Today I felt tense, tired, fear, strength. I was captivated by the ideas of young artists in my class, and at the same time walked cautiously through downtown Oakland holding my child’s hand, past the edgy officers and resilient but frustrated people. The people have yet another example of how the larger systems of control think of us. I’m pissed too! What keeps ringing in my head is what I will do as an artist to contribute to change.
My parents and family raised me with many ideas both political and personal. I was blessed to sprinkled with game instead of being kept in the dark about what was happening around me. Neither myself or them fully over stood it all though. I’m not sure its possible to comprehend a system that is like a puzzle that never ceases to change. At the same time it brought me a lot of stress and frustration to get the idea that all of the injustice around me was by design. On purpose. The weight of the world on your shoulders is probably how that can be best described.
I often asked my father before my parents split, “what can I do?” He pointed to the little doodles that hung from my wall and filled up my notebooks and said to do what I love to do. Use that to speak. My parents both said this, and they were right. That is why I do what I do. My mom, my step dad, and so many of my family and friends Im grateful for because they support me in this life long love, dedication, endeavor, job, passion, cultural work, etc.
The things I keep thinking about today after hearing the verdict in the Oscar Grant case are reaction vs action, independence, and the future. I have seen these verdicts before, and it feels something like the twilight zone. But its not TV, this is reality.
The folks didnt tear Oakland the fuck up today. Why? I saw Jeff Chang write that “Peace workers, organizers, NOT police or Mayor Dellums or OPD are to thank for that”. But what do we do when the system of oppression shows us again how they feel...blatantly and overtly?
I think, lets think outside of the box in our tactics of reaction and Pro-activity.
I think of this like health in the body. I could take an aspirin to stop my headache, but the headache affects my entire body. The symptom has roots all over my body. My heart goes out to the Grant family. And I really just think about how many people this has happened to, how common, how symptomatic the killings are, and how I as an artist must take steps to paint not only the PAST and Present, but the future. What I see in the system of policing, and justice in the US is not an isolated area of the body. Rather a symptom much like a disease or virus that effects the entire body. Or in this case, the entire community and the cycle of life here in the states and abroad. The roots, not just the branches.
I would like to see Black folks say "screw this system" and I would like to paint pictures of how to leave it. Rescue the ones who are caught in it, don’t leave folks behind enemy lines, thousands of black folks are locked up for little more than trying to survive. And they got 20 years, life! Mesherle gets 2-4 years for murder of an unarmed man, defenseless man. Fuck this system. I feel like, I want to paint people doing revolutionary things like:
1. Planning for the realistic: Does anyone think we should boycott public transportation? I mean, ff we cannot feel safe on their Bart, AC Transit, MTA, Marta, etc why not start riding bicycles? We could get around from place to place with out supporting a system that cares nothing for our lives. For longer trips, maybe I could paint the picture of People of Color investing in each other for transportation? A POC(People of Color) taxis service for those who need help in traveling longer distances. That might support the black and brown economy.
2. Planning for the unrealistic: Who says we can’t dream? Why can’t we control our own food, clothing, shelter, medicine, education, justice? I’m taking steps to become less dependent on the system with the goal of being free of the systems constraints. Why? The money I spend is not being invested in my family properly. It is not being over seen by mindful people. Also, what I do here , because of how the US operates internationally is genocidal to people all over the world.
3. A new age of revolution. My peoples, the techniques we used to fight back 60 yrs ago, or even 20 years ago are not all valid. I’m not saying we abandon what has worked. BUT, the media, police, federal officers, lawmakers, even the president are all very skilled at keeping the masses down through extremely well thought out and organized passification, outright murder, distraction, misinformation, and obstacles. Think of the music industry and how they are scrambling to "Control" what you buy and listen to. They have been trying to prosecute people for refusing to buy when they can get it for free. If young people don’t buy what is being shoved down their throat, they are being critical and actively seeking out what they want. Being critical and active are two things that neither Time Warner or public education reinforce. Lets use some NEW + old tactics to INFORM, PREPARE, CHANGE, OVER THROW.
I was thinking of painting more people of color:
-Exercising and living healthier lives both physically and mentally. Lets face it, people of color have been the most affected by the larger systems at work and as a result we have become extremely sick.
-Growing their own damn food-not depending on the liquor store or Jack n the crack because California and New York law (for example) and international fast food do not have health in mind. They have profit in mind.
-Studying science, engineering, architecture-so we can build our future instead of waiting for someone else to when they’re good and ready. I mean, we live near freeways, power plants, industrial waste sites, and worse. Could we design and build our community without these things or with more protection from them? I think so.
-Self defense (they’re slapping us in the face. Killing a child and receiving a slap on the wrist is the same as saying your life don’t mean shit, mine don’t, my child's don’t). Well, I say training to self defend would be right the fuck on. I have seen Stic Man from Dead Prez advocate this for African peoples by example many times.
-Literacy (so many folks cannot read. We come from people who described life and passed down legacies through the power of the word which is why so many of us sing, tell jokes, rap, speak, etc. But a lot of the clues, secrets, connections and explanations have been coded in written word. For example: A food label with preservatives/chemicals=death, while a food label that is free of them/ gmo's/ and organic=life. I’m working so that my baby can read which is which.
-Healthy modes of communication/ Dialogue practice/ and conflict resolution. So many of our people don’t know how to talk to one another or how to resolve a problem. I mean young men talking to young women, and African American speaking to Asian or Indigenous folks(Latinos). This again is by design. When Africans and indigenous people were both being oppressed by Europeans in the Americas they came from different places. They didn’t speak the same language, so I imagine it was hard to communicate. Hard to organize to figure out how to unite and stop their oppression. The way we act today,500 years later it feels the same way. And, many societies were Matriarchs. RAN BY WOMEN, WITH RESPECT FOR WOMEN. The way I see some young men speak to young women, it’s as if we hate them, that shit ain’t cool. I could paint a better picture, starting with words and actions such as “greetings”, “hello”, “thank you”, “sister”, or “I care for you”. It seems simple, but it could be revolutionary in the Black and Brown community. Imagine the idols of these young men addressing the women in their life through image, respectfully.
Just some reflection on how I’m thinking of fighting back. Being proactive instead of only “reacting”. I used to be the one trying to illustrate what is fucked up only. Only talking about Injustice. I now feel the responsibility to paint what “could be”. You could give a speech with political words and analysis but my research has proven that more people listen when you tell a good story. So that’s what I’m doing, and that’s what I’m going to do. I mean, they paint African and Indigenous people as invisible. If I paint us proud, intelligent, and creative imagine what effect that will have on self esteem. Imagining.
A song I was listening to by a jazz musician/activist: Archie Shepp