The Narco News Bulletin
September 23, 2017 | Issue #67
narconews.com - Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America
When I was a kid, a little black girl growing up between the government housing projects and suburbs of Atlanta, I began to see a lot of things that I and no one around me had names for. Good, bad, or ugly, things happened to us, and most folks didn't waste time naming the social ills that were killing us, much less tried to resist them. They happened to us, and you kept your head down and tried to get to something better. And that was it.
One of the things that I've learned is that often the first step to resistance for most people is being able to name what oppresses them. To see themselves as part of a much larger whole, a community, of people who are also naming and resisting what hurts them the most. Being present with folks in that process has been one of my greatest joys in life.
In my own process of learning how to name oppression in my life, I've made other discoveries. And, like the first, these were new only to me. I discovered that inasmuch as we can gain power by naming and expressing our resistance, we can lose our power by forgetting that we have resisted in the past.
I attended a tiny, historically African-American college in Nashville, TN. Nashville happens to be the site of best planned and executed sit-in campaign of the American Civil rights movement, in large part due to the participation of students from the town's colleges, including the one that I attended.
From administration to students, everyone at my small alma mater glowed with pride at the achievement. Yet fifty years into the future, I was exasperated at every turn in stoking a similar commitment to social change in more than mere rhetoric and reminiscence. My school wasn't alone in this.
I spent a long time incredibly frustrated to find that, for many Americans, the American Civil Rights movement was the stuff of legend, carried out by mythological heroes with an unknowable magic never to be seen again. Movement was something that happened, social change was in history books. Even when folks acknowledged a need for change, that acknowledgment was followed by a shrug. For them, things had changed as much as they were going to. I remembered again the power of naming, of understanding, and that same old bone kept rattling.
Not long into my college years, one of those students from the sit-ins, Jim Lawson, returned to Nashville. I got the chance to meet him and then hound him for the next few years for guidance in finding the answers I sought, and making sense of the noisy old bone. I learned many thing from Rev. Lawson over few years that he was in Nashville.
At the same time, I was meeting and learning from a community of activists and organizers in Nashville who were as worried by their own bones as I was. With them and with Jim, I found a family and a home in which to grow, a place to put down roots while I kept searching.
It hasn't been long since then, but so many things have happened. And still the same bone plagues me, as do the same scenes again and again: people, young and old, often poor, struggling under a system of injustice so old and entrenched that they can't imagine where to start. Or people who are angry, all fired up to make a difference, and can name their oppression, but can't plan anything past repetitive protests and actions. All of these folks are frustrated, because they all hear their own bones creaking and aching under the weight of a burden they don't deserve and don't know yet how to shake.
I'm still listening to what I know in my bones: that supporting the people in their struggle for justice starts with naming our oppression, and continues when we tell our stories of struggle, when we remember and when we teach each other that we've done it before, and yes we can do it again.
So far the vast majority of my knowledge of social change has been centered in my home in the American South.
But I've long known that some of those answers that I'm always seeking, and even more important questions to ask, await me and others like me in other nations where I've got brothers and sisters in the struggle that I haven't met yet. I'm elated to have been accepted into this year's School of Authentic Journalism, because it means a chance to rattle my bones in chorus with others just as eager to see real change as I am. I want to bring what I hear and see back home.
Will you contribute to my journey, and that of some of the world's best and brightest activists and journalists by supporting Narco News?
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