“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
I spent my morning watching a re-run. Not my usual Sunday morning syndicated stuff. You know, Law and Order, Roseanne, Fashion Police. I paused on C-SPAN for a panel discussion at the Harlem Book Fair from June 2012. Entitled “Democracy 2012: The panel consisted of some serious heavy hitters to include Cornel West, poet Sonia Sanchez (a goddess as far as I’m concerned), Penial Joseph of Tufts University, and Khalil Muhammad, Director of the Schomberg Center. The discussion was rich, virtually stuffed to the gills with the sharp, biting wit of Dr. West, and the esoteric sweetness and disarming grace of Professor Sanchez. They covered everything from an analysis of President Obama’s administration thus far to examining the concept and role of democracy for contemporary Black America. One concept kept coming up over and over again. Regardless of the political terminology, historical references, and overall academic carriage of most of the panel, the concept of self-love was brought forth repeatedly. The absence of self-love and self-worth; as a barrier to educational and economic equity; as a missing ingredient in the establishment and maintenance of a Black political agenda; and as preventing out youth and 20-somethings from being a driving force in advocacy, activism, and policy change. While at first it may seem that self-love, self-image, self-worth and the like are far too existential to plug into the methodical and tedious constructs of the Black politic and our collective liberation, I quickly came to a different conclusion. The value, the very importance one attributes to his/herself, and his/her community is the spark that causes revolution to catch a fire.
Fundamental rights, not privileges.
Humans, not statistics.
Entitlements, not perks.
What do we believe we deserve? More importantly, what are we willing accept? The space between the two is where we may be able to find a manifesto for Black people in the 21st, 22nd, 23rd century. I use the word “may” because it is difficult for me to see the areas where we will mobilize for the collective. Our subscription to individualism and assimilation has resulted in a survivor mentality. We kill our own, eat our own, and discount our past as quickly as we put those history books back on the shelf. I have to be very intentional in teaching my children the history of Black people; the history of us. Where we have been, what we have endured, and the struggles that still remain. And I am by no means an expert, or even a role model. However, I strongly believe it behooves us to do whatever we can, whenever we can to support the development of identity in our children. This is not a matter of names and dates, inventions and famous firsts. It is a matter of pride, a matter of self-knoweldge, knowledge which if relayed with any sense of accuracy and integrity could result in nothing short of a chin up, chest out, serious strut of self-love.
I don’t believe our children know enough about our history. Mainly because we don’t know enough about our history. And unfortunately rather than learn it together, complacency seduces us into simply imbueing our babies with the very poison that sustains this inferiority complex. I’m not suggesting we aspire to be foremost authorities on the civil rights struggle or the Great Migration. What I am urging us to consider is instilling pride in our kids based on models of courage and devotion to the collective vs. the attainment of stuff (shoes, phones, swag–whatever the fuck that involves) I feel us starving, growing flimsier and flimisier. Threads to our identitiy as a driving, undeniable force have grown frayed and tattered. We grow more and more isolated from our incredible truth and instead turn to the images presented on TV and internet. And we all know that ain’t goin’ nowhere good.
Sonia Sanchez offered an amazing point. She suggests that we have forgotten that although we cannot control the images that prevail, we can reject them. We can say, “No, I don’t accept that; I don’t own that as truth,” and we can push it back on the parties that tried to feed it to us, ask us to reflect upon it, tempt us to gossip about it, or pay money to see it. I so appreciated this comment because it reminds me that we all have the individual power to make choices. Choices that bring and sustain life to our dignity, or choices that push us toward more modern day minstrel shows.
While you may not initally be able to change policy, programming, or re-allocate funding, you can:
- Change the channel
- Ask questions vs. always answering them
- Affirm your people vs. criticize or judge them
- Cross the socioeconomic divide and build relationship with those who make less money, have been exposed to less experiences than you (go to the juke, speak to the borther on the corner, look that sister in the eye instead of avoiding her gaze, get to know some young folk)
I love being Black. I love being a woman. I love being a human in this precarious and unpredictable world. But damn if that shit don’t hurt sometimes. But with love comes risk, loss, lessons, but most importantly investment. We must invest our hearts, minds, and money in a love movement; one that re-establishes the very real and perfect truth: WE MATTER. Like any other courtship, we must court ourselves into a blissful state of movement, of demands without apology, of unity without mutiny. I crave that homecoming. And although I’m barefoot on broken glass, stumbling over my own doubt, I will never stop trying to find my way home.
Black love lives in this cat here. Listen, and try not to fall in love:
Amazing, right? You’re welcome.
Check out the full panel discussion here
Loving you madly,