Elders, back into view
This past weekend, protestors and activists, including students, clergy, and concerned citizens descended on Ferguson, Missouri, for a weekend of marches, protests, sit-ins, and civil disobedience billed Ferguson October.
Of course, many on Twitter, could not understand why disturbing the peace in a private business should be acceptable. The point is – we are no longer standing for business as usual.
This nation proclaims Black America backwards, sees us as stuck in the past, declares that our obsession with race –not racism itself – is holding back progress. But really, Black people are the hands on our national clock, controlling the timing of America’s social progress. This time both hands are up, pointing straight to the sky. It is high noon in America. It is the deepest midnight in our hearts. But, “from the darkness cometh the light,” Lucy A. Delaney proclaimed in the title of her 1891 autobiography. Until those hands move, no longer held hostage by a state-issued weapon, nobody is going anywhere.
Biblical platitudes don’t go far with this crowd, but I’m reminded of a verse: “it is high time to awake out of sleep. (Romans 13:11)”
In college, some youth government leaders used this verse with the slogan, “The Awakening. Don’t sleep.” These days, young folks have remixed it, proclaiming “stay woke.” I am sitting with what it means that we have moved from “Don’t Sleep to Stay Woke.”
For we have awakened from a long, fitful slumber. Lulled there by our parents and grandparents, who marched in Selma, sat down in Greensboro, matriculated at Black colleges, and argued before the Supreme Court, they convinced us to adopt their freedom dreams, impressed them into our bodies, in every hug, in every $25 check pressed into a hand from a grandmother to a grandchild on his or her way to bigger and better, in every whispered prayer, in every indignity suffered silently but resolutely in the workplace.
This Ferguson October, young people are on the ground dreaming new dreams, and in so doing, they are inspiring elders.
They are lining up, linking arms, and being locked up for justice. They are listening to those who have something to say, and shutting down shit when forced to listen to anyone who doesn’t. They are choosing their leaders, their griots, their truth-tellers, their strategists, their elders. Showing up matters most. Putting one’s body on the line is the order of the day. They are undignified, improper, unabashed, impolitic, unapologetic, indefatigable.
This weekend they took over four Wal-Marts, in solidarity with John Crawford who was murdered in an Ohio Wal-Mart. There, prosecutors have cleared officers of wrongdoing. Protestors took signs to the St. Louis Rams game, and confronted angry fans who yelled, “I am Darren Wilson.” Two weeks ago, they disrupted the symphony. Exploding dreams cause disruptions. They should be expected to continue.
More than 3000 new registered voters move among them (Update: This number has since been revised downward to 128). They have collected these new registrations like so many arrows in a quiver. Still they remain skeptical of the vote. And since the presence of Black faces at the voting booth scares white people they should be. Take Tef Poe’s surly response to Senator Claire McCaskill at a PBS townhall in late September. She argued that we needed new pipelines of local African American leadership. He replied, “I voted for Barack Obama twice, and still got tear-gassed.”
And Barack Obama is a broken symbol, a clanging cymbal, unable to say and do anything of use. His silence is the sound of imploding dreams, his words mere distractions and detours from the future we want.
He has become a prime example that being the leader of the free world in a Black body is still no match for entrenched, local, systemic, committed racism. It’s sad that it has come to this. But this is bigger than Barack Obama. Just like it was bigger than King and his dream. We have awakened from sleep. We have been startled out of it by nearly 30 gunshots ringing out insistently from the heart of America. Jay-Z might call it “a moment of clarity.” In Obama’s place, Cornel West has re-emerged, the wise and fearless elder, the one who we tried not to listen to, as he screamed into the wind for six years, the one whose approach chafed my hide on more than a few occasions, the one who is — despite all of our collective quibbles and begrudgements – right.
This moment is about all of us. About what kind of America we want to be. About what kind of America we are willing to be, willing to fight for. About whether we will settle for being mediocre and therefore murderous to a whole group of citizens. About whether there are other versions of ourselves worth fighting for. (Brittney Cooper, “Cornell West was right all along,” salon.com, Oct.15 2014)
- - - -Patrick McEvoy-Halston
Showing up matters most. Putting one’s body on the line is the order of the day.
Young people are listening to the commands of elders, and what is paramount is that they be willing to sacrifice themselves.
I'm sure this is all sane, but it is worth noting that this is exactly what goes on just before wars, periods of fusion with elders, repudiation of "weakening" commercial culture, and mass sacrifice of the young -- a period of total insanity.
Before wars, periods of mass sacrifice, people begin to feel guilty for all the growth they've accrued. Here, that would be all the actual living of the "freedom-dreams," the spending of all the $25 dollar cheques, rather than the equivalent of the "marching in Selma, sitting down in Greensboro."
They begin to feel abandoned, like they've been rejected by their elders.
These elders are unconsciously understood as not simply wanting their youth to be free and prosperous, but as demanding respect and attendance. When they haven't received it, when they've been forgotten, they abandon their children in turn. Here these elders would be the "Cornwell Wests," who as Brittney Cooper admits, the youth were "guilty" of forgetting while they danced merry with Obama. And they wouldn't be the permissive ones described here -- all the hugs -- but all the spanking ones Cooper described in a recent article, who saw children as sinful beings who needed to be beaten to be good.
By showing they're ready to sacrifice themselves for their elders, and have rejected the younger, sexier Obama, they feel the "Cornwell Wests" -- their regressive spanking parents and grandparents -- love them again. They feel a fusion high.
The other version of yourself is the one who is a favourite of your elders rather than the one who had forgotten all about them, at some level even hating them for all their "chafing of your hides."
Brittney Cooper's article dissing elder spank:
http://www.salon.com/2014/09/16/the_racial_parenting_divide_what_adrian_peterson_reveals_about_black_and_white_child_rearing/- - -
Incidentally, here we have discussed a sudden awakening where a whole people who had been in a slumber are suddenly turning into a warrior culture, ready, eager, to put their lives on the line.
Personally, those who want to counter the war impulse of the New Athiests better consider that their current defence -- 99% of a people are not radicals -- can become a joke in a hurry. Whole peoples who just a day before were simply ordinary folk enjoying all the freedoms, can fuse into a powerful, a seemingly enchanted group, in a hurry.
You should expect it in any people whose youth have bypassed their punitive elders for a freedom-tolerant culture. It may indeed go around the globe.