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On Saturday, October 31, I voted for the first time in my life. It was one of the most overwhelming experiences I’ve had to date. Upon arrival, I was inundated with pamphlets to read outlining each candidate. At the voting station, there were so many names on the ballot that I was unfamiliar with even after having done a bit of research but I ultimately knew that I needed to contribute to this election. When it was over, I felt relief. More so than how I felt on Saturday, November 09, 2020, as I watched President-elect Joe Biden give a speech that spoke to the state of our nation and how he would be a president for all people. Never before has such a promise been made on such a global platform. Hopeful as his words were, they left me with a lot of questions: Will this stance of unity be sustainable throughout his presidency, and what is his definition of unity? Does this unity come at the cost of our voices? And my main question is, what is our role/responsibility now that the election is over?
The roles of President and Vice President have been laid out for Joe Biden and Kamalah Harris by their predecessors, yet I feel their priorities are being challenged to evolve while the roles of the people are changing as well. To successfully progress toward true unity and civil justice, we must re-evaluate the roles we play in society in the movement toward racial equality in ideal America. I’ve observed a variety of roles in my life: The Instigator, The Foot Soldier, The Spectator, and The Scribe/Storyteller. The Instigator fans the flame of chaos, which causes strife and rifts amongst the people. The Foot Soldier is one to take to the streets protesting in a manner that could be either peacefully or violently. They can also participate in financial protests, where they are selective with their circulation of money. The Spectator, from my observation, has a lot to say, but no substantial contribution to a resolution, but a Scribe, is an observer who records and makes a report of their findings. I am the latter.
Now that most of America are at home, we’ve had much time to evaluate where we stand on a lot of issues and how we want to participate in them. There’s been protest after protest in the streets and Blackouts across the internet where people refuse to spend money or feed into the hatred and nonsense. I’ve seen more clips of people speaking out in public hearings this year than ever this year alone, but I find myself among those who sit back and observe and write and tell stories about the things we see and feel from the collective conscious. There was a time where I questioned the value of this and my value. Then I was reminded of great writers, comedians, storytellers like Toni Morrison (God Help The Child), author Tomi Adeyemi (Children of Blood and Bone), comedian Dave Chappelle (Sticks and Stones), and artists such as Childish Gambino (This is America and It Feels Like Summer) who are constantly giving social commentary on life as they see and feel it. The storyteller is no less on the frontlines and the foot soldier, we just function in a different capacity. We remind the people of what was and pose questions about what needs to be done in the present for our future.
I believe it’s time to listen before it’s too late. I was reminded of a post by Will Smith about how we must L.U.V. one another while watching a British GQ interview with Actress Michaela Coel, ‘If you don’t show it, it can be erased’. She said our responsibility is to now understand one another and Will said we must Listen to Understand one another, not just to respond. And we must Validate what we have heard before responding. It’s time for the youth to sit down and have a FaceTime chat with their grandparents to see what they had to endure, and what they chose to do in the face of injustice. It’s time to re-evaluate how we want to approach the matters we still face today and count the cost. It’s time to research sustainable alternatives for living because the Earth is growing weary of our excessive misuse of resources. We must decide on what we want and move unwaveringly. This planet is our responsibility. Our families and our neighbors are our responsibility and we mustn’t shirk them, but embrace them. Have you embraced your responsibilities today?
Making your voice heard this year is critical. There are active attempts to limit access to safe voting and to suppress voting by Black and Brown voters, in particular, as is common in our great nation. Not one of us is going to get the $100,000 treatment that the outgoing president received to fight COVID-19, so make a plan to vote by mail in our General Election, this November 3, 2020. Here’s how:
Educator and activist Edissa Nicolás-Huntsman works to ensure democracy and has voted by mail since she lived overseas two decades ago. She’s safe at home, social distancing and exercising her right to vote.
All over the country, in cities like Louisville and New York, there have been mass protests regarding the decision to charge one cop involved with the shooting of Breonna Taylor. Many Americans were shocked to learn the charges were for “wanton endangerment,” and not of Taylor’s, or her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker’s life, but the lives of three people next door.
While no one’s life should have been in danger, this case raises many questions. No one can deny the reluctance by high ranking officials such as the police commissioner of many cities to discipline law enforcement when the protocol is not followed, with people losing their lives as a result. Although honest, professional law enforcement abound, decisions like this strengthen the public perception that there is an impenetrable blue wall of silence.
In other words, if there were three cops involved in the shooting, why is only one cop being charged, and not even in connection to the actual crime? Why is only one official being charged with endangerment, which carries a maximum sentence of five years, while Breonna Taylor’s family grieves her absence permanently? The uproar caused by such charges asks the question: why is it so difficult to maintain clarity during times like this?
Understanding the players
The coming weeks ahead will continue to flare up with protests and retaliation from both sides. Constructive dissent is crucial, but we also have to continue to fight with our votes on a local level, as well. We have to know who our district attorneys, police commissioners, mayors, and district representatives are, and take an active role in not only choosing them but also holding them accountable for their decisions.
Every day is an opportunity to make history — and to study it. Human existence is cyclical, and it is important as we move forward that we are aware of the behaviors we have and that of those around us. Jacob Blake’s 2020 shooting will undoubtedly be reported in detail in the news media, with the usual public personalities weighing in on what has happened.
Let’s look at the past for a second. Whydah was a major slave port in the kingdom of Benin, as well as the namesake of the pirate ship Whydah Galley.
Currently, the Whydah is a museum found in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The site focuses more on pirate history than its deep involvement in the African Holocaust.
While it is commendable that it is a museum at all given this country’s history with maintaining African artifacts and narratives, the glaring absence of narratives concerning the slaves and their families, save for a few, is a concern.
Truthful, consistent media
In the present day, the officer who shot Blake, the city in which the incident occurred, and other specifics have all been named. For the next few weeks, pundits and politicians will offer their take, and citizens will righteously and angrily protest what happened that fateful day.
What happens in the future? Contrarians may begin their common refrain: he shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Why did he take this course of action or that?
Some time may elapse, intersecting the relationship between truth and sanity — alternative theories arise, and discussions about minutiae begin to blur the lines of honest conversation. Because so few answers are provided for each incident of horrendous police brutality, every report is met with hysteria, instead of sobriety and solutions.
After the hysteria has died down, we mustn’t allow ourselves to be manipulated and told that we were just imagining things; it really wasn’t that bad, and we believe the wrong information. It is here where an alternative timeline of events is introduced, and we begin to think that maybe we were crazy, after all.
Owning our story
It is as critical to bringing swift action to injustice as it is to be outraged about it. Brainstorming actionable steps and then working them also brings radical change. We have to tell our own stories and represent ourselves, for ourselves.
Another week, another inexplicable shooting of a black person. And still it is very difficult for many White Americans in the United States to accept America’s racist foundation–as old as our country. The simple, difficult truth is that that our government invested long ago in the myths we unconsciously live by. But, like a concentric circle, our actions ripple through time and touch lives in myriad ways that we may never understand. Even so, we can begin to awaken from the stupor of willful ignorance–abandon the dark caves and step into the light of day. We don’t need to dwell in the past, to acknowledge it.
We all know it happened. Slavery happened. So did a whole bunch of other unfortunate historical events. Even if our grandparents did something, we don’t need guilt or shame–just awareness and consciousness about the legacy we’ve inherited. Denial won’t change the truth. On the other hand, Radical Acceptance can help us come to terms with the total and complete truth of our collective and personal histories. In fact, a contemporary, unapologetic approach to truthfulness allows us to recognize and reconcile our personal truth with those of our community. This can bring healing and restore lost trust and hurt where we need it most: In our hearts.
Lesson #20: Watch the documentary, The Uncomfortable Truthwith your accountability, church, sangha or reading group. Discuss how the legacy of slavery has impacted all of our lives. Explore how individuals in your group confront their personal and ancestral truth in a healthy and safe manner.
The work of creating a just society requires a commitment from all of us. If we each own our own stuff, take responsibility for our words and actions and tell the truth, we’ll have a roadmap for a new dawn. We deserve that. Our children deserve that. The truth matters– no matter how uncomfortable it may be.
Featured Photo by Jason Reyes for Living Artist Project
Contributing Writer Edissa in her home art studio, thinking of ways to connect to her neighbors with compassion and kindness.
As voters get ready to approach the booths this November, concerns ranging from healthcare to education to government fiscal responsibility will be on voters’ minds. With a historic election on the horizon, it is critical to remain level-headed as everyone casts their ballot. Still, there are five traits that could potentially hold citizens back from getting a wonderful government and the most out of their relationships with others.
This is a strategy that some individuals use to “moderate” or control social interaction. It includes censorship, defining others’ experiences for them without their permission or not accepting their narratives, and telling those you interact with that they are not allowed to choose the method and the regularity with which they communicate their concerns. Moderation is great when deployed during a roundtable discussion or some other formal circumstance to which all parties agree, but can tread dangerous territory when it harms instead of help.
Solipsism is defined is Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary as:
a theory holding that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing.
The problem with solipsism is that it rarely, if ever, leaves room for new ideas and other perspectives. If one thinks their experience is the only one to be had, then it is hard to respond to social issues in a responsible manner. One of the most common results of solipsism is an inability to reach an agreement with others, resulting in a tug-of-war.
Most, if not all of these habits come from fear. Fear can manifest as the inability to introspect and see how alienating certain behaviors can be, making choices from an impoverished mindset, and questioning rights granted to deserving, otherwise unprotected groups. Fear foments hate organizations, dismantles critical thinking, and drives a wedge between factions that would otherwise interface with each other.
There is so much to be said and there is so much being said. Lack of efforts are not a good enough excuse ignorance and silence. Black people deserve to live full lives. They deserve to have joy, love, shelter, food, and opportunities… and if you (a non black person) continues to believe that they have the same opportunities as the rest of us, you’re still not listening. You’re still asleep. Policies need to change! We need to ensure protection for black humans.
🙏🏽 Join your city council meetings if you haven’t already done so. 🙏🏽 Policies need to change. We need to protect black people. We need to protect black trans people. We need to protect black women. We need to protect black children.
This painting has gone to a beautiful interracial family who just announced the birth of their first baby. I hope the future is a safe space for her. It is our job to ensure the future of all black children, children of color and queer children. The painting represents the strength, resilience, innocence, and beauty of black girls and women in all kinds of relationships–be it siblings, parents, and friendships. It represents the bonds and communities they create and all the curious and magical ways they continue to uplift themselves.
We don’t deserve them, but they continue to forgive and love us.
Christina Xu, is an artist and muralist living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has been a Living Artist Project Contributing Artist since 2014. Find her work at www.christinaxu.art or follow her on IG @ChristinaXu_.
The Black church is currently experiencing an exodus of its millennials who are seeking community and spiritual fulfillment elsewhere. Research conducted by the Pew Research Center stated that four out of ten millennials are likely to claim no religious affiliation (Cox, 2019). It is assumed that those who are leaving the church are becoming atheist or agnostic, however, this is not necessarily the case. As the church experiences an exodus, many millennials are finding their genesis in traditional African spiritual systems and the wisdom of their Ancestors.
What are African Spiritual Systems?
African spiritual systems are those that predate the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and were practiced on the African continent prior to European colonization. While the spiritual tradition varies dependent upon where one is on the continent, two that are most widely known throughout the diaspora are Ifá and Vodun. The practice of both systems has been vilified throughout history, but particularly after the Haitian Revolution because during the Haitian Revolution, an important Vodun ceremony took place at Bois Caimen that helped assist the enslaved Africans defeat and drive away their French colonizers. The vilification and demonization of these systems has helped ensure that diasporic Africans remain disconnected from their Ancestors, and therefore themselves. Though the systems may vary, there are a few key elements that translate between them.
Ancestral Veneration: It is often assumed that in African spiritual systems, people are worshiping those who have transitioned. To venerate means to pay homage to and show deep respect for someone or something. The Ancestors are given a high level of respect because they are their descendants’ first line of defense, and a connection to the spiritual realm. They are able to help guide and direct their descendants, as well as keep them from harm or unwise decisions. It should be noted that all cultures have a form of Ancestral veneration but may not realize it. For example, when going into an elder’s home, you may see that they have a collection of obituaries on their mantle, and photos of the transitioned all throughout their home. Though they may balk at the idea of setting up an Ancestor altar, they are engaging in a form of ancestral acknowledgement. Additionally, when one “pours one out for the homies,” it is a libation used to honor those that are no longer physically present. Elements of the African worldview and thought process are syncretized into modern day practices, often without a true understanding of where the traditions originate from.
Belief in a Divine Creator: African spirituality is often viewed as polytheistic due to the presence of Orisha (Ifá) or Loa (Vodun), who practioners can work with and call upon. However, there is still the belief in a singular Divine Creator who is not assigned a gender and is considered to encompass both genders.
Divination: In Christianity and Islam, one of the primary tenants is faith. However, African spiritual systems include divinatory abilities. Practioners do not have to guess if they are in alignment, making good decisions, or moving in purpose. With the ability to divine on a matter, practioners are able to move throughout the world in a more effective manner with a certainty that what they are doing is correct, or that what they are doing will lead towards harm.
Why is Returning to Ancestral Wisdom Important?
2020 has shifted everything, including worldviews and ideologies. This time of quarantine and social distancing has allowed many to sit with themselves for the first time in years, or first time ever. During this time of sitting with oneself, many have come to realize that the ideologies and expressions of self they were taught to hate and fear, might hold the key to their wellbeing. The Ancestors are our first line of defense, as such, it is necessary to be still and listen to what they are trying to teach us. We cannot claim to be their wildest dreams if we are not taking heed to their advice, or diminishing their practices. It’s not enough to rally against systemic anti-Blackness if one does not address internalized anti-Blackness that is present through the demonization of one’s own traditions. Regardless if one chooses to participate in an African spiritual system, it should be understood that there are alternative epistemologies, and wisdom to be gained.