay, using multiple choice:
(a) A school of thought that integrates how an individual cultivates their inner spirit simultaneous to the wisely engaging in efforts to impact public life.
(b) The cultivation of one’s inner spirit that symbiotically affects how they affect public movements for justice.
(c) Choosing to alter one’s practices that focus on their body, mind and soul while altering political, social and economic systems.
(d) Altering one’s practices within collective efforts to alter society.
(e) When an individual alters their internal state congruent to the alterations of public systems.
Love, compassion and empathy are emotional breeding grounds for systemic change.