Tag: activism

Guest Post: The Why I Do -Marissa Southards

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I’ve been called many things in my life.

Mom.

Wife.

Professional.

Artist.

I’ve also been called an activist.  While I’ve had causes I’ve supported through my adult life, no event compelled me more to DO something than the shooting of Mike Brown in 2014.  In that one moment, my world completely shifted.

As a mother, the thought of my baby laying in the street, unprotected, for nearly 5 hours, left me shaking with outrage.  After years of working as an advocate against child abuse and shaken baby syndrome, I felt the need to move in a different direction.

I educated myself on white privilege and the new Jim Crow.  I talked – at length – with other white people about what systemic oppression looked like.  I supported and lifted up voices of color to bring light onto injustice and the absolute tyranny of our system.  I marched.  I rallied.  I protested.  I attended countless city council meetings in hopes of seeing a “win”.  I inserted myself into situations that I shouldn’t have.  I had hard conversations that I should have had.  I learned.  I grew.

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I saw the outright bashing and death threats against people of color.  As an ally, I was told to get a job, to get a life, to get screwed, to get lost.  I was a race traitor, a disgrace to the white race, and oh yes, would I like a side of sexual assault as well?  Because certainly no white girl with a “respectable” upbringing could ever stand side by side with “them” right?  This is where I call bullshit.

White people showing up for black lives is happening.

It’s happening everywhere.

Quite honestly, Ferguson is everywhere.

Whether you call yourself an ally, a co-conspirator, or doing that “white folk work”, it’s up to white folks to tear down the systems of oppression against people of color.

Why?

WE BUILT THEM.

White men in power built a system meant to oppress anyone that didn’t look like them.  The justice system is right now working just as it was designed.  Let’s examine some recent history:

Tamir Rice – no conviction.

John Crawford – no conviction

Walter Scott – pled guilty to civil rights violations in order to avoid the murder charge.

Eric Garner – no conviction

Michael Brown, Jr. – NO CONVICTION

And what will happen to Officer Jason Stockley?

Will he walk too?  History says he will not be convicted in the murder of Anthony L Smith.

Yet society tells people of color to be calm.  And to be peaceful.  How can we expect people of color to remain calm in the face of decimation? How can any semblance of peace be found in the face of state sanctioned extermination?  The judicial system is giving its blessing with each and every non-conviction.  How are we not outraged?  It’s that outrage that keeps me moving forward.

 

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Now, there are times when I want to give up and walk away from this activist life.

But the thought remains that for my friends of color, they can’t walk away from being black.

There are times where I’ve definitely retreated so that I can regroup and revive.  But the life will always call me back.

Calling oneself an activist doesn’t just mean you attended one protest.

It’s a way of life, and a specific calling within ourselves.  It’s constant conversations and education, not just for others, but for yourself too.  It’s learning about concepts like intersectionality and intrinsic bias.  But it’s that warrior spirit within that drives us forward to keep at it.  I cannot sit idly by while part of our beautiful humanity is systematically decimated by those in power.  I cannot stay silent when broken window policing is being voted in as a societal norm.

So for those who choose to stay in their suburban privilege and fear for their safety when driving through downtown St. Louis, I say – if you’re not outraged by now, I’ll keep talking to you.  I’m not giving up.  I see you, and your silence is your consent.  And trust me, I can talk all day.  I can really talk all day about white supremacy and our complicit role in it.

 

 

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Pro tip:

Just because you didn’t own slaves, doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. The more silent you are, the more I’m going to talk, in fact.  My spirit and love for humanity is what drives me.  And it may drive me right to your community to do a bit of that “white folk work”.

 

-M. Southards,

Activist/Collaborator

Artist behind The Awakenings Project

August 20, 2017, 9:04 pm

 

 

 

 

 

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#ImWithHer

I have been in awe of few people, and feared even less. Aside from my Aunt Linda, the only other women under 5’6″ that I have feared are my grandmother, my mother, and State Senator Maria Chappelle Nadal. I adored State Senator the moment I saw her on television before her now undoubtable afro.  I respected her because that same power she housed was the same power I had grown up with and around. That roar, that passion, that element of being nonfuckwitable? Oh, yes. I was familiar with.

Oh, I was familiar with and had that same iron-pushed will bestowed upon me since birth. One portion of that nexus of necessary, saged power that fuels black women.  She is definitely a shero.


After the sweeping tragedies in Ferguson, Riverview and the Shaw neighborhoods in 2014, when all we could do was fight, cry and organize, the only tethering force in the local politics arena was, State Senator Maria Chapelle-Nadal and Alderman Antonio French.

There was a palatable sense of being alone that was perhaps best identified after the first lynching after Emancipation:  free, and trapped.

The realization that your life, those you love are tethered to the will of unstable man and the laws made. The horrible realization that those laws may not protect you, when they are easily used to snare you.

I had met her in passing, during the pig roast in Ferguson, right across the street from the Ferguson Police Department. She wore white, sandals, and her afro and shades were impeccable. She had this presence about her, reminiscent of the what you see in matriarchs. You had to know what you came for to come to her, she was unavailable to foolishness.

I shook her hand as my husband introduced us, and she gave me this warm smile. I wasn’t intimated, not like most people would count being intimated. I didn’t shrink away from her, but I studied her. There was this energy about her that I knew. Hear me now. That I knew.

There was this energy about her I noticed, even in that causal setting, that made me want to know and be wherever she was. This Naomi like presence, this Deborah power, that made me respect her just because she was there. Because she was there.

For so many, local and long distance, #Ferguson was a lucrative and a source of exploitation. “Somewhere people went” to say that they went, and they got their pictures, and cursed out the police, became part of a hashtag, and flood timelines for a day or so.

Even the other legislative membership blew through like so frequent St. Louis thunderstorms, one of the anchoring people I saw, was State Senator Chappelle-Nadal. Whom I called Mother Maria.

There was no Stenger, no Slay, No Dooley, no Dotson, no Belmar, no Chief Tom…

It was us. It was the most isolating, impairing feeling ever…

It will take more than a Facebook comment to make me walk away from her. It will take more than some folk chattering and muttering about said comment to make me forget the woman that called Gov. Nixon a coward (because that’s what he was), stood in stead for a community that was dual exploited on the floor of a state legislature, the woman that sat on West Florissant and was tear gassed because the sitting protestors she was with ‘wouldn’t disperse.’

This is the same woman that I saw on a consistent basis, listen and do, and give and speak when no one else would. Or would be bothered.

We have all said something we wish we would take back because of its interpretation, but not the passion behind it (as my grandmother would say, “Wishing don’t make it so.”).  I have seen other people lash out with worse on social media, especially in matters of race and politics. Sometimes our words give people the key to our Ivory Tower, they allow other people to check us. But…that doesn’t make me walk away from Mother Maria.

In the tradition of leadership before her, like Rosa Parks, Barbara Jordan, Harriet Tubman, Mary Cady Shadd, Mary Church Terrell, and Ida B. Wells Barnett, she has put herself in her constituency, been included when it was or easier to be removed–trading right for easy. Much like Ezekiel, she has sat where we sat. That fact cannot be lost or erased.

Her presence lifted, her voice reminded and her actions among the people whom counted on her gave hope to the strength offered as we press towards justice, peace and recognition that indeed Black Lives Matter.

Thank you, Maria. Thank you.

#WeGotUs

 

 

 

#Charlottesville


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I’m tired.
I’m tired of being tired.

I’m tired of defending my humanity to animals.

What happened in Charlottesville, Virginia is evil. You cannot dress it up, or explain it better. It was evil. And even after that, a young woman was murdered because some hopped-up Nazi rammed his car, RAMMED HIS CAR WITH THE VISIBLE PLATE, through a crowd of people whom had the same right to protest, and be visible as the people that wanted to quiet them.

The strangest thing? These Nazis and Neo-facists, wore ballcaps and sunglasses. Whatcha scared of? If you riding with this foolishness, and you believe like your know God is real, why hide?  See, that’s this bullsh-t behind this. You wanna be bad, but don’t want anyone to know? Nall.

The “POTUS” took 3 days to call this evil. I expect nothing from a bigot except to do bigoted stuff. His Daddy was a racist, so why would he do anything but what he was taught?

I’ve said before, train up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it goes both ways. IT GOES BOTH WAYS.

When people feign ignorance about why people are ‘outraged’ by the American Southern Confederacy or Confederate history, I ask them to imagine this.

Imagine the person dearest to you.

Imagine and remember how much you love them.

Now, imagine that person hurt, dead and maimed.

Imagine that you found out who did this/that to them.

And the moment you try and find out why they did it, bring them to some sort of justice, you’re told you can’t. And after you can’t, you’re told you’re gonna have to just get over it. Not just get over it, but you’re given a picture to look at of the perpetrator everyday.

Everyday.

And when you try and remove the picture, tell why you need it gone, how much pain it causes you just to look at it, you’re told that it doesn’t matter. When you throw it away, try and move on, dedicate your life to trying to do better and forgive, it’s thrown in your face because your pain, your memory, your life is seen as irrelevant.

Ergo, you are irrelevant.

Your pain.

Your life.

Your fear.

The lives of the people you love.

 

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None of you matters.

When that is told to you, over and over again, it is meant to strip your humanity from you. It’s meant to drown out any part of you that is enraged, upset and hurting–this viscous Novocaine that is injected into the lives of people, my people, to soften anger and suck tears, and make painful memories bearable, so that we may feel nothing.

Because if we feel nothing, we can do nothing.  

And in doing nothing, nothing can change.

We who are alive and remain aren’t going to do nothing.

Don’t expect us to do nothing especially when you wish and will to do everything to ensure I can do nothing.

No amount of bad haircuts, websites, and ball caps with flags of evil eras will shut me up, or other people whom have had their fires lit and rekindled over that they know is right.

We ain’t going no where.

 

And We Speak

“Mike Brown saved my life.”

-A. Templeton, 2015*

 

August 9, 2014:

My husband and I were headed to our Saturday night service in South St. Louis. We were living in Ferguson, and had lived there with our kids for about a year. We were new pastors and our church plant was Spirit Of Life Church. We left home, and he was driving. There was so much traffic on West Florissant. It was backed up and we were upset about the possibility of being late. My husband, the meticulous one of the two of us, was eager to get where we were going.

I remember having this cold feeling. It wasn’t dread, but something was wrong. It’s a feeling I have had only since I have become a parent. This sense that something within me, part of me, a thread of my being was pulled and I could not catch it to cut it. I told my husband something bad must have happened. I took out my phone, and looked through what was trending. It wasn’t until I got to service, that I had found out what happened:

Officer-involved shooting. 18-year-old African-American male. Dead.

His name: Michael Brown, Jr.

 

They left him outside in the street for four hours. We had been in that traffic. We had been within the net of all that had gone on, and complained about being late for service. We had just seen people strewn along the sidewalks and streets, confused and angry, clutching one another and I had fussed about the traffic and wanted to get to service.

What followed from that day was the beginning of what has become no less than a tidal wave. We were swept into this roux of people that we would have never passed on streets, avoided in stores and never spoken to in public. Our neat bubble was broken, yet we had not died. I remembered how loud I cried, how hard I prayed, and how I cried to God not to let them kill all of us.

There is a scripture in the book of Isaiah that reads as follows, in part:

Here I am Lord, send me. (Isaiah 6:8)

This resistance, this activism is service. It is this that compels me to speak and to be a vessel for such speech. Such amazing things happen in the course of hours, and days, and it was this single event that has unlocked portions of my faith that I had only whispered about.

Part of the prayer I shouted as my biblical foremothers, in their strength, their passion, was, “Lord, you see what they are doing! Don’t let them kill all of us!”

There is something to be said for that type of endurance born from such a place. It ignites. It unlocks. It unties. And most of all, it UNITES.

Here. I. Am. Lord. Send. Me.

It is sometimes in the the face of lions, that you discover that you, too, can roar. And you must. Sometimes, your voice, hands and feet are the tools God uses and sends to be change and the answer to prayer. Indeed, He does move in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.

And sometimes we are His instruments.

 

*-This a direct quote taken by a young woman I have been blessed to know that I will only identify as A. Templeton. When she first said this quote, I remarked on how open it was, and how candid it was. And as I reflect, this quote became applicable to and for the people I have encountered since this day 3 years ago. The wisdom of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. echoes through it: 

Our lives begin to end the day be become silent about things that matter.

 

 

Birthing Ida B. Wells Barnett

When I was a kid, I loved the month of February. I loved Black History Month. The most vivid classroom I remember, was Mrs. Annie Green. Her room was always covered in books, and posters, and in February? She had these icons of African-American history stapled above her blackboard. It was in her class that I began to become ravenous about African-American history. And it was in her class that I was introduced to Ida B. Wells Barnett.

I admit it…I was saturated with her. I called her one of the Faithful Four. Those four:

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

-Frederick Douglass

-Harriet Tubman

-Ida B. Wells Barnett

This was one of the main reasons I ran after history, and soaked it up. There HAD to be more black people that did great things besides them. Ida B. Wells Barnett, I knew the basics about her. She was born right before Emancipation. Her parents died of yellow fever. She raised her sister. Helped found the NAACP. She was a writer. She married a guy in the newspaper business and died in Chicago.

It wasn’t until I got older that I dug into her life, and could appreciate everything that she did. She wrote about lynching, oppression, economic disparity and white supremacy. She wrote about women’s suffrage. This is a time where it cannot be overstated that my ancestors weren’t supposed to read, let alone be college educated and be able to relate and relay an experience! Granted, she was educated initially during Reconstruction, and then at Fisk, but I had to embrace what it is that she did. And the time that she did it.

The sheer fact that she existed, and made her words the this wielded machete that laid a path for other women of color to see. I saw the work she did and revered her. I saw her boldness as archetype, and thought if I could do an once of that…it would be magnificent.

If I could harness that passion to say what I need to say no matter who didn’t want to hear it, harness that collective energy to effect and affect change–how awesome would that be?

In this time of forward moving, I use her as reference, as anchor, and as hero. I remember that this talent is both gift and weapon. My observation and recording is my armory and words my arsenal. From that, I reveal, revel, mourn and conceal. Nothing can be hidden from the observant.

I embrace the weight being a writer, an activist, comes with. It grants me a peace that I believe my foremother Ida  had:  Someone has to tell the truth, might as well be me.

#RESIST

RESIST:

verb (used with object)

1.to withstand, strive against, or oppose:

 

2. to withstand the action or effect of:

 

3.to refrain or abstain from, especially with difficulty or reluctance:

 
verb (used without object)

4. to make a stand or make efforts in opposition; act in opposition; offer resistance.

noun

5. a substance that prevents or inhibits some effect from taking place


History is the oldest form of storytelling. What is more perfect than a story that every once can agree on especially if told by the winner? There are things that are happening now that it would be  horror not to report or record. There are things that are happening that I cannot ignore…and refuse to become complicit to. #RESIST
I know that’s a catch phrase now, but that indeed is what I do.

I question. I re-ask. I critically think. I act.

The fact that I exist and intersect in that existence, is in itself, resistance.

This resistance, this activism, this work, indeed is important. It’s important because it’s ongoing. It is ever-present and is daunting, and without some type of support group or coping skills, will incinerate your compassion and sense of self. It will encompass all that you believe you can achieve within it.

#RESIST.

Every day, I make a conscious choice to make a difference, as cliche as that is, everyday. I decided that whether it be through motherhood,  ministry or general humanity, to be a voice, equipped to be the hands and feet of those that no longer can use them or require strength to be carried. That strength is beyond a hashtags, tee shirts and photo ops. It is beyond safety pins, and Twitter rants, and even blog posts.

It is the element, this #RESIST nature, that compels us to act beyond words. It  puts heat to them, feet to them, fire to them, and from that, this irrepressible need and press towards change. Towards the stoppage of all things seen to obstruct the basic nature of what it is to be alive.

It is from that place, that power, that forms this #RESISTANCE. This indignation that pushes to act instead of lulls to sleep. My husband, a United Methodist minister by trade, and training, gave this quote, that reminds me the importance of not just feeling but doing:

“Your compassion should compel you to action.”

(Pastor Phillip A. Harris, Lead Pastor of Spirit Of Life Church-Ferguson, MO (2016))

It was compassion, this compassion, which is a component of my faith–a tenet of it—that is the reminder that I am an agent of change. I am sentient, I am capable, and I am more than that–available and responsible. Alice Walker is quoted to have said, “Activism is the rent I pay for living on this planet.” I believe it is more than that.

Activism is faith activated.

My activism is rooted in the ability to see the better the worst according to (Hebrews 11:1), and not be afraid to be dirty in fixing it. Not being afraid of nay-sayers, and the complacent and the complicit.

My activism is based in the hope that if I can’t see the sun just yet on the matter, I’ll bust a hole in the wall so big it’ll be a window.

*”If you can’t get in the front door, try the back. If the back door is locked, buss a window and jump in.”

 

*-This quote is from my father, Dr. Richard L. Bush (1948-1998). This is what he told us to remind us never to give up:  it’s always a way to do something. Thank you, Daddy.

#BreakMoreWindows