Tef Poe: We want justice for Michael Brown and every victim of police brutality.
This is the moment I asked myself, “Why did I vote for Barack Obama twice? Why are we being treated like this simply for demanding justice for our fallen brother?” I decided it is possible I’ll never vote for another American president for as long as I live. We live in America but we are clearly not included as Americans. Americans don’t unleash a completely militarized force upon other Americans. Americans don’t tear gas other Americans. Americans don’t drive tanks over the front yards of other Americans. By classical definition we are still poor black people who reside in America, but we are not considered equal to fellow American citizens and lawmakers. Our hopes and dreams are not valued or respected. Our worries and concerns often fall upon deaf ears.
During this time I’ve pulled children out of clouds of tear gas. I’ve witnessed white women who are members of the clergy collectively praying in front of tanks and armored vehicles. One of these women was mercilessly shot with a rubber bullet by the police while praying for peace. Our neighborhood was occupied by the police as if they were an invading army laying siege to their enemy and pillaging the remains. Our basic civil rights were stripped away as we were treated like cattle in the name of a sick, sadistic experiment in martial law. We assumed that our beloved, black president would come to our defense and speak about the perils of police brutality, racial profiling, and Mike Brown’s unfortunate demise. Instead we felt as if he co-signed this unfair treatment and endorsed the brutal show of force the police displayed towards us. We are our only allies. No one in the world will stand up with us against such tyranny.
8:48 pm • 21 October 2014
Why America needs a moment of clarity now
We could mince words about the vast differences and expansive power of local governments in these matters, over against the apparently limited power of federal jurisdiction. But that’s kind of beside the point. Movements are as much about symbols as about substance. 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 hisdream. 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.
Don’t sleep. Millennials, it seems, are the ones we have been waiting for. Fearless and focused, the future they are fighting for is one I want. It is high time to awake out of sleep. Stay woke.
5:36 pm • 21 October 2014
This Ferguson October, young people are on the ground dreaming new dreams, and in so doing, they are inspiring elders. They are creative, taking over public spaces, not only with signs, and chants, but with impromptu games of twister and double-dutch. From them we learn that play can be political, that there is joy in struggle, that there is no justice without pleasure.
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.
8:48 pm • 20 October 2014
“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. Lest we forget, racial segregation of old happened in “private” businesses, too, in stores like Woolworth’s and Hecht’s. That John Crawford could not step into a Beaver Creek, Ohio Wal-Mart, wander aimlessly, as so many of us have done on a casual shopping trip, and reasonably expect to come out alive, suggests that time is out for business as usual.”
— Writer Brittney Cooper says, “social justice in America is officially stunted.”
11:12 am • 19 October 2014
The Umbrella Revolution in action /from afp-photo
3:24 pm • 18 October 2014
“The Arab Awakening of 2011 did not usher in an era of democracy, nor could it. The institutions of civil society were too weak; the political culture of winner-take-all too strong; sectarian differences too powerful; and a belief in pluralism too inchoate. Instead, the awakening produced political vacuums and a struggle over identity.”
— Dennis Ross
11:16 am • 12 September 2014
Success is for the stubborn
Maybe Occupy was too successful a brand in that it sometimes disguised how much this movement was part of popular surges going on around the world: the Arab Spring(including the three successful revolutions, the ongoing Syrian civil war, uprisings in Yemen, and more); the student uprisings in Montreal, Mexico, and Chile that have continued to develop and broaden; the economic revolts in Spain, Greece, and Britain; the ongoing demonstrations and insurrections around Africa; even various acts of resistance in India, Japan, China, and Tibet, some large and powerful. Because, in case you hadn’t noticed, these days a lot of the world is in some form of rebellion, insurrection, or protest.
And the family resemblances matter. If you add them all up, you see a similar fury at greed, political corruption, economic inequality, environmental devastation, and a dimming, shrinking future.
5:36 pm • 20 April 2014
“People learned how direct democracy works; they tasted power; they found something in common with strangers; they lived in public. All those things mattered and matter still. They are a great foundation for the future; they are a great way to live in the present.”
— Rebecca Solnit on Occupy Wall Street
2:25 pm • 20 April 2014
Revolutionaries are not born, they are made
Revolutionaries are not born; they are made. They are made through social, political and economic turmoil; through dramatic events that change the course of history; through pain and suffering that results from immense injustice; and through an intrinsic bravery and selflessness that is difficult to find in most people. When revolutionaries emerge, when they decide to fight, there is almost nothing that can stop them.
The reality is that we live in a world that has taught us to be obedient and that is slowly breaking us down, one by one. It is a world in which stability and mere survival have become the dream of billions. Life is not about being who you want to be, or achieving what you want to achieve. It’s about surviving myriad oppressive structures that determine our everyday lives, from capitalism to patriarchy, from imperialism to dictatorship. And in that quest for survival, humanity loses pieces of itself.
8:48 pm • 19 April 2014
“But don’t get bogged down in the tangible achievements, except as a foundation. The less tangible spirit of Occupy and the new associations it sparked are what matters for whatever comes next, for that 10-year-plan. Occupy was first of all a great meeting ground. People who live too much in the virtual world with its talent for segregation and isolation suddenly met each other face-to-face in public space. There, they found common ground in a passion for economic justice and real democracy and a recognition of the widespread suffering capitalism has created.”
— Rebecca Solnit on the Occupy Wall Street movement and what it meant
5:37 pm • 19 April 2014
Hope and turmoil in 2011
Revolution is as unpredictable as an earthquake and as beautiful as spring. Its coming is always a surprise, but its nature should not be.
Revolution is a phase, a mood, like spring, and just as spring has its buds and showers, so revolution has its ebullience, its bravery, its hope, and its solidarity. Some of these things pass. The women of Cairo do not move as freely in public as they did during those few precious weeks when the old rules were suspended and everything was different. But the old Egypt is gone and Egyptians’ sense of themselves — and our sense of them — is forever changed.
No revolution vanishes without effect. The Prague Spring of 1968 was brutally crushed, but 21 years later when a second wave of revolution liberated Czechoslovakia, Alexander Dubcek, who had been the reformist Secretary of the Czechoslovakian Communist Party, returned to give heart to the people from a balcony overlooking Wenceslas Square: “The government is telling us that the street is not the place for things to be solved, but I say the street was and is the place. The voice of the street must be heard.”
The voice of the street has been a bugle cry this year. You heard it. Everyone did, but the rulers who thought their power was the only power that mattered, heard it last and with dismay. Many of them are nervous now, releasing political prisoners, lowering the price of food, and otherwise trying to tamp down uprisings.
11:12 am • 19 April 2014
“Sometimes we do get three clear victories, but because it took a while or because no one was sure what victory consisted of, hardly anyone realizes a celebration is in order, or sometimes even notices. We get more victories than anyone imagines, but they are usually indirect, incomplete, slow to arrive, and situations where our influence can be assumed but not proven — and yet each of them is worth counting.”
— Rebecca Solnit on revolutions
8:48 pm • 18 April 2014
“Thousands of men and women still flood into the streets of slums, towns and villages across the country every Friday and on many of the days in between — even as captured friends and relatives receive prison time and death sentences”
— Just out of the spotlight, Egyptians’ anger lives on and feet continue to hit the streets across the nation despite the largest crackdown in decades
5:36 pm • 30 March 2014