Crossroads for an Activist at a #BlackLivesMatter Protest
As I sat in the black chair in the tan computer room at work, I was reading through the news and read that another Black man, Philando Castile, was shot and killed within 48 hours of the killing of Alton Sterling. It's been more than a year since Charleston and more than 2 years since Michael Brown and many more years since Oscar Grant. As someone devouted to Social Justice, I'm tired and have been desensitized to hearing this news. But I can't just turn off and turn away. This past year I've been doing that way too often. But I have been doing this as a way to make sure my mental health doesn't keep declining. I'm someone who deals with anxiety and depression. I know I have to protect myself sometimes because if I don't, then I can't continue on with the work.
As I was reading, I just so happened to be thinking of a friend when he happened to text me and inform me that there was going to be a rally that night in order to call out Police Brutality. At first, I hesitated because I needed to remember my mental health, but I've used this as kind of an excuse to turn away. At the same time, like I just said, I do this to protect my mental health because it has not been the best for a long time and I'm coming to terms with that. However, knowing that mental health, anxiety, and depression are things that I have to learn to cope with and may never exactly heal from, I decided to go. I only had one question to ask him though. Was it organized by Black Lives Matter? Or was it organized by some white movement co-opting the movement? Fortunately, it wasn't.
7:00pm-7:10pm, I got to the rally. As usual, there are speeches in the beginning but since the sound systems are not the best, I oftentimes do not hear what the people speaking say unless they yell into the mic.
However, it is the key phrases that I'm looking for. I know from a friend that I will forget everything that someone says, but how they made me feel will always remain with me.
I did happen to remember two things that struck me
For me, this rally was a reinvigorating moment to not lose hope in Social Justice and that one day we will make racial equity such as giving the necessary resources to boost the marginalized up to the same level playing field as those who have corruptly taken power.
What follows next is not the best though. We take the streets of Oakland and we go on the freeway. It's at the freeway where I come at a literal crossroads of Social Justice. Where to me, people power becomes an excuse to vandalize and not be peaceful sometimes. I say sometimes because a lot of times, people power is a good thing. But in the case of graffiti, breaking doors, and when people climbed atop what looked to be an eighteen wheeler truck, that's where I draw my line. I don't think this is what the revolution needs in order to gain attention. At the same time, this is where the white anarchists come out and destroy things. My friend and I mused at how it's when the Black folx leave, that's when things start to get unpeaceful. It's not the Black folx vandalizing, it's mainly white folx. Case point for me was when a group of white people covered in Black with black masks lit a flag on fire. It is always at this point of the rally/action, when people start to get a little violent that I ask myself, do these protests actually work.
Yes and no.
Yes because for some they are healing places where people can voice their frustrations. At the same time, no because whatever action that is the slight bit negative will be distroted to the maximum extent by the media. Fear then creeps into the homes of thousands through the bright TV screens broadcasting the news.
It's at this moment where I've drawn a line and where people have to remind me that it's okay not to always go on the freeway. It's okay to support in other ways. Not everyone is able to go to a rally. Not everyone is able to even walk in a march. Just because someone isn't down to go a on a freeway doesn't make them less "down." And I say down as in meaning, ready to act and ready to go with respect to Social Justice spaces.
There are many other ways to be involved in Social Justice. Just as one of the speaker's said at this, "You don't have to be a revolutionary to make revolutionary actions."
In the same way, rallies are only large, highlighted moments of revolution. The biggest revolution is up to an individual to define and that big revolution could be in a simple conversation about how Black Lives Do Matter. Rallies are important, but it's what happens after the rally which are even more important~