Tag: activism

Blood Signs Our Name


I have never been ashamed to be black. I was never taught to fear people that looked like me or to hate my mirrored complexion. In times such as these, it is easier to shy from it to be able to blend in and make no waves.

I’m glad that I don’t live in that time and am not that person.

I am reminded of a story Buck O’Neil told about Jackie Robinson. There was a gas station the Kansas City Monarchs stopped at where Jack wanted to use the restroom while the team filled up. The white man that owned the gas station wouldn’t let Jack use restroom, so Jack told him to take the fuel pump out of the team bus’s tank.

The conclusion? Jack used restroom, and the team got gas. Hold on. I know the wheels are spinning, so let me help you.

It’s simple economics:  supply and demand.

And now, black blood is a commodity to be sold and marketed. Supply the murder, demand justice, supply a settlement.

My people are not chattel. We are not property. The lives of my people aren’t secret commerce nor our bodies red meat to appease and assuage white supremacy’s jackals whom wish to will us all away, paying blued foot soldiers to do their bidding.

The blood of husbands, wives, sons and daughters, and extended family is not a traded commodity. Law enforcement does not get God status for a job they applied for to harangue POC whose skin color was never a job choice nor a weapon.


They will hear us.

They will stop killing us.

We understand the only way this unjust system will recognize our humanity, our rightful citizenry, and our full personhood is the removal of black dollars and complete  resistance to white supremacy.

It is understood now that economic disparity is institutional and systematically stacked towards the financial immobility of POC. However, with those monies redistributed in our communities, the repairs within our own social/financial infrastructure can begin.

There is not enough money to buy or replace life or its delegated, selected promises that life will now leave undone. There is no settlement that can be given to settle a murder at the hand of those that protect and serve.

We haven’t forgotten.

We indeed, like Sunni Patterson, said, “We know this place.” We know it like the end of the horror movies we saw where the black kid doesn’t make it.

This time…we will.

“I believe that we will win.”

-Rep. Bruce Franks, Jr.

MO-(D), House Of Representatives

A Dog In The Fight 


I’m a cisgender heterosexual married mother of two daughters. As a mother, I try to encourage my daughters to think and reason, have a consistent work ethic, and treat people with respect—even if they are different, or look different, than you.
In the face of trying to raise my beautiful black daughters, my heart is broken for the mothers whom have to bury their transgender or gay children. I don’t know why that soft spot is there, but I believe the root of that tenderness is being alive to remember whom Matthew Shepherd is. Even thinking about it now, from a parent’s empathy and depth of compassion, I want to throw my arms around Mrs. Shepherd and cry with her and tell her how sorry I am—and that is nowhere near sufficient.

I won’t go into the specifics about what happened to 17-year-old Ally Steinfield from Cabool, Texas Country, Missouri. What happened to her is beyond anything I want to repeat. The fact that she is dead because she was transgender is reprehensible. As a mother, you want to protect your children and show them how to fight off the sneaky and open evil which will set out to destroy them.

I tell my children that there is never a time you should attack someone because they are different. And no one should attack you because you may be different. There will never be a need to be part of a pack of jackals on another human being.

I think about what she might have thought, seeing that her ‘friend’ brought her to this place knowing —KNOWING what would happen to her.

I speak out on these issues because to be silent is to be complicit. Being silent shows my daughters that complicity is normal and the goal in conflict. It is resistance that causes and provokes change. Resistance is what agitates complacency to move so change and advocacy can come.

In order to be the change you wish to see in the world, you must see the world as it is. The murder rate of trans people in this nation is horrendous, even higher for trans women of color. This type of evil cannot be dressed up in anything less than what it is:  evil.

It’s not ignorance. It’s not fear. It’s evil.

AND DO NOT THROW A CORRUPT INTERPRETATION OF THE BIBLE ON THIS BEHAVIOR!


Ally was still a child of God. No one’s child deserves this. No one’s child deserves to be lured, stabbed in their genitals, eyes gouged out and set on fire. No one’s child deserves that.
The Bible says that a friend loves at all times. I cannot imagine why Ally’s friend would betray her like this. And it has to be unfathomable for her mother and family.

I told my daughters when they were younger that no monsters lived under their beds. I would check and make sure, even ‘fighting’ a few. The monsters are often outside the doors you lock.

I don’t know when this transphobic-fueled silence will stop, but I know where complicity stops:   Right. Here.

I will speak, because to be silent is to agree with the forces that desire to kill you and all you love.

I advise you to do the same. Speak up.

In Order To Become

We know we can’t pick our natal family, or even the environment our family is in. The wondrous thing about this like is, what is natal isn’t permanent.

You go through this life and make your own way and gather your own people. 

Whether they be queer or trans, emo, geek or goth, the finding of your tribe is really you finding whom you are.

So, who are you?

It makes no sense to go through this life and not change or conform. But the power of that dynamic is that it is dynamic. Life itself is intersectional! Don’t shy from that. Accept those things of you that are important or strange to you.

Me? I’m a married black woman that writes and loves art, old movies and comics and Jesus. My community overlaps. I accept that.

I like the dark and the strange and revolutionary along with all these other aspects as well.

So, how do you accept those things to find your tribe?

Easy.

Self-acceptance. The answer to the all-important ‘who are you.’ 

Whoa. I know, right? 

There are things that you immutable about your existence. Your race, your parents, your blood type, where you grew up. But there are things about yourself that you discover as you travel through this life. Things that spark and inspire, unravel you and infuriate, or make you better.

You are the voyager of this ship. Your passengers are up to you. Who will you include? Exclude? Help steer? 

You will never become whom you’re supposed to become until you identify whom you are and find those that see you the same way.

Be brave. Look deep. Be unafraid of what you see or what you find or what is said when those inner treasures are found. All that you find is all you find and yet there will be more.

Journey safely beloveds, the world needs you.
 

The House We Build


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There are moments where I cannot believe that this country is not scripted. There are times where I cannot understand how we as a nation have gotten to the point of such apathy and dress it up in patriotism. Clearly, that’s where we are now.

The program implemented by President Obama is now threatened because there’s a child on the throne of the nation…when this nation has had no King since its inception. It is madness. Complete madness.

This information is taken from the site from the Legal Support system  at UC-Berkeley:

What Is DACA?

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a kind of administrative relief from deportation. The purpose of DACA is to protect eligible immigrant youth who came to the United States when they were children from deportation. DACA gives young undocumented immigrants: 1) protection from deportation, and 2) a work permit. The program expires after two years, subject to renewal.

What has been tip-toed around this issue is that fact no one in this country is native to it. As in, every one, that was not a Native American, the indigenous people of color whom inhabited this land before Spaniard conquistadors or European settlers, was or has been brought here:  either under duress, stress, fear  or volition.

 However, even looking at the recorded history of Latinx/Hispanic/Chicano influence in this nation and simple geography, you cannot deny that there was land that belonged to Mexico and Spain that the United States folded into the batter known as the union.

So, for those paying attention, the government of a nation of immigrants, wants to put out immigrants, of whom we stole and usurped their land, because we don’t want any immigrants.

And whom is this we? 

Lunacy.

Image result for daca

 

This week when the evil Keebler elf posing in the body of the Attorney General, announced the decision on DACA, there could not be a happier person. It’s repulsive. As I say often in these matters, watch whiteness work.

 There is nothing about this that is lucid. It’s based in fear, power and control. It doesn’t make sense. It will never make sense.

Being a St. Louis, MO native, as big as this city is, with as many separate neighborhoods, with different nationalities carving out cultural niches, but  the city itself as a whole, is not a sanctuary city. 

Meaning, even with all of St. Louis’s boasted diversity in its vox populi, if you are an ‘undesirable,’ there is nothing or no one that can save you. 

It makes me wonder if the world-famous Saint Louis Cardinals catcher #4 (currently Yadir Molina) was an ‘illegal immigrant’ would the city care and do something?

And that’s a maybe.

This is  what we resist against.We resist against the apathy. We resist against the comfort of removal from situations. We resist against the inoculating nature of accepting false narratives rather than visual truths set before us. 

We resist because if we don’t the pain of helpless will overwhelm us to kill everything that breeds hope and change and love on the outside of us. We must resist.

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I support DACA because it is the right thing to do. I support DACA because I cannot imagine trying to build a life in the only country I know as home, only to be told that for the want of your parents wanting better for you, you have to leave.

 Not only do you have to leave all you know, you have to go ‘home’ to a place you have never known. You have to forfeit all you have build and building because someone with the power to legislate but not empathize and be at the mercy of their continuous bigotry.

Yet, this is the nation they long to stay in. This is the nation that allows me the right to say what maniacal, evil, bullsh!t this really is. The ‘President’ handed out food and supplies in the city of Houston, Texas, a city that has a population that will be most traumatized by this legislation, and turned around and did it because he’s at his core, a callous bigot.

My husband and I tell our daughters, our godchildren, that you treat people as you want to be treated. We tell them that even when or if you encounter someone that is different, you treat them no different. It is the acceptance of diversity that makes this nation amazing and life so, so rich and worthy of exploration.

Just because something doesn’t touch you or affect you directly doesn’t mean it doesn’t touch and run over other people. You don’t give the privilege of not turning around and seeing what happens to other people. That is just how evil persists when good people do nothing.

Don’t do nothing. Resist.

 

 

Why I Do It

“Trust life a little bit.”

-Maya Angelou

 

My favorite movie when I was a little girl was Firestarter, the movie with Drew Barrymore as this pyrokinetic little girl. When I began to really delve into my black girl geekdom (#blerd), I was drawn to Marvel Comics, especially the X-Men, especially, Jean Grey, the Phoenix herself. I was drawn to these unassuming people, characters that harness all this power, and used to protect all they cared for. I was drawn to the fire, despite being a water sign. How convenient?

My first brush with activism was actually when I was much younger, around 8 or 9. This was with the treatment of Ryan White (Google him, it will bless you), and the treatment of people with AIDS. Again, being  born in 1981, I am old enough to remember this, and even the AIDS quilt. Every year, even now, I try to participate in some AIDS related activism.


I remember talking to my mother about these things, these events I saw in the news, even now. I never could sit with that feeling of being helpless and immobile. When I saw something that disquieted me, I wanted to do something. No matter what it was. Was I born an activist? I don’t believe people are born activists, but your grow into being an activist. I have grown into being an activist.
There is an ability given to man that we have a desire to do better, to want to improve the condition of the world:  leave it better than where you found it. For the most part, we home have a moral anchor want to make it better, not rip the heart out of the life ahead, spoiling anything good for anyone else.

I, personally, want to add to the beauty of this life, I do that by pointing out all the things that are ugly and evil in it. The things that cannot stand, cannot progress, cannot be allowed to return and regrow and be morphed into something else because people think we aren’t paying attention.

I protest.

I speak.

I write.


I show up because life demands it. Life demands that I say something, because I have no luxury to lay in quiet. I am not afforded the peace of being ignorant and oblivious.
I am not afforded to not to recognize my own intersectionality or the intersectionality of others, and how it can be erased or minimized depending on audience and its attention.

Why I do what I do?
The better question:  why don’t more people?

That starts when you cease to be silent, and are willing to see more to the world around you than what is easily accessible to you. It starts when you can empathize and sympathize, and put hands to what it is you wish to change, no longer is speech sufficient.

You must be willing to see what is ugly, hurtful, unfair and hidden in acts of treason, murderous intent, malice and avarice, as well as apathy and lust for power, hidden under in exposed teeth that are not always smiles. You must see it and not look away because it ‘it someone else’s to clean up.’ From this, can all change come.

Yes, it’s important to be the change in the world you wish to see, but you must be willing to see what is in the world you wish to change.

#IAmAFirestarter

 

Guest Post: The Why I Do -Marissa Southards

Image result for ain't nobody's free until everybody's free

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

 

 

 

 

 

#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