We need to think. This is what's missing from us, energetically speaking...
We can't out-fight them, but we can out-think them. -
John Trudell

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Whiteness Project Covers the Same Old Ground.

The Whiteness Project is created by documentary filmmaker Whitney Dow and with the support of POV/PBS.  His stated goal from the website is to interview a 1,000 white people about, "Their relationship to, and their understanding of, their own whiteness."  Work done around whiteness is much needed but I do not think this project hits the mark and I do not think it will be useful.  

The first installment is 24 interviews with white people in Buffalo, New York.  The second installment features 24 interviews with millennials in Dallas, Texas. Both segments follow the same format, with each interview lasting around 90 seconds and heavily edited. You do not hear any questions posed to them.  After each segment a statistic flashes on the screen stating a reality about whiteness and white supremacy such as: what percentage of white people support reparations, have non white friends and so forth.  I watched all the interviews in their entirety and you can also watch them and read more about the project here. 

First they are mostly painful to watch as almost every person interviewed puts forward racist comments mostly about so called “blacks”. They are almost funny in that shake your head at ignorance kind of way as when the young woman who inexplicably has her hair rolled in cans laments not knowing when she can talk about kool-aid or fried chicken because apparently in her mind these words are offensive to “black people”. Or the white woman who is convinced every “black man” she says hello to wants her because she is a voluptuous woman and has a convertible. You have the whole litany of comments: “I don’t see color.  It’s not my fault.  I didn’t hurt anyone. Everyone is prejudiced.”  and on and on.  

Despite the stated goal in both segments only three or four people out of twenty-four actually talk much about whiteness, name racism or white privilege as being the reality.  There are three people in the interviews that are white and also black or Latina/o and are wrestling with that.  Because of the highly edited format there is no space for the handful of participants that actually bring up real issues to delve deeper. This project is being lauded for finally dealing with whiteness but it actually reenforces the same problem that talking about whiteness runs into time and time again; white people don't want or don’t know how to do it.  So many fall back on ignorant opinions about a generic notion of "black people" and repeat the untrue mantra about who benefits from affirmative action.  The only acknowledgment of whiteness in most of the interviews is to state the belief that as a white person we receive no benefits from being white. 

The kind of comments I highlighted above are far from revelatory and are all well trod ground for white people. There is no shortage of venues on the internet and in media where these views can already be heard. Giving them yet another platform does not add anything of use to the conversation. I wish at the very least the filmmaker had set a ground rule for himself and participants that they were only allowed to speak about their own experience being white and were not given air time to express opinions about other imagined people.   

I question the usefulness and point of the whole project.  How will a thousand soundbites from white people really move the conversation forward?  As a white person I have taken part in a lot of sloppy actions and conversations where the notion that talking about “race” (race not whiteness is how it is usually termed) is better than not talking about it.  Without clarity of thought, without clarity of motive and intent just doing something, anything about race or whiteness usually produces more alienation, confusion and often just more straight up racism. 

The filmmaker states on his website that he started this project after being asked by an audience member about his own racial identity and his first response was, "I don't have one."  I wish he had pursued that troubling realization more before launching this project.  From the aesthetic choices of the stark white background to the heavily edited interviews there is something deeply white about this whole experience. A blankness, without context, without history, without anything grounding you to this complex world but your own opinions and fears about other imagined people.  Pure whiteness right there, but to what end?

Although far from the majority there are actually many white people who have given it some real thought and made it their life's work to confront white supremacy. Not every white person dealing with whiteness and white supremacy thinks the same or has the same approach or is successful at their work.  Mr. Dow could have been in conversation with many white people that are doing that work.  I could personally name upwards of twenty-five people he could contact.  With them he could have explored the ups and downs, the mistakes and triumphs of that work.  Mr. Dow could have put whiteness in contexts with the reasons whiteness exists: white supremacy, colonization, patriarchy, slavery and capitalism. Mr. Dow could have acknowledged and wrestled with the complexity of centering a project on whiteness because most white people need this work but for many people of color they are tired, bored, done with how whiteness is already centered and needs to be uncentered. 

A project like that could ask big questions, hard questions about why does white supremacy continue even in the face of so much talk about race and racism.  Instead it covers the same old ground that leads us right back to whiteness still with no answers, no clarity, no actions to transform ourselves and to join the struggle to truly heal and transform our world. 


Monday, January 4, 2016

A rock and a hard place-White Domestic Terrorism

The cautious treatment of armed white men taking over a federal building in Oregon with vague demands about land rights and a promise to shoot if approached by law enforcement is a clear display of the sickening double standard we live with in this white supremacy.  Imagine for one moment a group of armed black, Muslim or native men (the last group having the clearest actual claim to stolen land and sovereign rights) making threats and taking over government property. We already know the probable outcome; the building would have been stormed already and many if not all the men would be in custody or dead.   

There is a reason this is playing out like this.  Domestic terrorism works.  In the 1990’s there was a rise in white armed militia and the two botched stand offs in Waco,Texas and Ruby Ridge, Idaho.  Then came the Oklahoma City bombing of the federal building by two white militia men.  In 2009 the Department of Homeland Security issued a report that detailed the troubling rise again of organized white domestic terrorists. Besides the horrific act of terrorism carried out on September 11, 2001 by foreign terrorists almost every other act of terrorism in the U.S. has been carried out by white people (mostly men) who are white supremacists, anti-government and/or anti-abortion. 

Before and after the attack on 9/11 the majority of people killed in the U.S. by terrorism have been killed by white men with guns and bombs.  The victims of these attacks include police officers, specific racial and religious groups and abortion providers.  Prior to 9/11 there is an unending litany of terrorism perpetrated by white domestic terrorists that includes lynching, bombings of churches and mob violence.  The U.S. Government is handling this latests act as they handled the stand off with many of the same men involved in the Bundy ranch standoffs in 2014.  They do not want to escalate this situation because they are well aware that these armed white men will shoot back.  That is backed up with years of violence including direct acts of cop killing by right wing extremists including the murders of police officers by Jerad and Amanda Miller in Las Vegas in 2014.  

There is no comparable history of domestic terrorism by any other group in the U.S. no matter how much arm chair racists commenting on the internet wish to believe otherwise.  This country is really between a rock and a hard place.  On one hand we have state sanctioned violence by police murdering and terrorizing people of color and then a militarized response whenever people rise up against such killings.  On the other side we have white supremacist extremists willing to use violence and intimidation that goes largely unchecked by the government.  It is truly the twisted reality of white supremacy when you have cops and federal officials who have actually been directly targeted by white supremacist/anti government groups still acting as if it is Native ranchers in Nevada * or community members in Ferguson, Baltimore and Minneapolis that are a threat and must be dealt with as if they were a group of armed terrorists spoiling for a fight.  

It is not hyperbolic to say that our government consistently fails to protect us from the real dangers in this world including corporate caused climate change and pollution, rampant gun violence, rape, police brutality and domestic terrorism.  It is a dangerous situation all around.    

* If you are unfamiliar with this situation please check out this video.  Watch

Monday, August 17, 2015

White Progressives and the Fracture of Good Order

Our apologies good friends
for the fracture of good order 
the burning of paper instead of children  
the angering of the orderlies
in the front parlor of the charnel house

We could not  so help us God, do otherwise
For we are sick at heart, our hearts
give us no rest, for thinking of the Land of Burning Children...

These lines came to mind when thinking about the Marissa Johnson and Mara Jacqueline Willaford interrupting Bernie Sanders speech.  The video is uncomfortable to watch, it is truly an interruption.   To be honest my own momentary thought when first hearing about the action in Seattle was, "But why Bernie? Bernie is good."  

After watching the video what stayed with me is the break in this young woman's voice.  The pain that you could hear as she declared over boos and shouts, "My life fucking matters."  She started to cry while talking and this has gone unmentioned in so much of the comments on their action. That hit me deep because much is said about the stereotype of the strong and/or angry black woman and what I see there is even when your voice breaks and you cry so many people (especially white people) can't even see/feel that. Damn.

And whatever you think of their strategy (and to be clear it was a strategy and this piece is not about that)  Marissa Johnson was making a brilliant point that was completely missed in the uproar over her fracture of good order.  

Seattle is one of the most progressive cities in the USA as is my own city Minneapolis and yet in both cities life for many Black, Brown and Indigenous People is full of the same struggles and inequalities as cities that are not progressive.  In fact my own city Minneapolis tops many lists for most livable, most bike friendly and healthiest and yet at the same time tops lists for highest racial inequity in education, jobs, police brutality and arrests and convictions for non-violent crimes. The point being that in a white supremacy progressive politics that at their core are not about dismantling white supremacy and patriarchy will not actually dismantle white supremacy and patriarchy.  It is actually that simple.  

This is what people of color/feminist/womanist /activists/thinkers/artists have been saying for a very long time.   

I have read many white people saying that the Black Lives Matter activists made no alliances with this action. I think the uncomfortable truth is that these activists weren't trying to win approval or allies. What a thought.  Maybe they don't really care if white people are upset by there actions or if we think they are good, right, deserving of our support or anything else.  

Maybe it is the failed response by white progressives not just to this moment but to what has been going on in this country for years that has failed in the alliance building.  Maybe we as white people collectively failed a long time ago to build alliances with progressive black, brown and indigenous people.  And maybe black, brown and indigenous people are going on with or without us to transform the world.

Maybe white progressives are the ones who are behind and need to catch up to join a movement that could actually transform our world.  A world that teeters on the edge of so much loss and also so much possibility.  It's not that we bring nothing to that movement, each and every one of us are needed and worthy. But maybe we white progressives collectively don't bring what we assume we bring. Maybe we don't have the biggest vision, the clearest analysis and the best answers to get us all out of this.  It's not about feeling bad, it's about winning.  And I do think that most white progressives very much want a world without racism.        

Bernie Sanders is a smart, grown man with years of political experience, lets assume he can handle being interrupted and he can handle criticism, even angry criticism.  If he responds to being pushed to articulate a platform that really addresses white supremacy it will make him a better candidate.  What if white progressives pushed him even more to become a candidate that actually earned wide spread support from communities of color. And the operative word here is EARNED. Now that could really be interesting.  

The question is can this uncomfortable moment make us white progressives become clearer, more resilient people who can really be of use in the struggles that are happening to transform this world for all people, whether you are supporting Bernie Sanders as part of that strategy or not.

On May 17th, 1968 the year of my birth, Father Daniel Berrigan along with eight other people entered a draft board in Baltimore and removed draft files of men that were about to be sent to Vietnam. They burned the files with home made napalm.  At his trial Father Dan read a statement/poem that reads in part...

Our apologies  good friends
for the fracture of good order  the burning of paper
instead of children  the angering of the orderlies
in the front parlor of the charnel house
We could not  so help us God  do otherwise
For we are sick at heart   our hearts
give us no rest for thinking of the Land of Burning Children...

We say:  Killing is disorder
life and gentleness and community and unselfishness
is the only order we recognize...

The heartbreaking truth is we all live in the Land of Burning Children.  We are the land that in 2015 must have a movement that declares,  "Black Lives Matter!"  and "Native Lives Matter!"  and a movement that declares "No human being is illegal!"  

You can disagree with tactics.  It is an important conversation to keep having for anybody that actually wants to win real changes for ourselves, our communities, the earth that is our home.   It will not be enough to elect Bernie Sanders to transform this country just as electing Barack Obama was not enough. White supremacist capitalist patriarchy (as bell hooks succinctly puts it) is not something so easily dismantled and transformed. Amazing, smart, courageous people have been at it a long time including many white people.  As hard as this world is I can not imagine the complete hell it would be without this resistance and creation. 

Now is the time for white progressives to collectively figure out how to become a part of a movement that really centers dealing with, challenging, or as the t'shirt I have seen so bluntly puts it "Kill white supremacy" and I would add kill patriarchy and all that brings with it: homophobia, transphobia and misogyny. 

If white progressives do not make the core of our work dismantling white supremacy and patriarchy then all our progressive politics and even all the gains we make become nothing more than making the Titanic a nicer ship to sink on.  

Full statement by Daniel Berrigan

There are many great pieces being written by People of Color about the deeper issues brought up by this moment.  Here are two.

I support Bernie Sanders and I support the Black Lives Matter takeover in Seattle.

Black Lives Matter More Than Hurt Feelings of White Progressives.

Listen to more of what Marissa Johnson has to say about her action. 

Friday, July 31, 2015

White supremacy killed Sandra Bland no matter how she died.

First, because I am writing and thinking about people I do not know I want to acknowledge what is stolen and never forget- I am talking about real people and their families immense loss.      

So much of the media conversation is centering on the idea that Sandra Bland committed suicide while being held in jail and was not murdered.  Of course it matters if she was physically murdered by someone or if she took her own life or even if she was denied proper medical care after her assault.  And  I want to state here that it is not at all clear that she did kill herself and people have every justifiable reason to suspect she was murdered or died from being denied proper treatment in jail. 

Denial of medical care is another form of murder as in the devastating case of 24-year-old Sarah Lee Circle Bear who was jailed on a bond violation and was found unconscious in her cell on July 6 after pleading for medical help.  In Circle Bear's case the autopsy claims she died of a meth overdose. Again, even if that is true, having drugs in your system or a drug addiction does not mean you should be left to die in your cell for a minor offense.  Read more about her case. 

It’s important to articulate that however Sandra Bland died, the man that stopped her for failing to signal a lane change and then on camera antagonizes and proceeds to brutalize her is to blame for her death.  As is the system of white supremacy that is the police system that arrested her and the jail system that held her.

I don’t mean this as a metaphor.  Even if every single thing the sheriff’s office is throwing out there turns out to be true in some form or another the real truth remains...If Sandra Bland had not been stopped by this man and physically assaulted and then arrested and held in jail she would not be dead right now. No matter what her personal struggles were in life she would be alive, starting a new job and dealing with those struggles. Take a moment and think about what this kind of assault and imprisonment would do to you? The sheriff wants people to think if he proves she killed herself while under his control some how that lets them off the hook and turns this into just an unfortunate incident.    

To add to this ridiculous assertion, The Waller County sheriff, R. Glenn Smith releases the toxicology report that shows elevated THC in Sandra Bland’s body after her death.  This has no bearing on the case.  The ridiculous assertion that some how marijuana use prior (or some how during) her imprisonment is an explanation for what they claim is her suicide but the physical assault and wrongful imprisonment would not be a factor is ludicrous. 

White supremacy is a killing force in our society.  Whether Sandra Bland was straight up murdered or brutalized and terrorized in a way that caused her to harm herself the responsibility falls on the people and institution that used their authority to stop her, assault her, imprison her.  Let me just name that one more time- Stop her.  Assault her.  Imprison her.  She died under their authority.  

It matters to nuance this conversation even if it turns out that Sandra Bland did some how take her own life.  Because what we are really confronting is that white supremacy is terrorism and it does just what terrorism is supposed to do.  

From the FBI website:Domestic terrorism" means activities with the following three characteristics:

  • Involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law
  • Appear intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population (or governments)
  • Occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.
The seemingly endless videos of Black, Brown and Indigenous men, women and children being terrorized, punched, kicked, tackled, choked and outright shot down by police all over this country is the context in which to examine how a woman driving down a residential road, minding her own business could end up dead after forgetting to signal a lane change.  

It is horrifying to face the outright murder of human beings and it is equally horrifying to face the terrorizing of people to the point that they harm themselves.  Either way the system of white supremacy and the people that hold authority in that system are responsible for this woman’s life being stolen from her and from those that loved her just as it is responsible for stealing Sarah Lee Circle Bear from her children and family.  These stories are just two of too many to count and each life stolen by white supremacy breaks the hearts of so many and continues to terrorize whole communities in our country.    

Friday, December 26, 2014

There is no right way to be in white supremacy.

I am thinking of Guillermo Gómez-Peña and Coco Fusco, their work “Couple in a Cage”.  They toured museums in a cage as the last known primitives.  You could “observe” them in their cage or for a dollar they would perform a tribal dance, tell a traditional story or you could have your picture taken with them.  

The Couple in a Cage

Everywhere they went white people either:

Didn’t get it was satire and thought they were real. Some of these white people were fascinated and marveled at how they had never seen a TV before or were upset by the fact that in the 1990’s people were being toured around in cages. 


They “got it” and assumed they were in on the joke.  They paid for the dances and stories and to have their picture taken with the savages, laughing the whole time.   Or they “got it” and were upset by the responses of other white people acting in all of the above ways.   

I did not see the work in person but I did see a later piece at The Evergreen State College with Guirromo and another collaborator Roberto Sifuentes which had a similar idea but invited the audience to dress the artists up with various stereotypical outfits like living dolls.  This time no one thought it was “real” but white people’s responses fell into the “I’m in on the joke.”  or “The joke isn’t funny.” category. 

For white people this work speaks deeply to the experience of whiteness in a white supremacy.  In the face of history, racism, whiteness there is no “right way to be”  and that is a very uncomfortable space to be in.  Often those that think they are most in the know or in on the joke can act out the most racist behavior which proved true at both of these performances.  

Another truth is that the behaviors of white people in that space can cause people of color pain and anger. And people of color will have different and to be clear many differing experiences with being there.  I attended the Evergreen performance with several friends that were not white.  One of them left she was so upset by the racism being displayed in the space, another woman was playing with the dynamic, laughing and egging on the white people who were so sure they were “in on the joke” while dressing up the men in racist costumes.  

So there was no right way to interact with “Couples in a Cage.”  or the other work by Gomez-Pena because there is nothing right about it and the bloody history it draws from.  Messy, painful, confusing.  That is the reality when confronting white supremacy.  The work white people need to do is not going to be neat or easy and often that work can be painful to people of color to witness. 

But to figure out what to do next is going to require some real thinking, some real daring.  And this process is not one that many People of Color are going to enjoy witnessing because it is confusing and messy.  We as white people are behind in many ways and as painful as it is to deal with that it is time now to do the real thinking and from that thinking the real work.    But we need to do that work not to be liked by anyone, or to be the good white people or the white people who get it or thinking there is a right way to act within white supremacy but to figure out how to rejoin humanity in the struggle to transform and heal our world from white supremacy. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Why no one not even the Klan seems to want to be called racist.

“He called me a racist.”

“Well, what he said, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”

“That’s — “he’s a racist.” And I didn’t appreciate it then. I don’t appreciate it now. It’s one thing to say, “I don’t appreciate the way he’s handled his business.” It’s another thing to say, “This man’s a racist.” I resent it, it’s not true, and it was one of the most disgusting moments in my Presidency.”

Whenever Rush Limbaugh or the like are called out directly for being racist or fueling racism with their comments they always respond in the same way, they deny they are racist and then often accuse their accusers of being the ones who are racist.  They treat the naming of racism as the ultimate crime as when George W. Bush who was president during 9/11, Katrina and the invasions of two countries calls the moment when Kanye West named his lack of response to Katrina as not caring about Black people one of the most disgusting of his presidency.

I think it has less to do with the idea that no white person wants to be called racist in 2014 and more to do with racism itself.  Yes in 2014 there are a lot of white people that balk at the idea of being called on their racism or being labeled as racist.  This is for the most part white people that truly do not want to be racist and may not have the tools or the ability yet to confront their own learned racist behavior.  But the folks that I writing about here and their followers don’t shy away from inflammatory comments about race.  So why do they constantly deny the label racist and act as if the very accusation is itself the worst possible of actions?

It is not because these folks are merely uninformed or making a thoughtless comment or assumption, these folks are true white supremacist and they know what they are saying and why.  White supremacists actually believe (or are willing to align themselves with the belief for their own benefit) that white people are some how genetically superior just for being born white and that it is white people that are under attack.  Furthermore the white supremacist believes it is not the history and reality of white supremacy that has caused the bulk of suffering for people of color it is their own savagery and inferiority that has brought it about.  Or as equally prevalent the idea that people of color have not suffered at all from racism and merely play the race card and sit back while the money and power roll in. 

“You’re dealing with people who are professional race baiters, who make a very good living off this kind of thing. They make more money off of race than any slave trader ever. It’s time groups like the NAACP went to the trash heap of history where they belong with all the other vile racist groups that emerged in our history.”  - Mark Williams president of Tea Party Express

One of the most insidious parts of this is to deny that you are racist and then accuse your accusers of being racist.  This plays directly into the white supremacist ideology that white people, the so called “white race” are under direct attack by people of color and that it is actually white people that suffer at the hands of racism. 

It is part of the white supremacist belief system that when people of color (and to a lesser extent race traitor whites) name your racism they are merely crying out against the true and the natural order of things.  Of course you ridicule their audacious attempts at naming for themselves what is happening.   Naming is power.  You can study the history of our country from colonization and slavery through the attempted genocide of Native Americans, forced relocation and boarding schools, lynchings, segregation, denial of voting rights, internment of Japanese Americans during world war two, the on going attack against recent immigrants, the war on drugs and prison industrial complex and the death squad mentality of so many police departments towards communities of color.   You will see again and again how necessary it has always been for white supremacy to deny people the ability to name what is happening to them.  

This brings to mind the term gaslighting which is defined in Wikipedia as a form of mental abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity. Instances may range simply from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim. The term owes its origin to the play/film Gas Light that show a woman purposely driven mad by her husband. 

In these cases of racist gaslighting it’s not really about getting people to admit their racism.  That is a waste of time and actually a fight most of these folks want to have especially folks like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck who profit from their white supremacy.  It is really about supporting the people who have the courage and clarity especially in a public venue to name white supremacy when they see it.  Because as we witness time and again folks that name this behavior especially People of Color, are often met with incredible backlash.  

Race is a very complex subject but white men and women who are pursuing a white supremacist agenda in this country will always deny they are being racist because that is part of the very agenda of white supremacy; to deny, ridicule and dismiss anyone who attempts to name their behavior and to name an intricate part of our national history for what it is.  So keep naming, resisting and staying clear about the agenda of those who play this game. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

I wrote this poem ten years ago and it resonates tonight...

The Way Forward is with a Broken Heart
(for Henry and Eleanor at 2 years)

1. It all comes at once the ever breaking and mending of the heart.  I was dreaming and then I woke to the sun in the sky and a bus full of people heading to D.C. to say no to war.  We were driving so close to the place of my birth, the only land my little heart and fists ever knew.  Born into exile on tribal land, the makers of the Serpent Mound, the People of the Valley.  My own tribes destroyed long ago into states and a history of brutality offering only this lethal legacy of white supremacy.

And yet I can still kiss the Ohio sky and the city, Dayton, only my arms width wide.  You know how you can love a place for the geography of how you survived?  The girl in me alive again, expect good things from people like you do from trees and rocks and the beloved dandelions of childhood alleys. Dandelions, they insist on calling weeds.  Weeds that can make wine and nourish and crowns for the heads of city kids, that deserve beauty. 

Always the babies are the back beat to my heart.  Even sleeping on this bus going 70 across Ohio I know the weight of them, slung on my hip with great care.  They are all heartbeats and openings, soft breath and delicate bones and something of stars that floods them and they shimmer.  Effortlessly they re-knit my spirit back into the universe as over and over it is torn from the very fabric of what it means to be human.

In turn I am all mama bear protective, wanting to shield them,  realizing with the force of breath knocked out of me, that I would die for these children.  I want to keep the world gone mad from their door, from their beauty and souls.  I know I can’t and it breaks my heart again and again and gives me the reason to go on.

And to feel how much we need children to be wanted, not had like car accidents or accessories. This society rides it’s indifference towards children with poverty and bombs and a sick disneyfied morality full of toys that beep and flash and will talk to your children so you don’t have to.  As if some piece of plastic crap can hold them, when they are still so much stars and deep roots that shudder under the bones of knowing. The true names of things written in a language beyond words on the back of their lids, a map to another world.

2. It all comes at once, the ever breaking and mending of the heart.  It is easy to have fun in America, entertainment is cheap and plentiful like gasoline and Big Macs we consume endlessly, on the pay later plan.  I tell you almost everyone that has ever been my teacher in life was a drunk once, had to be.  Walked closely, the razor edge of self-destruction, wandered lost in America with one more round to take the edge off civilization.  One more round to take the edge off remembering.  Empty for the promise of a good time to fill you up.  Too hungry to ever be fed.

This is the dream.  You wake from the troubled sweat of sleep, the blur of lights you navigate by are gone, only the darkness cradling you.  Run now from quiet stars into frozen fields, beat cracked hands till earth opens like steaming bread.  Go all the way in.  Emerge small and newly afraid but clear-eyed. You have to survive America to have something to teach.

And in that is the real lion’s share of joy, because the people who can really party in the scared sense of the word are the people who know surviving is worthy of celebration.  Anyone who has ever danced with a room full of people to Stevie Wonder’s You Haven’t Done Nothing or Spearhead’s People in The Middle or screamed along to Bikini Kill’s, Rebel Girl or the drums or the fiddle or whatever gets you off- you know what I mean. Singing and dancing are your birthright.  Joy, a commonly held need like clean water and the air we breathe.
Sing now the praises of men that write sexy songs without the tired old hatred of women in the beat.  They gave me back a freedom to shake my ass, without feeling shame or dirty. Taj Mahal, I would name a son for you.  Sing now the praises of women that  never gave up their sexuality  though it was bought and sold, loped off by the church and slavery,  packaged as Jeans!  Beer!  Get some!  To know true pleasure in a society that wouldn’t know sexy if Aphrodite herself rose up on the half shell and bit Hugh Hefner on his boring porno ass is some kind of fine revolution.

3. It is not original sin we are born into this world with, it is a broken heart we inherit.  So often I question the usefulness of things, I want my poems to stop all the rape and killing.  I know if we could turn bombs from earth we would.  I know peasant or villager are just metaphors by the powerful for people who do not matter.  Like the urban poor, they are there to be studied or killed depending on the need.  To be studied or killed, depending on the need.  Then in that madness they will deny that you grieve.

I am mad with this world and I must remember again that without the music and art of other people.  Without the good company along the way, I would be dead or worse. The audacity, the sheer audacity of people to go on loving,  demanding bread but roses too.  The eleven year old boy in Mississippi who was asked by the cop with the club, What’s your name? and he shouted,  Freedom! Freedom is my name.

The audacity of buses and buses of people riding through the night to D.C. and they don’t get weary.  And the Muslims in the parking lot of the truck stop in Maryland, facing the rising sun because war or no war, the day breaks and you pray.  I am shy now, with my coffee, my lack of cultural ways  but I pray too, am humbled by the sunrise that makes me dream a bigger dream.
Rollin’ on in good historical company
marching with all those ghosts
that know the way,
don’t fear the dead
they are the path we walk on
the bones will rise
from earth, blessed clave
giving us the rhythm
to go on marching
fall in love
raise children
don’t give up

all at once
and among the mundane details of the day
resistance flows through us
and it is beautiful to witness
and it is beautiful to feel
and the real joy of living
is in that moment,
our scarred and sacred hearts
mending and breaking
mending and breaking
and beating strong.

Note:  The title of this poem is from a book by Alice Walker whose words have been a gift to me on this hard, beautiful journey.  Much of this poem was inspired by a bus ride from Minneapolis to Washington D.C. and the subsequent Anti-war march I attended on April 20,  2002. The poem is dedicated to my beautiful niece and nephew and to all children.  It has been read at many peace and justice events and protests.