Radical Healing

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"The world becomes more like 'the streets' every day. Our cities, our economy and our planter are all in crisis mode whether we recognize it or not." - Nicole Lee, Urban Peace Movement

Black Lives Matter Allies in Change

Interview by Margi Clarke and Preeti Shekar

In September 2015, Reimagine! invited five Bay Area activists to discuss how their organizations and communities relate to the Movement for Black Lives.  Our wide-ranging discussion lasted over 90 minutes.  You can listen online at: reimaginerpe.org/radio. Below we share some edited excerpts of the conversation, organized by speaker.

© Asians4BlackLivesChinese Progressive Association - Alex Tom

What does a good ally look like?
I think a lot of the people who are on the streets right now in different communities of color have a lot of outrage in knowing how Black folks are being systematically killed, one every 28 hours.

For us, the support looks similar to what we’ve done in the past, to today when Black liberation [work] has reached a peak. We see solidarity as part of our historical trajectory. The Chinese Progressive Association (CPA) has been on the frontlines with Black folks from the 70s and on, from the Black Panther Party to many other Black-led movements

Asians 4 Black Lives is living in that legacy of solidarity in a new form. So, for myself being a member of Asians 4 Black Lives and also the executive director of CPA, it’s come in a lot of different forms. With Asians 4 Black Lives, we have developed protocols and principles around how to show our solidarity. (See resources at end of article.)

And that’s been really important on how we show our solidarity on the streets, and how we organize our own folks and to really do the hard work of talking about anti-Black racism in our own community, while addressing the fact that the right-wing really exploits our divisions and uses them as a divide-and-conquer strategy to uphold racism and white supremacy.

Seeding Change, one of CPA’s national projects, organized a call with Black Lives Matter and the Southeast Asian Freedom Network, and within two weeks, we got over 800 people on a webinar to talk about Black-Asian solidarity.

It was surprising for us to see a new sector, a new layer of the community—mostly young people, in high school and college, and people who are working professionally—had so many questions about what to do in this moment. Of course, we didn’t have all the answers, but with Alicia [Garza], Patrisse [Cullors], and members of the Southeast Asian community and South Asian communities, we are coming together to really talk. This is the moment for us to struggle together and think about the moment as a way to advance liberation because it’s all connected.

The thrust for Asians 4 Black Lives is naming, specifically, the reasons for Asians to be in solidarity. Especially in the Bay Area (where the Asian American population is over 25 percent), we feel our responsibility is to respond to the call from the Black community for Asian folks to literally and figuratively put their bodies on the line.

How do you challenge anti-Black racism?
I think that there are multiple fronts around anti-Black racism that happen in the [Asian] community. On one level, it is a system issue, because of gentrification and the displacement of Black folks that are leaving San Francisco that are being replaced by primarily Chinese and Asian families. There is a lot of tension between Black and Asian folks.

It has been historic, in the sense of the last 10 to 15 years that this has happened. Now the Black population is about 3 percent in San Francisco, probably half of them are locked up in county jail. So you can see that with these tensions, systemically, people are pitted against each other, and that is a challenge that we face all the time.  There is an increase of Black-on-Asian violence because there’s a perception that Asian immigrants are coming into the neighborhood. So that’s on one level.

The other level is that there is anti-Black racism in general in the community as well. So this is ingrained in society: perceptions of Africa, African Americans, Black folks. There is a historical pattern of immigrants that come to this country who don’t know about the contributions of Black folks in this country fighting for freedom and how that has really expanded liberation and freedom for all people.

What we try to do is a lot of political education: just studying history and sharing in a popularized way, understanding the right to vote or where people get their services, and connecting the different histories that we’ve had in the past. Black Liberation also lifts the voices of the marginalized in our own community (for example, Arab, Muslim, queer, trans, Southeast, and South Asian folks) in defining what it means to be “Asian American.”

Because the Asian American community and Asian immigrant community will consistently be about a third recent-immigrant for the next period of time, this is going to be an important ongoing role for us. For the grassroots organizations that exist in the communities, our job is to talk to our people in a way that’s compassionate and is going to build unity, but also to really address the anti-Black racism that does exist as well.

So it’s not an easy task and it’s something that’s going to continue for a very long time. I would say with some folks who have been in the country longer, who are maybe younger or who have been exposed to understanding what’s happening in other communities and Black communities, there is a huge opportunity to agitate them and bring them onto the streets. We can do both at the same time, right? That’s what’s really important.

The last thing I will say is that it’s really important to, in the work, just have community and have space with Black folks and Asian folks coming together, not always on the streets, but to basically be able to break bread together. I’m talking about our grassroots members being able to talk to other mothers and to hear their stories, and when they hear about violence that’s happening in their community, they can actually talk about their experiences and be able to have a way of using stories as a way to carry a compelling narrative.

What’s your vision for the future?
We are in the belly of the beast, and I feel like many of us as organizers—young people and folks who have been oppressed—we have been robbed of our ability to imagine and robbed of our ability to even dream. I want to see a society that can shift from centering capital and capitalism, to our human development.

How that relates to this conversation is that the idea of solidarity and allyship is sometimes,  in U.S. context, very siloed and static. Yet we can build a society that can be transformed and where we are transformed as individuals. Things would not be so rigid. It would be dynamic, it would be fluid, it would be actually normalized that we are one: that we do not need to say, “I’m an ally of this, and I’m an ally of that.”  Solidarity is needed when you’re transforming society, and transforming culture, and transforming yourself. n

Alex T. Tom is a member of Asians4BlackLives and the executive director of the Chinese Progressive Association in San Francisco.  Alex is also the co-founder of Seeding Change, a center for Asian American movement building, and is a new father.

© 2014 MUA Mujeres Unidas y Activas - Karina Muñiz

When and why did you start working with Black Lives Matter?
When the decision came out around Trayvon Martin and the Black Lives Matter movement began, we began to think about how to show up. One of the major shifts that happened for us really was when Alicia Garza wrote an article called “Herstory” for The Feminist Wire in October 2014 (www.thefeministwire.com/2014/10/) and to me, that really hit home and really made us think.

One of the things that it called out and made important was that it’s really easy for us within the Latina/Latino community to jump on this bandwagon of “Black Lives Matter,” to say Black and Brown Lives Matter. That’s true, but this was/is about being in solidarity for Black Lives, and stepping up as allies. What does that look like? What does it mean in terms of anti-Black racism within our own communities and how do we address that?

So we realized that solidarity for Black communities and solidarity around supporting Black liberation, meant deepening our work and looking inward at our communities and addressing racial hierarchies that exist within the Latina/o communities and addressing real tensions and racial divides. The way we started doing this was by doing political education in our groups at our general meetings, and in our leadership and facilitators trainings.

How do you challenge anti-Black racism?
We felt like it was important to start with Afro-Latina/o history in the Americas—to both understand the root causes of anti-Black racism from our countries of origin, where many times Black experience has been rendered invisible, and to highlight and learn about Black communities throughout the Americas. We also began with speaking about personal experiences within our families. This has created a space for self-reflection, and an opening to transform. From there we talk about socio-political context within the United States, and what solidarity for Black lives and racial justice as a whole looks like for us here.
Anti-Black racism also shows up within Latina/o communities by how whiteness within the community is privileged over dark skin, with Black being at the bottom. It shows up in assumptions, stereotypes, and fear based on skin color and not on an overall understanding of systemic structural racism and white supremacy.

How has MUA moved this work forward?
As a result of our internal leadership trainings and open discussions around race, we’ve been able to respond and integrate this into our work. For example, when Freddie Gray was killed, we moved into action. We put up a solidarity statement and did it in English and Spanish, to make visible where we stood as an organization. It’s not static and finite because the real tragedy of all this, as we know, is that there are so many different times when we need to speak up and raise our voices, and be in solidarity with BLM movement and leaders at the intersections as women, migrants and queer communities.

Karina Muniz is a Xicana writer and political director of MUA , a Latina immigrant rights organization with a double mission of personal self-transformation and building community power through social justice.

© 2014 Josh Warren White Bay Area Solidarity Action Team - Megan Swoboda

When and why did you start working with Black Lives Matter?

The Bay Area Solidarity Action Team (BASAT) formed last year, was mobilized to support the Black Friday 14  folks who shut down our subway system here in the Bay Area on the day after Thanksgiving. That was sort of the driving force.

We asked, “What do you want white people to be doing right here, right now, in the Bay Area?” The answer was: to really turn up.

With our Ruckus Society connections to direct action training and support communities, the request was really specific for us:

  • Use those skills and experience, use that white privilege for the movement for Black liberation and Black Lives Matter. 
  • Really help escalate the movement at that moment, and show that white folks can’t just sit idle.

BASAT turned into a vehicle for affinity groups to use white solidarity to take direct action that pinpoints white supremacy and supports the movement for Black liberation.  Sometimes we take the lead on coordinating actions from A to Z; sometimes we’re working closely with Black Lives Matter groups or multiracial tactical teams in executing direct actions. And other times we’re being asked to just plug in folks to participate in the actions on the ground.

How do you challenge anti-Black racism?
We wanted to call out how the anti-Black racism in our country is particularly [expressed through] police violence. Supposedly, it’s in the name of safety of white folks that the police carry out their mission of brutality and murder.

[T]his idea of “safety for white folks” is embedded in police in a systemic way. They argue for raising police budgets, and to increase police beats, and all of that in the name of safety. The safety that they’re talking about is the safety of white people, so we need to combat these ideas of what safety really is.

One of the things we’ve been trying to combat through our actions is the issue of people turning Black Lives Matter into “all lives matter,” the invisibilizing, decentralizing, and denying of Black experience specifically and trying to insert white lives and all lives. We highlight how problematic that is and how much it hurts the movement and ourselves as well.

What’s your vision for the future?
We seek dismantling white supremacy, capitalism, and working towards total prison abolition. Like our friends at the Catalyst Project and Ruckus Society, and lots of others of course, we talk about collective liberation, and I think that’s really the heart of it. [We know] the history of how the Black community’s fights and struggles for justice have really uplifted everyone across history and will continue to. This is an extremely important part of the road to collective liberation. We need to lift up Black Lives and do everything we can to make everyone free.

Megan Swoboda organizes with BASAT, works at the Center for Story-based Strategy, plays trumpet with the Brass Liberation Orchestra, and is a member of The Ruckus Society where she served on staff for eight years.

© 2014 SURJ Showing Up For Racial Justice - Felicia Gustin

When and why did SURJ start working with Black Lives Matter?
SURJ Bay Area is the local chapter of Showing Up For Racial Justice, a national network of approximately 100 chapters and affiliate organizations around the country all working to organize white people to work for racial justice.

SURJ creates a space for people who are brand new to racial justice work and, in some cases, new to movement work, who are outraged about what they’re seeing happening in this historic moment in this country and are becoming aware and awakening in terms of their own consciousness to the attacks on Black lives, and racism and white supremacy in general.

In terms of our local chapter, we’re creating the infrastructure to channel a lot of the energy as well as work to develop white people’s political education.

There have been local actions where SURJ members turn out for vigils, such as for Sandra Bland or after the killings in Charleston. Most recently, we’ve been working on a more focused canvassing campaign working in conjunction with the Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP), going door to door talking to people about the case of Yuvette Henderson, who was killed by the Emeryville Police earlier this year.

We talk to people about the militarization of police and call on them to pressure the city council and the mayor to demilitarize the police and stop having military hardware within the police department. We’re also distributing Black Lives Matter window signs and lawn signs and asking folks to put those out and take a stand.

Our goal as a national organization is to engage seven million white people in the next seven years to work for racial justice. Little by little we’re going to do this.

At the national level, SURJ has an accountability council and relationships are formalized with Black-led organizations to provide accountability and direction in terms of what we’re doing.

SURJ as an organization is also committed to everything we raise financially, half of the money goes to Black-led organizations. .

In the long run, how can we dismantle racism?

It’s a deep question, you know? Personally, I’ve had the benefit of having some of my political development take place outside of this country and within a socialist reality, having lived and worked in Cuba for many years. So that informs me and who I am and how I view the world, which is unique to my experience, and I think each of us have unique experiences.

While we’re specifically talking today about racial justice, I don’t believe we can truly have racial justice, economic justice, or justice for any community—women, LGBT folks, whatever—without really transforming our society as a whole. What will that look like? I can’t answer that. I’m not a theorist. I’m not a philosopher. Like I said, I’ve gotten a glimpse of what the future can look like and it was pretty damn exciting.

Felicia Gustin is a long-time activist in racial justice, international solidarity, and labor movements. She’s on the Coordinating Committee of SURJ Bay Area (surjbayarea@gmail.com), as well as BASAT and is co-director of SpeakOut.

© Cy WagonerBlack Alliance for Just Immigration - Devonté Jackson

When and why did you start working with Black Lives Matter?
I’m the Bay Area organizer for the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI). My boss is Opal Tometi, one of the co-founders of Black Lives Matter. Immigrant rights have always been a part of our work, and though most African Americans have citizenship, we are treated as second-class citizens in this country.  We do a lot of work to empower Black immigrants and African Americans to unite to work towards Black liberation.

There’s a lot of Black folks in this political moment, looking to do intentional building amongst Black people. I know, in the Bay Area Black Lives Matter chapter, it’s an all-Black space, and folks really value that because oftentimes we’re marginalized in spaces. So having a Black space has been important, and  I think there’s been a lot of hesitancy around the alliance-building work.

What makes a good ally?
I guess there’s been several actions and things that we can refer to. For example, on September 11, we had an action against Urban Shield, which is a SWAT team training, a special weapons exposition. It was a multi-racial-action in which Black Lives Matter played a leadership role. 

One of the best practices in allyship is being patient. It takes a while to develop strategy and when Black folks are at the lead in developing so much strategy in the area, it’s just easy for us to get overwhelmed. So I think it’s being patient in response time, while also preparing for rapid response because often times we don’t have a very long lead-time, and we have to act quickly. So I think folks who are patient and who are rigorous in thinking about how to prepare are good allies.

I think other good practitioners are folks who are authentic in the work—make it enjoyable. I have a lot of experience working with white folks. Before my work with BAJI, I worked in a labor union which had predominantly white staff, and I think what characterized a lot of relationships in the organizing world with white folks would be like a transactional relationship, something really based on extraction, how we can produce things together instead of a genuine transformational relationship, really getting into solidarity.

When the work doesn’t feel like work, when folks are really moving with our personalities, and our vibes more than concrete needs and next steps for each other, I think the work is more productive and meaningful when we have those genuine, authentic relationships. I really value that those authentic, genuine relationships are being built right here in the Bay Area.

How do you challenge anti-Blackness?
Of course, anti-Blackness is inherent in U.S. society, and Black folks definitely internalize oppression and that manifests in many ways in our community. I think [you can see it in] some of the larger conversation around tactics in the Black community. There has been a lot of discussion and debate about whether or not Black Lives Matter strategists, organizers have been doing the right tactics. There’s been some policing around respectability politics that are going on within our own community. So there’s that level of what we’re dealing with—internalized oppression. Then just in the day-to-day dealing with anti-Blackness in the world, and how that manifests in organizing, in movement building work, is challenging as well.

In terms of anti-Blackness in “allied” communities—I want to put “allied” in quotation marks—the impact it has made is that some Black folks are very hesitant to want to do alliance-building.

So there’s only a few folks who actually do a lot of multicultural coalition-building work. Then there’s a lot of folks who are just sticking within the Black community, and there’s a large need to focus and put intentional effort into organizing and building within our own communities.

What’s your vision for the future?
In the long-term, we are dismantling the systems of white supremacy and capitalism and replacing those systems with things rooted in justice, love and self-determination. That’s really a social revolution that we’re talking about, replacing systems of oppression. That’s this deep work that we’re in and committed to.

Also, in thinking about transforming systems, we have to look at the prison system and think about abolition. Think about how to make our communities safe in ways that don’t police our communities and criminalize our communities. An overall reimagining of safety and community is what we’re really out to do. This is about transforming systems of oppression, which really is thinking about social revolution in the U.S.

Devonté Jackson is the Bay Area Organizer for BAJI. He grew up in Oakland, San Leandro and San Lorenzo, and is passionate in addressing social and economic inequality in the Bay Area. Devonté has organized with AFSCME Local 3299 and with students across California on labor issues within the University of California system.

Ferguson Action: www.fergusonaction.com
Campaign Zero:  www.joincampaignzero.org
Black Alliance for Just Immigration: www.blackalliance.org
Catalyst Project for Collective Liberation: www.collectiveliberation.org/
White Noise Collective: www.conspireforchange.org
Until We Are All Free: www.untilweareallfree.com

Ally Resources
Protocols and principles for people working to support the Black liberation movement:

BASAT: https://baysolidarity.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/protocolandprinciples/
SURJ: www.showingupforracialjustice.org/accountability
Asians 4 Black Lives: https://a4bl.wordpress.com/who-we-are/

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"We are in the belly of the beast...many of us as organizers...young people, the oppressed... we have been robbed of our ability to imagine and robbed of our ability to dream." - Alex Tom

Black Love—Resistance and Liberation

Photo by LandovBy Alicia Garza

The #BlackLivesMatter network, launched in 2013, began as a series of social media platforms designed to connect online people interested in fighting back against anti-Black racism and state-sanctioned violence so that they could take action together offline. It has since grown into an international network with more than 26 chapters that organize in their local communities and connect with each other.

When we started #BlackLivesMatter, we began with a set of assumptions: 

The first, was that Black people deserved to live with dignity. That we were (and still are) sick and tired of being gunned down in the streets by police and vigilantes at the rate of once every 28 hours, simply because we’re Black.

The next, was that all Black people deserve dignity, not just some. Amongst the co-founding team, all of us are women, two of us are queer, and one is the daughter of immigrants from Africa. Each of us, in the course of our organizing work, has been told one way or another that our existence was not valid—in both mainstream spaces and in movement circles. Here, we also assume that creating spaces for Black people to be all of who we are, unapologetically, is an important contribution to building a sustained mass movement.

The final assumption that’s relevant here is that for Black people to build the political, social and economic power we need to transform our conditions, we also need to change the narratives developed about us, which we also perpetuate through story and through practice.

Internalized Neoliberalism
We, as a people, also perpetuate neoliberal ideas and practices within our own communities. One example of this is the notion that you cannot resist state-sanctioned violence and anti-Black racism unless you also protest Black people killing other Black people. This type of respectability narrative is often used specifically to denigrate the efforts of a people attempting to free themselves from the chains of white supremacy, patriarchy and capitalism. In other words, the narrative about what some call “black-on-black crime” obscures the role that systemic racism, isolation and segregation play in intracommunal violence.

To build power, we need to center love and make it a priority to work on healing from the trauma of state-sanctioned violence and anti-Black racism.

It hasn’t been an easy road, but what we’ve seen more than two years later is that it is, indeed, a necessary one.

It hasn’t been easy because we have to navigate the reality that as much as we love our people, there are some Black people who don’t love Black people. We have been taught to love capitalism more than ourselves.

Yet, love for our people means being willing to struggle around the contradictions we embody and which keep us from getting free in mind, body and soul.

Black Love
Black love is a liberatory act and an act of resistance. Black people get messages every day that we are not enough, that we are somehow deficient or dysfunctional. We are told that we are criminal, that our rightful rage is somehow violent. And, on top of that, different types of Black people get different messages about our supposed dysfunction based on how we present in the world: whether or not we have “natural” hair; our body shape and size; how we present our gender. There’s very little that is not critiqued, vilified or criminalized about the Black body.

I remember one particularly painful moment that touched me deeply. In a training conducted by Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity (BOLD), a cohort of Black leaders from across the country who do powerful work in our communities on behalf of our people, spent time together in the practice of unearthing the pain that’s internalized each and every day in our attempts to live Black with dignity. A Black cisgendered man who was a little over 6 feet tall talked about how his body hurt because he hunched down so that white people wouldn’t be afraid of him.

As a Black queer cisgendered woman, I found this profound because I know the pain he felt (having to disguise or transform yourself for your own safety), and also because I, too, at times have been afraid of Black men. What does it mean for movement building, for building power, when we are afraid of one another? How does this hiding, this shaming, this being afraid to be our full selves with one another, this transforming for the sake of safety, impact our liberatory practice together?

A Black transgender woman shared with me that she was having difficulty participating in a local chapter of #BlackLivesMatter because the only space that she’d ever been in that was all Black was in jail, and that space had been incredibly violent for her as a transwoman.

State-sanctioned violence and anti-Black racism have shaped our physical, emotional, economic, political, and cultural landscapes in profound ways that impact our ability to work together, dream together and transform together. So when we create spaces that allow us to be our full selves, unapologetically, we are engaging in acts of resistance and liberation. We are resisting the violent criminalization and animalization of our bodies by defiantly taking up more space than we are given. We are engaging in an act of liberation because we are choosing to live in the world that does not yet exist but one day will surely come.

Cleveland—The Gift of Understanding
In July, when more than 1,500 Black people from across the diaspora converged in Cleveland, Ohio the love there was palpable. Black people travelled from all over the country and throughout the world to be with other Black people in the movement for Black lives. What we shared in common was a love for Black people so deep that we would travel anywhere to be with one another, to share strategies, to cry and laugh together, to dance and sing together.

We fumbled together. We made a lot of mistakes. But in creating room to be unapologetically Black, in creating room to love ourselves and each other so fully, those fumbles and mistakes were transformed into powerful lessons that shaped us all. Those of us who are cisgender were given a gift from our loved ones who are transgender and gender nonconforming: (i) in pointing out the ways in which folks were either intentionally or unintentionally being excluded from their fullest participation; and (ii) in reminding us all that even though the world we want doesn’t exist yet, we can love our freedom and one another enough to start living the world we want, right here and now.

Getting closer to that freedom means we have to love each other enough to keep coming back, even when we hurt one another. Transgender folks and gender nonconforming folks were angry and hurt at being excluded in a space that articulated a liberatory politic but at times fell short of living that politic. Often, when we are hurt and when we are angry, we retreat into our corners and get ready to go home. This practice has split movements time and time again. But our love—for ourselves and for our people—demands that we keep coming back when things are hard, when we are angry and hurt. We keep coming back because therein lies the possibility for change, where we love each other enough to live a politic that says that no one gets thrown away or left behind.

Black love as resistance, as a pathway to our collective liberation, is not something that this generation of organizers and activists came up with on their own. The #BlackLivesMatter network sits within a context shaped by 20th century social movements and Black freedom organizations. It’s difficult and somewhat irresponsible to make comparisons to movements and organizations that existed or exist in vastly different social, political and economic conditions. There are, however, important lessons that present iterations of movements and organizations can learn from the successes and contradictions of the organizations and movements of the 20th century.

The first lesson being, nothing replaces the work of base-building and political education. Even with the prevalence of technology and the culture shift that has accompanied it, consistently and critically engaging the hearts and minds of everyday people and inviting them to become a part of a movement, while deepening consciousness about why our world functions the way it does and who is responsible for the misery that so many of us face, is essential and is an act of love. Though this is an era in which Twitter followers and Facebook friends can give individuals a platform, having a vision that is compelling enough to get people to take action offline is critical to our liberation.

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) took the work of base-building very seriously, immersing themselves in communities that were being denied access to their basic dignity and humanity, and their ability to determine their own futures. They began as a loose network that later solidified into a powerful national organization.

The #BlackLivesMatter network also takes the work of base-building very seriously. Begun as a loose network of Black people coming together online to take action together offline, it has since evolved into a network organized into 26 local chapters that are connected, yet relatively autonomous. The #BLM network is still in the process of solidifying its organizational structure, but the majority of its chapters are involved in base-building and political education around a range of issues at the local and regional levels.

The next step is learning to build across class while being rooted in and led by poor and working class communities. Movements and organizations in the Black freedom tradition have struggled with this, and the #BlackLivesMatter network and movement is no different. The organizations that had the most impact among 20th century movements were the ones that prioritized organizing amongst those who were the most impacted, yet knew how to leverage the support of the Black middle class.

Leadership and Liberalism
In his book, The Making of Black Revolutionaries, James Forman, recounts:

      The liberalism of which I have spoken tended to negate leadership as a valuable factor in an organization. This tendency was not something new. SNCC’s staff was young and idealistic. We rejected the “great leader” orientation of other civil rights organizations.  We wanted no part of the corruption which attended that kind of attitude, the denial of the importance of people—especially poor people. We were fed up with hearing the words leader and leadership, especially from the press and so-called civil rights leaders. We believed in community organizing, in the power of the people to develop their own strength and direction.

      But this attitude had become a kind of general neurosis in the organization, especially in the minds of the middle class element and especially among those who had been strongly influenced by ideas about participatory democracy coming out of Students for a Democratic Society. What had been born as an affirmation became a simplistic negation. Instead of finding ways that people with natural leadership qualities could make their contribution and help to develop leadership qualities in others, this attitude simply said, “Curb your leadership.”

      …[We] lost sight of the fact that it was a power achieved not through manipulation and tyranny, not out of self-interest, but as a result of performance, good ideas, hard work, tremendous courage, self-sacrifice, and, above all, a spirit of humanity (p. 419).

This is a powerful reflection and one that the #BlackLivesMatter network and movement must pay attention to. First, contrary to some understandings, #BLM, both as a network and as a movement, does not see itself as without leaders, but as a leaderful network and a leaderful movement. This is in contrast to the principles underlying the Occupy movement to which #BLM is often compared. We do not glorify participatory democracy in and of itself, yet we deeply believe in the power of Black people to develop (as Forman says) our own strength and direction.

Still, the #BlackLivesMatter network and the #BlackLivesMatter movement are susceptible to some of the pitfalls Forman describes. Social media has created, in some instances, bully pulpits where some leaders are revered and others denounced, thus following the trajectory of the same respectability politics and individualism that we seek to reject in the first place. What’s more, leadership (and who is a leader) is being defined in part by the corporate-controlled media, rather than by the work an individual does within their community, the way they interact with and support others, and the love that they bring to the work of building a movement. In other words, leaders personify Black love and leadership is the regular practice of cultivating and regenerating Black love.

A deep, abiding and unconditional love for Black people lay at the heart of the organizations and movements of the 20th century and continues to be at the heart of the organizations and movements of today.

20th century organizations and movements grappled with respectability politics in their desire to have access to power without transforming power itself. Organizations, like the SNCC and movements, like the Black Power Movement, rejected this notion over and over again. In fact, tensions arose between SNCC, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) for this very reason. Many leaders within SNCC recall a frustration with these organizations for not being grounded genuinely in the community, which in addition to professionals, included sharecroppers who were poor and facing eviction for attending meetings about voting rights or for exercising their right to vote.

While this was certainly about class division within Black communities that represented themselves in respectability politics—particularly with respect to disenfranchised poor and working class Black people, student sit-ins, and direct action tactics—it was also about promoting a narrow image of Black people: those who deserved respect and love and those who did not. Ultimately, there were times when sharecroppers got thrown under the bus in exchange for the shinier and more popular student sit-ins.

Today, that struggle continues. The #BlackLivesMatter network has placed a great emphasis on the principle of all Black lives—that none of us are free until all of us are free. And so, we must devote ourselves to complexifying Black life in this country. To do so means that we claim our transgender and gender nonconforming family as Black lives worthy of dignity, respect and Black love. To do so means that we do not participate in the valuing of one tactic over another, instead, we value a diversity of tactics and refuse to throw anyone under the bus for the sake of a seat at the table.

To refuse to be divided, to reject crumbs in favor of an entirely new pie where there is enough for everyone—that is the ultimate form of Black love, Black resistance, and the key to winning and sustaining Black liberation.

Alicia Garza is special projects director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. In 2013, Alicia co-founded #BlackLivesMatter with Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi.


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"Black love is a liberatory act and an act of resistance." - Alicia Garza

Heritage of Healing: Ecology of Hope

Permaculture Team Planting Fruit Trees ©2015 Planting JusticeBy Kelly Curry

It’s a bright sunny Sunday and I’m sitting in my homeboy’s restaurant drinking a cup of his rich, black coffee. With ceiling fans whirling overhead, the last customer, of the last rush, hustles out the door. He nods goodbye to him and then turns to me, “What are you doing today?”

I tell him I’m working on a series of interviews with guys who have recently been released from prison and are now working the land and growing food for the community.

“What a joke.” He says, grabbing the remote and pointing it towards the wide flat screen overhead, “Those guys don’t stand a chance,” he mashes the mute button, “why would anybody hire a ex-con when they can have a guy with no record, never did anything and works hard? You know what a thief does? They steal...you know what a junkie does? They use. End of story.”

His words echo in my ear a few days later as I sit with colleagues at a cafe on the outskirts of Berkeley. We’re there to raise friends and resources for an organization whose stickers read “Grow Food, Grow Jobs, Grow Community.” A brother known as Big Mo is on the mic, sharing from his heart, his very own transformation. “It started at San Quentin,” he says. “I was doin’ time for armed robbery. I saw a flyer on the wall saying that if we signed up and came to trainings and helped out in the garden, that when we came out we could get jobs startin’ at $17.50 an hour. We were all like, ‘that’s not real, that’s somebody’s idea of a joke, we didn’t believe it.’”

Urban landscapers: Siddiqqi Osibin, Darryl Aikens, and Morris “Big Mo” Bell. © 2015 Siddiqqi OsibinMo laughs and the crowd laughs with him, he bounce-sways from toe to toe as he speaks, moving with the rhythm of his words, which also bounce. Mo is a friendly man with laughter in his voice, so none of us notice the tears streaming down his face, until he wipes them from his eyes and the timbre in his voice shakes, “Having this training as a landscaper and coming out having a job means that I can be there for my family. It means that I can help out and have somewhere to live and do my best and be my best. The support of Planting Justice has changed my life. I used to be a guy who if I walked into the room you would wanna watch your bag. That’s not me anymore.” There is a thunder of applause from the small group assembled to play food justice trivia, eat burgers and fries and enjoy being a part of a movement that seems to be providing solutions to the most daunting issues of our time.

The Green Jobs Movement Gives Back
Later that week I am at San Quentin, in the garden at the edge of the Bay that Mo was talking about. I am with colleagues from Planting Justice, Katina and Haleh and about 20 guys who participate regularly in the garden class. We pinch the tops from the bright, gold and red calendula to reseed the beds, pull up mint and green-leafy sorrel, and bundle the abundant medicinal herbs, greens and vegetables that grow strong under the watchful, gentle, loving guidance of the guys from H-Unit. And although it’s against the rules for them to partake of the harvest, they are happy to be working out in the open, fresh air, salted by a gentle sea breeze. Together, we stack the fresh goodies on ice and they are ready to be transported back to the city, where they will be donated to local Bay Area folks in need.

Later, we’ll go to the chapel for a workshop on blazing new neural pathways that promote our ability to respond mindfully instead of reacting thoughtlessly. These are potentially life-changing techniques that everyone in the world needs, and which are indeed changing the lives of program participants.

“How does it make you feel, being this close to the ocean?” I ask B, a participant from H-Unit, as we look up from the basil and glance through the cyclone fencing that separates us from the shores of the Pacific, just beyond the monolithic structures where thousands and thousands of men are housed.

“Makes me feel free,” he says. “Just bein’ in this garden makes me feel free. I close my eyes and see myself getting up in the morning, going to work, doing my job, coming home, being with my children, my family, providing and really being there for them.”

I imagine him walking through the door after a long day of work and hugging his children...helping them with homework...checking on them while they sleep. With that, we turn our attention back to the garden, our fingers wade through the fragrant herbs, as the soothing smell of basil finds it way through the air.

The training that the brothers in H-Unit receive prepares them for one of the biggest booms in demand for skilled and unskilled labor in California since Congress struck a deal with Pacific Rail to lay railroad tracks across the United States in the late 1800s.

Recreation yard at San Quentin Prison 2013 Waldemar ZboralskEveryone in San Quentin’s H-Unit has a release date, but given the mysterious ways of the prison system, that release can be elusive. Volunteering with the Planting Justice program, however, can not only improve a prisoner’s chances of being released because it secures them a viable network and a job when they come out, it can actually help them participate in the transformation of their own communities by helping to grow food, grow jobs and grow community. That’s because the Food Justice movement provides resources for the very communities where Mo and the others come from—West Oakland, Chicago’s West Side, Detroit, Watts in Los Angeles—areas whose economies have been devastated by U.S. corporate reliance on overseas outsourcing of jobs for cheap slave labor (among other things).

Devastation, Gentrification, Resilience
West Oakland, original home to many of the folks at San Quentin, is being hit by massive, relentless waves of gentrification. A drive through this historically Black neighborhood reveals the impact of over 75 years of corruption, crooked politicians and bureaucratic mismanagement by City Hall, which stamped out a thriving, bustling “Harlem of the West.” Starting with a designation as a “blighted area” in 1946, West Oakland has been the victim of lots of poor planning: the “urban renewal” projects of the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s; the use of eminent domain for the construction of a major postal hub and freeway which cut off the neighborhood from the rest of the city; the destruction of homes to develop ACORN projects and set up BART—all of these forced Black businesses and families out of the area, thus destabilizing the local economy.

A ride through West Oakland makes you feel a little like you’re rolling through a Dali painting. A place that isn’t what it was and is not yet what it is going to be...all tinged with a mood of unpleasant uncertainty. So today, the residents float together, like the odds and ends of bits and pieces that have drifted together after a disastrous flood. They are hipster youth (mostly white) holding down abandoned property; homeless of every age and color; historic resident hold-outs who remind us of what was and is no longer; regular working folks wondering how long before their landlord raises the rent astronomically; and the opportunists—monied gentrifiers, some of whom are painfully aware of the horrific legacy that they are benefiting from, and many others, who could give a damn. These folks are waiting for the area to become what Harlem now is for white folks­—“safe and ready for our invasion”—as I heard one new Harlem homeowner recently testify on the A train from Brooklyn.

Raised Bed ©2015 Planting JusticeAnd though you can feel the pulse of ghosts of resilience beating hard in the air­—Little Bobby Hutton ...Huey Newton ...C.L. Dellums ...Elvis’s songwriter Ivory Jo Hunter—things just feel strange. There is a vibration roiling through the streets. You can certainly feel it if you’re standing on the green grass of  Defermery Park (known to the community as Little Bobby Hutton Park), across the street from the elementary school that houses a City Slicker Farm school garden, adjacent to the fence displaying artist Keba Konte’s Black Panther leaping through a giant burst of blue ribbons... each tied hopefully by children and elders of the community.

The vibration, which seems to rumble louder and louder everyday, incantations of those ghosts perhaps, is saying that enough is enough. Resilience starts from the inside out. That resilience is getting a boost from the well-organized Food Justice Organizations in the neighborhood. They offer hope in the form of reminding the community how to grow her own food and make her own medicine.

Green Jobs and Food Justice
The intersection between Green Jobs and Food Justice creates new opportunities to reconnect folks who have been shut out and relegated to the margins to move with confidence through the world. Through these pathways, folks find themselves relevant, engaged and alive. Bringing attention back to the land, back to growing their own food, reminds folks of all the ways that the current, commercial food system neutralizes our connection to the earth. Right now we have an opportunity to reconnect to an understanding of the perfection of interdependent, holistic principles through a recalibration of our being. Tapping back into the earth’s rhythm means that we may be transformed to our natural, life-affirming balance.

This transformation has the power to redirect the future of the United States and her people, who have been left on their own to figure out how to survive the mess created by the systems that have failed her humanity miserably. This transformation creates space for America to step into her greatness as a land of true opportunity. Right now, People’s Grocery, City Slicker Farms, and Planting Justice are at the helm of a movement of healing community through connection with the earth and sustenance through her gifts of nutrition and medicine.

Mo and B are essential to this story. Because when they come home, it means that the  connection that was broken when Black men left communities in waves, as a result of the transformation from Jim Crow to Prison Industrial Complex, may finally be re-established.

A Witness to History in the Making
It’s Thursday and we are at the campus of McClymonds High School in West Oakland. McClymonds, which has produced some of the greatest American figures in sports, politics, and music, also hosts a garden donated by Planting Justice. Darryl and Mo are here, working to help train the students in the “grow food” part of the organization’s mission. Right now Dion is asking me a question I don’t have the answer to. I defer to Darryl. He is about 6 feet 5 inches tall with stunning locks, black like coal, and a voice like the one Marlon Brando did in the Godfather.

Dion is about 14 and entering the 10th grade. When he looks up at Darryl his whole demeanor shifts, he becomes markedly polite and his body language is deferential. Darryl’s shoulders seem to straighten and his tone softens as he demonstrates how to plant the fledgling marigold in the stinky-rich, organic soil.

“See,” he says, leaning down and over the soil, “you gotta be gentle with them or they won’t make it. Put it in here and pull a mound of soil around it. When you’ve done that, get you some water, and sprinkle it on there with your fingers. It’s goin’ through changes now because you just moved it from one home to another, so be careful, be gentle.”

Dion, large brown eyes sparkling in the high summer sun, gets that Darryl’s silence is a cue for him to mirror the planting demonstration. He does so with care and grace. And as he looks up at Darryl, I realize that I have been witness to a moment that has been in the making since the first slave ships began moving human cargo off the coast of Africa, across oceans, centuries ago.

The men are coming home to their communities, in positions of growing power and equality and learning to command their new identity, as teachers and leaders and fathers and brothers. “Thank you,” Dion says looking up at Darryl, who replies, “You’re welcome.”

It is after this exchange that Darryl approaches me and asks whether he can get some training in how to work with the youth. “I don’t want to say the wrong thing or mess up,” he confides.

“You’re a natural teacher,” I tell him. We do the training two weeks later. He says it’s boosted his confidence. “Now I’m ready to work with them.”

This intersection of Green Jobs and the cultivation provided by Food Justice organizations, here in Oakland and over the rest of the country, harmonizes beautifully with the melodies played out of the African American hymnal on survival and growth. One more synthesis, pulled together from the discordant notes born from enduring the pain and the brutality of a system designed to take our lives and our energy and all of our hope...a system designed for genocide. Because we are survivors, we have taken the pain and the struggles and did what we do...make music. Because we are survivors, there will be more to this story and the more to this story looks and feels like healing.

Kelly Curry is an author, publisher and social justice activist. She works with the Planting Justice education team.

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"Resilience starts from the inside out." - Kelly Curry

Street Knowledge: Power for Positive Change

By Nicole Lee

Throughout California and across the country, communities of color are caught in a cycle of violence and mass incarceration, a cycle whose wheels were in motion years before the young people being pushed into this system were even born. These wheels turn in a staggeringly unequal economy where quality jobs are scarce—especially for young people of color—and the average CEO of a large corporation earns more than 350 times the average worker;[1] they turn in the schools, where only 56 percent of California’s black male students get their diploma in four years;[2] they turn in the justice system, where the criminalization of youth of color and entire communities—especially African American and Latino men—has helped give the United States the highest incarceration rate in the world.

Today’s young people were born into the lasting impacts of the crack epidemic of the 1980s and ‘90s—a social and economic crisis that ripped through urban communities, leaving a trail of violence, incarceration, and substance abuse, hitting young people of color and their families the hardest. Today’s youth struggle with the emotional and psychological trauma that comes with this kind of social devastation and the deep inequality that makes such devastation possible. But incredibly, they are blamed for the problem!

2014 DetermiNation Media GroupTo solve the social and economic crises that we face, we need to stop looking at youth of color as a problem.  Instead, we need to look to young people of color for solutions, and we need to support the development of their leadership toward healthy, peaceful, thriving communities.

Young people have always played a key role in social change movements, particularly in U.S. racial justice movements. The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), led by young African American college students, was one of the core organizations of the Civil Rights Movement. The typical member of the Black Panther Party was 18-20 years old. Students were the backbone of the U.S. anti-apartheid movement. Young people are ideal “change-makers” because they are less attached to old or conventional ways of doing things. They tend toward creativity, innovation and new ideas, are less invested in the current system, and are more willing to take social and political risks.

We are finding that youth of color who have been pushed to the extreme margins of conventional society, largely excluded and disconnected from mainstream social institutions, are strategically positioned to play a leadership role in transforming those very institutions and ushering in social change. Many say these are “high-risk youth;” we think of them as “high-opportunity youth.” They tend to be older teens or young adults who have been involved with the criminal justice system, the child welfare system, or both. Most have experienced the “street life.”

The Street Is an Institution
The streets are the landing place for those pushed out of conventional educational, political, economic, and civic institutions. For those “in the streets,” mere survival in the face of hardship becomes a primary goal. The premium placed on survival pushes young people in the streets toward a certain set of skills and sensibilities that can be very helpful in other contexts. These include: 1) outside-the-box thinking and resourcefulness; 2) a willingness to take risks (i.e., the ability to move forward in the face of uncertainty and with a kind of fearlessness about taking action); 3) networking and communication; 4) adaptability; and 5) situational awareness.

Indeed, in some ways the world becomes more like “the streets” every day. Our cities, our economy and our planet are all in crisis mode whether we recognize it or not. We stand collectively in great peril, but that peril also creates great opportunity for change and for new things to be born into the world. As centenarian Detroit activist Grace Lee Boggs[3] has said, we now have the chance to evolve to a “higher state of humanity,”and “The time has come for us to reimagine everything.” [4, 5]

The resourcefulness, adaptability and fearlessness that high-opportunity young people in the streets have developed can and should be a part of the reimagining. But to unlock this potential we must recognize the value of their experiences and change the context in which they operate.

“Risk-taking” is the kind of 21st century skill that we might think of within a framework that Markese Bryant has termed, “street intellectualism.”  The high stakes of street-hustling naturally bring with them a risk-taking culture. But risk-taking “in the streets,” within the contexts of poverty and mass-incarceration, and without healing and support, has destructive and potentially deadly consequences—a dynamic that plays out in cities like Oakland and Chicago. In order to leverage the ability and willingness of urban youth to take calculated risks in a way that benefits themselves and their communities, we must create the supports and safety nets necessary to ensure that the risks they take and the mistakes they make do not cost them their lives. We have to create new contexts in which they can take nurtured risks that lead to incredible innovation and transformation within their community. Because it’s one of the things that separates upper-middle-class white male entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley from the young Black and Latino males in Oakland streets.

We are certainly not arguing that it is a good thing that our young people are in the streets and pushed to the brink of survival. We are saying that, because this has already happened to them, they have begun to develop a set of skills that place them in a strategic position to meet the challenges of the new century. We also know, however, that the adversity these youth have faced in the streets has been deeply traumatic for them.  By affirming street intellectualism, we reflect the value of their experiences. More importantly, we affirm that our youth can ultimately transform their pain into freedom.

Why Healing Can’t Wait
The youth and young adults that I work with at Urban Peace Movement have lost multiple friends and family members to gun violence. Their parents and caretakers have struggled, unsupported, with substance abuse or mental health issues. Many youth have had parents or siblings who were incarcerated, and some have themselves been incarcerated. They have suffered as their loved ones were deported. And, many have endured homelessness and hunger. These experiences are all traumatic and stem directly from social and economic policies that perpetuate inequality. Because these are not isolated incidents, entire communities have been traumatized together. So, each young person ends up even more hurt than he or she would have been if their suffering had been theirs alone. Such social trauma stands in the way of our ability to create and sustain deep social change in communities of color. As social workers like to say, “Hurt people hurt people.” But the opposite must also be true: Healthy people build healthy communities.

Measure FF Visiblity Action (Peace in Action)Oppression and inequality inflict trauma at both individual and social levels. We cannot mend one set of wounds without mending the other, too. We must build the capacity to heal and transform the individuals in our communities—our fathers and mothers, our children, our siblings and cousins. We must also transform the unfair, inequitable systems that continue to inflict shared trauma and feed the cycle of violence and mass incarceration in our communities. We need “Healing-Centered Youth Organizing.”It’s easy for someone focused on organizing and systems change to argue that the world has huge and urgent challenges that won’t wait for us to heal ourselves. Some call it the “we’re too busy to heal” perspective. But if we don’t heal the damage that’s been done to us, we burn ourselves out and often replicate the very dynamics we are trying to stop and in the process, hurt ourselves and each other. After all, hurt people hurt people.

As organizers committed to transforming the systems and institutions that perpetuate inequality and oppression, we can and must begin to do our work with an internal sense of hope, freedom, peace of mind, and well-being, from a place of sufficiency and prosperity, even when our social conditions and those of our communities are not yet ‘there.’ In other words, we can use what we already have inside of us—our sense of resiliency, our love for one another, and our hearts—to transform ourselves, each other, and society. We can begin to help one another in our communities to heal from the wounds of the past so that we can fully access our inner powers to change our society.

“Reimagining Everything”: The Genesis of a New World
I recently had dinner with a friend who has a deep spiritual practice. In describing the relationship between the “inner” and the “outer,” she said that she believes that a new world is being born and that it is emerging from ‘inside of us,’ from what we feel most passionate about, and from whom we feel most called to be. I have had similar experiences in those small moments when I am still and in the present moment—a feeling that something is trying to be born into the world through me and that this “new world” is bubbling up through the tender and vulnerable parts of our humanity, through the brokenness. Somehow, all of this reminds me of what activist Grace Lee Boggs says about this being a time for “reimagining everything.”

Boggs, who lived in Detroit among the ruins of the giants of the industrial age—the crumbled factories and auto plants—often said that she believes that we are on the cusp of a transition equivalent to that which humans made when going from being hunter-gatherers to living in an industrial society. She suggests that this shift is happening both “inside people” and within the institutions and structures that make up the “outside” world, and talks about reimagining the ways in which we think and talk about everything—even revolution. Boggs points out that the word “revolution” contains within it the word “evolution.” She argues for a new social change methodology that transforms us as human beings even as it transforms our political and economic structures. But unlike those who spend most of their time working on policy change and advocacy, Boggs spends much of her time supporting local grassroots community-based enterprises, such as urban farms and neighborhood bike shops, in her hometown of Detroit.[6]

Boggs is pointing us toward something bigger than just a shift in our economy, something that cannot be overlooked and must be included in the work of organizing and advocacy. She is pointing to a shift that is taking place at both levels—material/institutional and humanistic (or spiritual, as some might say). From a material or structural perspective, particularly in places like Detroit, a new window of opportunity has opened up in the wake of the partial economic collapse of some of the mega-institutions that were once the pillars of U.S. society.

From a humanistic or spiritual perspective, we know that when something collapses, it clears the way for new possibilities—for people to step in and do what they feel most passionate about or called to do. It is an opportunity for us to begin to serve our own communities in ways that are much more socially, economically and environmentally sustainable and which bring us joy and fulfillment. Most types of spiritual and contemplative practice lead us to a place of presence where we can more clearly see our own gifts, talents and passions. When we step up to be who we feel authentically called to be, we begin to bring the new world into being.

A Way Forward
Giving Space to Lead—
To truly transform our communities, here in California and around the country, we must be courageous enough to make a real investment (of our time, money, commitment, and love) in the leadership of our young people. We must create a leadership pipeline for “high opportunity” youth of color by acknowledging their experiences, their assets, and their capacity to lead. This will require supports that are specifically aligned with the needs and concerns of these youth. Additionally, we must provide training and support for the youth-service workers and youth organizers who support these young people. Ultimately, our job is to give young people the space to lead.

Healing and Transformation—This includes the work of helping our communities and our young people heal from the personal and social trauma they have experienced, as well as of empowering people from the “inside out” to determine and manifest a new course of history. From Transformative Organizing to the practice of sacred healing circles within social change organizations like the Milpa Movement (Salinas), the Determination and Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice (CURYJ) programs (Oakland), and Fathers and Families of San Joaquin (Stockton)—more and more groups around the country are working in various ways to integrate healing with traditional organizing and policy advocacy.

Political Engagement, Advocacy and Organizing—The work of social change requires us to pay attention to the “rules of the game”: What are these rules? Who sets them? Who implements them? Who benefits from them? And, how do we influence these rules so that they yield more just and equitable communities? Community and youth organizing are fundamentally about challenging the current political and economic structures that perpetuate inequality and maintain the status quo. Young people are organizing and speaking truth to power in places around the country on issues, such as immigration reform, education, juvenile and criminal justice, and racial and economic inequality. In Oakland, young people are helping to lead the charge on the implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula, on public safety and re-entry, and on helping to advocate for quality jobs for city residents.

Building Alternative Economic Models—In addition to policy advocacy and community organizing, the work of structural change also requires us to begin to build economic alternatives to the old models that put profit over people and locked so many of our community members out of opportunity and into poverty. All over the country, small community-based enterprises, such as urban farms, bakeries, neighborhood art galleries, and music studios are popping up. As a movement, we can begin to create the kind of community-sustaining, grassroots institutions that can serve as the foundation of the new world we want to bring forth.

Nicole Lee is the founding director of the Urban Peace Movement. This article is adapted from her paper Healing-Centered Youth Organizing: A Framework for Youth Leadership in the 21st Century available at www.urbanpeacemovement.org/reports.

1.    AFL-CIO Website, CEO-to-Worker Pay Ratios Around The World, 2012. www.aflcio.org/Corporate-Watch/Paywatch-2014
2.    Scott Foundation for Public Education, The Urgency of Now, State Graduation Data. blackboysreport.org/interactive-map-dashboard/
3.    Grace Lee Boggs was a Chinese American activist and philosopher who worked under C.L.R. James in the 1940s and ‘50s and in the ‘60s, became a member of Detroit’s Black Power Movement. She died at the age of 100 on October 5, 2015.
4.    blog.gaiam.com/quotes/authors/grace-lee-boggs
5.    Grace Lee Boggs in Conversation with Angela Davis, UC Berkeley, March 2, 2012. http://reimaginerpe.org/19-2/boggs
6.         “American Revolutionary: The evolution of Grace Lee Boggs,” a film produced and directed by Grace Lee, 2013. www.imdb.com/title/tt2385558/
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"Oppression and inequality inflict trauma at both individual and social levels." -Nicole Lee


By Amanda "Panda" Deda

They fuel the fires of deforestation for their meat
The meat the millions of people each day
Line up to eat.
Oh, how this savagery remains discreet.
Ignorance ensues when you order some food
And mindlessly take a seat.
Little do you know of the lies instilled
Between those two buns of wheat.
But who dares to question such inhumane acts
From industry considered to be so elite?
Even though this constant exploitation
Occurs right below our unsuspecting feet.
And before you take your receipt,
Remember that there is a corporate monster
That dwells on the corner of every street,
And they will continue to excrete
False facts of how many trees
They continuously delete,
Innocent creatures they habitually mistreat,
If only Mother Nature could speak
This oppression would soon be in defeat
For she would protest against this injustice
Like the people of Occupy Wall Street
For silence and apathy
Will only cause this vicious cycle of destruction to repeat

For silence and apathy
Will only cause this vicious cycle of destruction to repeat

And repeat

And repeat

So think twice before you take a bite out of that meat
Because Ronald McDonald has a smile plastered with blood,
A smile comprised of ruthless deceit.
He has a heart,
As cold as concrete.

Cause honestly Ronald McDonald, the food that you serve is nothing but
A plate full of shit.
And believe me,
I ain’t lovin’ it.

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"Remember that there is a corporate monster that dwells on the corner of every street." - Amanda "Panda" Deda