Jubilee (Beyond 37)

Originally posted during the Omer 2015. References to the exact date of the count have been removed to avoid confusion. Also note that Behar, the Torah portion including Jubilee instructions, is read on its own in leap years (like 2019).

This week’s Torah reading — a double-portion, Behar (Lev 25:1-26:2) and Bechukotai (Lev 26:3-27:34) — includes instructions for conducting the Jubilee, the year of rest for the land, a time to “proclaim freedom throughout the land for all its inhabitants” (Lev 25:10).

Writing for T’ruah: the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, Rabbi Joel Mosbacher notes another injunction in this week’s reading:

When we were enslaved in Egypt, the Torah says, the Egyptians made us serve them b’farech, with crushing labor (Exodus 1:13). This week’s Torah portion demands that, when we enter the promised land, we not rule over others b’farech (Leviticus 25:43).

As we count the years since the great [Civil Rights] movement [of the 1960s] in our own nation, we also wonder if the planting that was done in the civil rights era will come to fruition, if we will reap the harvest of our predecessors’ hard work. Americans are being crushed once again, with violence and economic and racial inequality. We have not yet achieved the magical, transcendent moment of Sinai.

We should celebrate the legacies of the past—the times when we glimpsed freedom.

But then, we need to get back to work. Our Torah commands it.
— R. Mosbacher, Free At Last?

There may have been moments in the past when we glimpsed freedom. But, as a country, we are stuck with perspectives and behaviors that make freedom for “all inhabitants” an impossibility:

…they will make assumptions about who they think you are based on their limited notion of the world. And my husband and I know how frustrating that experience can be. We’ve both felt the sting of those daily slights throughout our entire lives — the folks who crossed the street in fear of their safety; the clerks who kept a close eye on us in all those department stores; the people at formal events who assumed we were the “help” — and those who have questioned our intelligence, our honesty, even our love of this country.

from JFREJ in NYC May 2
from JFREJ in NYC May 2

And I know that these little indignities are obviously nothing compared to what folks across the country are dealing with every single day — those nagging worries that you’re going to get stopped or pulled over for absolutely no reason; the fear that your job application will be overlooked because of the way your name sounds; the agony of sending your kids to schools that may no longer be separate, but are far from equal; the realization that no matter how far you rise in life, how hard you work to be a good person, a good parent, a good citizen — for some folks, it will never be enough.

And all of that is going to be a heavy burden to carry. It can feel isolating. It can make you feel like your life somehow doesn’t matter — that you’re like the invisible man that Tuskegee grad Ralph Ellison wrote about all those years ago. And as we’ve seen over the past few years, those feelings are real. They’re rooted in decades of structural challenges that have made too many folks feel frustrated and invisible. And those feelings are playing out in communities like Baltimore and Ferguson and so many others across this country.
— Michelle Obama’s recent speech at Tuskegee Commencement

There is much work to do to bring about the Jubilee. It doesn’t involve protests or petitions. It involves a shift of perspective.


Making the Omer Count

from On the Road to Knowing: A Journey Away from Oppression
A key element in the journey from liberation to revelation is understanding the workings of oppression, and our part in them. We cannot work effectively to end what we do not comprehend.

So this year, moving from Passover to Shavuot, I commit to learning more about how oppression works and how liberation is accomplished. I invite others to join me.

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Reclaiming Mothers Day (Beyond 36)


We are moving through the omer week of Yesod [foundation, creative energy], from the day of Chesed [loving-kindness] to Gevurah [strength]. This seems an auspicious moment to consider efforts to “reclaim Mother’s Day” for radical, life-saving messages:

from #ReclaimMothersDay Twitter feed
from #ReclaimMothersDay Twitter feed

In the spirit of the original Mother’s Day,* activists in St. Louis gathered today to call on others to “join us in demanding an end to systematic oppression wrought by white supremacy in our nation, our schools, and (yes) our churches. (Here’s their “White Mothers We Need to Talk” handout.)

mau_BlackShul

This follows additional actions Millenial Activists United, including a #BlackShul picket on Yom Hashoah. (Here’s the #BlackShul handout >>>)

See also #whitefolkwork, #blackchurch, and #ReclaimMothersDay.


We counted 36 on the evening of May 9. Tonight, we count….

Making the Omer Count

from On the Road to Knowing: A Journey Away from Oppression
A key element in the journey from liberation to revelation is understanding the workings of oppression, and our part in them. We cannot work effectively to end what we do not comprehend.

So this year, moving from Passover to Shavuot, I commit to learning more about how oppression works and how liberation is accomplished. I invite others to join me:

Let’s work together, as we count the Omer, to make this Omer count.

Thoughts and sources welcome.

JourneyOmer

Share this graphic to encourage others to participate.

A Meditation

Aware that we are on a journey toward knowing God — from liberation to revelation — I undertake to know more today than I did yesterday about the workings of oppression.

I bless and count [full Hebrew blessings in feminine and masculine address]:

Blessed are You, God, Ruler/Spirit of the Universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to count the Omer.

Today is thirty-seven days which are five weeks and two days in the Omer.
Hayom shiv’ah ushloshim yom shehaym chamishah shavuot ushnay yamim la-omer.

In the spirit of the Exodus, I pray for the release of all whose bodies and spirits remain captive, and pledge my own hands to help effect that liberation.

In 1858, Mother’s Day began as a call for peace. (See Zinn Education Project).

In 1870, Julia Ward Howe asked women to “meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead” and advocate for peace.

In 1910, Mother’s Day became a U.S. holiday.
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Alice in Omerland (Beyond 35)


“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’” Alice said Through the Looking Glass. As we leave the omer week associated with “Glory” “[hod, in Hebrew] behind, let’s consider for just a moment Alice’s conversation with Humpty Dumpty about his use of the term.

Is Alice’s conversation with Humpty Dumpty far removed from recent discussions all across the U.S. about the term “thug”? Who gets to determine meaning?

When one image or video is described in at least two different, and mutually exclusive, ways by observers — as when a photo of black community members lining up in front of Baltimore police in riot gear is explained as both “protecting the police” and “first line of defense for protestors” — are we any less befuddled than Alice?

Moreover, traveling between communities (or news channels), the same events can start to look like poor Alice, one moment too small to notice and the next so large as to be frightening.

And so, as we pause to notice the strangeness of this journey —



BTW: Would that rabbit appear white if it spun faster? What are the components of “white”?

We counted 35 on the evening of May 8. Tonight, we count….

Making the Omer Count

from On the Road to Knowing: A Journey Away from Oppression
A key element in the journey from liberation to revelation is understanding the workings of oppression, and our part in them. We cannot work effectively to end what we do not comprehend.

So this year, moving from Passover to Shavuot, I commit to learning more about how oppression works and how liberation is accomplished. I invite others to join me:

Let’s work together, as we count the Omer, to make this Omer count.

Thoughts and sources welcome.

JourneyOmer

Share this graphic to encourage others to participate.

A Meditation

Aware that we are on a journey toward knowing God — from liberation to revelation — I undertake to know more today than I did yesterday about the workings of oppression.

I bless and count [full Hebrew blessings in feminine and masculine address]:

Blessed are You, God, Ruler/Spirit of the Universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to count the Omer.

Today is thirty-six days which are five weeks and one day in the Omer.
Hayom shishah ushloshim yom shehaym chamishah shavuot veyom echad la-omer.

In the spirit of the Exodus, I pray for the release of all whose bodies and spirits remain captive, and pledge my own hands to help effect that liberation.


“Glory,” Humpty, and Alice

‘I don’t know what you mean by “glory,”’ Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t— till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”’

‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument,”’ Alice objected.

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master— that’s all.’

“When I make word do a lot of work like that,” said Humpty Dumpty, “ I always pay it extra.”

“Oh!” said Alice. She was too much puzzled to make any other remark.

“Ah, you should see ‘em come round me of a Saturday night,” Humpty Dumpty went on, wagging his head gravely from side to side: “For to get their wages, you know.”

(Alice didn’t venture to ask what he paid them with; and so you see I can’t tell you.)
–from Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson), 1871.

NOTE: I read some years ago that Charles Dodgson believed mundane use of language associated with religious imagery — think “awesome” or “terrified,” e.g. — eroded its meaning. And so, his choice of “Glory” for Alice’s conversation with Humpty Dumpty is not accidental. (No citation, sorry.)

RANDOM: Here, just for your information and entertainment, is the Woodstock footage, of “White Rabbit”

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Coates and Tyfereth, Algren and Mobley (Beyond 33)

“Passover is a time of remembrance but also one of renewal — of looking ahead toward the spring and new growth that will sustain us through the seasons to come. Once we spent spring in the desert. It was harsh and difficult but from that journey grew a people who have endured for centuries. What would happen if we took that journey again, not alone in the wilderness but surrounded by friends and allies, leaving no one behind?”
— from JFREJ Haggadah

from Baltimore, 2015, and Chicago, mid-20th Century.
In stereo.
With no comment:

2015

part 1: “Family Breakdown”

Jim Crow was one heck of a barrier to entry, but it hasn’t been legal for decades. If legal barriers are no longer restraining African-American wealth growth, then what is? A cycle of poverty, but why? Coates dismissed family breakdown, but I suspect that’s closer to the truth than white supremacy.
— “Tyfereth,” on-line commenter at Atlantic Magazine, responding 4/30/15 to “Nonviolence as Compliance” by Ta-Nahisi Coates
—- See “In the Wake of Baltimore” — scroll, past the picture of two-year-old Ta-Nehisi, down to Tyfereth’s comments

part 2: “Out-of-Wedlock”

…I’ll leave it to the commenter to define, specifically, what they mean by “family breakdown.” I assume the commenter means children born out of wedlock. As the product of such a family—and as a Dad who fathered his only child out of wedlock—I reject the label. Nonetheless, whatever we call it, the “out of wedlock” theory has a serious problem—the out of wedlock birthrate in the black community is at its lowest point since the CDC began keeping stats. Indeed the gap between black and white women has been shrinking for the last 15 years. (I suspect that much of that shrinkage is the result of the rapid decline in teenage pregnancy in the black community.)

If the main driver of black poverty is black out-of-wedlock birthrate, and yet that birthrate is in decline, what explains the yawning chasm between black and white America?
— Ta-Nehisi Coates, responding to Tyfereth (see above), 5/6/15

1960s

part 1: “Illegitimate…All and on Welfare”

These 200,000-plus fatherless children…equal the combined populations of [Chicago suburbs] Arlington Heights, Evanston, and Oak Park.

No records are kept of how many of these children become public charges. A conclusion may be drown, however, from welfare figures….

In the 1950s my work took me into the homes of many disadvantaged persons. It was common — and shocking and frightening — to walk into a living room and confront 8 or 10 children and women, representing four generations, all on welfare, and more on the way.

…Do men and women, in or or out of marriage, unable or unwilling to emotionally and financially support a child have a moral and legal right to produce that child?
— Columnist Jack Mabley
from a 1970s column in the Chicago Tribune, similar in content to Mabley columns in the long-gone Daily News and longer-gone Chicago American

part 2: “Like Guinea Pigs”

To say “Each man’s death diminishes me” today only rouses cries of “they’re like guinea pigs out there.”

WhoLostNot to be surpassed in public service, the Evening [Chicago] American offers a new crusade by Chicago’s most heavily decorated fink; one whose honors are all self-awarded. While keeping an eagle eye on the broken brutes of Skid Row’s broken walks, he also finds time to expose mothers of illegitimate children found in movie houses while receiving state aid. This Malthusian revisionist’s cry is, “They’re multiplying like guinea pigs out there!” Implying that his kind of people have hit upon a method of reproducing themselves different from that of guineas pigs.
— from Nelson Algren, Chicago: City on the Make (1961 addendum, see also) and Who Lost an American? (NY: Macmillan, 1963)

“What would happen if we took that journey again, not alone in the wilderness but surrounded by friends and allies, leaving no one behind?”

We counted 33 on the evening of May 6. Tonight, we count….

Continue reading Coates and Tyfereth, Algren and Mobley (Beyond 33)

Conversing for Racial Justice (Beyond 32)

Lag B’Omer, the 33rd day of the Omer, brings a symbolic break in this 49-day journey from Passover to Shavuot. The 32-day plague wrought by disrespect among Rabbi Akiva’s students (see yesterday’s post) has ended. Lag B’Omer is a day of transition. We don’t necessarily cease mourning for who and what was lost, or stop analyzing how things went wrong. But, just as Akiva began anew with five students, it is time to for us to focus on rebuilding.

HeartThe plague story warns that a pretense of respect only obscures danger. It urges us to explore our own communities for places where similar hazards lurk, to engage in necessary conversations.

This break in the Omer is an opportunity to examine our journey, how far we’ve come and how far we’ve yet to go.

Now is a great time, too, to check in with others. It is not necessary to follow the same religious calendar in order to join together on a journey from oppression. Counting these days has its own peculiar set of commandments and its own set of benefits. But one need not count the Omer to make these days count.

Rebuilding Tools

Race Forward provides an array of materials designed to educate individuals and groups and facilitate conversations around racial justice. This post includes handy links to a number of their resources, including their relatively new series of videos on systemic racism — all intended for a wide-ranging audience.

SURJ_color_logo
Showing Up for Racial Justice works, more specifically, “with white people who are already in motion.” SURJ endeavors to avoid “the culture of shame and blame” which can be found in some activist circles, instead seeking “to bring as many white people into taking action for racial justice as possible.”

SURF offers resources, including suggestions for launching house parties and other conversational activities. Special Mothers Day materials speak to teachers, parents, and others working with children.

Conversing
Many other groups work to unite people in action and/or further necessary conversations. If you have other resources to share, please post in comments or email me (songeveryday at gmail).

It will enhance our individual journeys to know others are with us. So, please consider using the comment section here to let everyone know you’re committing to begin the conversations we need, or just “like” this post (see star at far bottom of post). In addition, please share this post or the “Conversing for Racial Justice” image to help engage others.

We counted 32 on the evening of May 5. Tonight, we count….

Continue reading Conversing for Racial Justice (Beyond 32)

Death by Disrespect (Beyond 31)


How can we end the plague of disrespect around race-related topics that threatens our country with disaster? Perhaps the Omer journey shows us a way to begin.

Rabbi Akiva, a key player in the story of four who visited Paradise (see yesterday’s post), is also central to a narrative linked with the Omer period. The Talmud relates how 24,000 of Akiva’s students “died at the same time because they did not treat each other with respect.”

Later tradition identifies the “same time” as the first 32 days of the Omer and the proximate cause as a divine plague. (More below on Akiva and the Omer.)

Rampant, Unacknowledged Disrespect: Then…


The Talmud speaks of plague victims as “twelve thousand pairs of students,” referencing the practice of learning with a partner. Among the many questions this brief, symbolic tale raises is one of awareness: Did Rabbi Akiva realize his students were disrespecting one another and fail to intervene? Or did he somehow not notice the disaster brewing among ALL 12,000 pairs of students? How could anyone be that oblivious?

One explanation is that Akiva’s students outwardly gave the impression that all was well, pretending to respect one another’s opinions and learning.

Are we behaving any differently in this country today?

…and Now

How many of us have been vaguely aware that we live in a nation divided by White privilege but failed — whether through indifference, despair, or confusion — to address it, opting instead to go along to get along? And when an uprising occurs in Ferguson or Baltimore, how many of us find the whole thing too painful to consider in any serious way?

from JFREJ in NYC May 2
from JFREJ in NYC May 2

How many of us have engaged, however unconsciously, in the variety of mental gymnastics that help maintain the “all is well” impression, with any suggestion to the contrary attributed to isolated incidents and (usually “outside”) individual agitators?

How often have perspectives of people of color been dismissed as “extreme” by media, and individual consumers of it, instead of taken seriously?

And how often have we dismissed every perspective but our own, often using labeling — “liberal,” “Tea Party,” “Right,” “Left” — to define others as unworthy of consideration?

Ending the Plague

According to legend, there are 32 days of plague followed by 17 more days in the Omer. The Hebrew numbers “32” and “17” can be read as equivalent to the Hebrew words “lev [heart]” and “tov [good].”**

It is the “good heart” that seems to have been missing from Akiva’s learning community and that is all too often missing from discourse in our country today.

Perhaps we can begin to turn this around by consciously chipping away at the veneer of “all well” and pursuing real respect in its place.

What if each one of us committed to having one difficult, but honest and respectful, conversation about race?

Suppose 12,000 of us engaged in such a conversation, yielding 24,000 people with a slightly broader understanding! And if each of those 24,000 engaged someone else….

Imagine our experience of Revelation, at the end of the omer period, encompassing the many new perspectives gained during this journey. If we approach Sinai this year with hearts each a tiny bit more attuned to the neighbors surrounding us, what more might be revealed?

**lamed + bet = lev/heart (32) and tet + vav + bet = tov/good(17).


Who’s ready? And how might we share our commitments to this effort?

We counted 31 on the evening of May 4. Tonight, we count….

Continue reading Death by Disrespect (Beyond 31)

The Most Dangerous of Dualisms (Beyond 30)


No one knows for certain what the ancient rabbi meant when warned his fellow mystical travelers against saying “Water! Water!”:

When you reach the stones of pure marble, don’t say, “Water! Water!” As it states, “One who speaks falsehood shall not endure before My eyes” [Psalms 101:7]
— Babylonian Talmud, Chagigah 14b

The speaker, Rabbi Akiba, is one of four who “entered Pardes [Paradise],” the only one who “entered in peace and departed in peace.” His instructions are understood as pre-trip warnings to other other three.

Some explanations for Akiba’s words liken pure marble to the place where upper (divine) and lower (mundane) waters meet, arguing against attempting to divide divine and mundane. Many teachings focus on dualisms, warning against dividing God into Light/Dark, Good/Evil, etc.

But Michelle Obama spoke, back in April 2013, to what I consider the most dangerous dualism of all: allowing some of our citizens to grow up “consumed with watching their backs” while others grow up enjoying a city’s riches.

Boundless Promise Lost

I wrote then:

Accepting such a state of affairs implies two sets of rules or, worse, two sets of expectations for human beings. This is tantamount to bowing to two gods.

At the “place of pure marble” — where the Torah tells us all humans are in God’s image — we must acknowledge that “every single child in [Chicago or any city] has boundless promise no matter where they live.” Failing to do so is blasphemy of the deepest kind, it “speaks falsehood” that cannot endure before God’s eyes.
— from Fabrangen Havurah‘s omer-counting blog, 2013

Meanwhile, Chicago, my first hometown, has lost so many to street and police violence, as has DC, my adopted hometown of 27 years. Losses across the country mount at a rate so high as to be numbing.

And this does not even begin to address suffering of, and long-term affects in, communities experiencing grief upon grief. Nor does it approach the dual reality Mrs. Obama described in our mutual hometown:

Today, too many kids in this city are living just a few El stops, sometimes even just a few blocks, from shiny skyscrapers and leafy parks and world-class museums and universities, yet all of that might as well be in a different state, even in a different continent.
— Michelle Obama, April 10, 2013

BlackSpring-HiRes-476x500
As discussed previously, this week’s attribute, Hod, is associated with empathy.

But the literal meaning of the word is “Glory.”

May the energy of this attribute impel us, finally, this week, to see that this dual existence is incompatible with God’s glory and “shall not endure before [God’s] eyes.”

The war on Black people in Baltimore is the same war on Black people across America. Decades of poverty, unemployment, under-funded schools and police terrorism have reached a boiling point in Baltimore and cities around the country.

This past winter our people were presented with hollow reforms. This spring we present to the world our visionary demands. Demands that speak to a world where all Black Lives Matter.

This will be our #BlackSpring.
Ferguson Action

We counted 30 on the evening of May 3. Tonight, we count….

Continue reading The Most Dangerous of Dualisms (Beyond 30)

Consequences, part 2 (beyond 26)

We passed the mid-point in the omer journey away from oppression, this week, at the same time that Freddie Gray’s death at the hands of Baltimore police evoked response all across the U.S., inspiring the message: #BlackSpring has begun.

BlackSpring-HiRes-476x500
There is still much for privileged and oppressed people to learn about how the system works to keep some people down and what it will take to undo that system. And we are still weeks away from Revelation at the holiday of Shavuot. But this seems a moment of turnaround. And I think perhaps we can find a pivot point in considering language — as both a potential stumbling block before (all of us) blind and as a tool for finding a new path.

One of my favorite teachers on Jewish prayer, Max Kadushin, offers some hints for a way forward.

Larger Self, Collapsed Time

Kadushin describes Jewish prayer, particularly recitation of a blessing, as “an element in a moral experience,” one that engages an individual’s “larger self.” He notes that many Jewish prayers are in the first person plural, even though the pray-er may not, depending on time and circumstances, have the need expressed in the prayer:

How is it that the individual can regard common needs as “his needs,” even when they are not at the same time his own needs at all?

[In recitation of a blessing] not an actual experience, but the sheer knowledge of a common need of man is now the occasion for an individual’s petition and he regards the common need as his need.

The larger self allows an individual to be aware, poignantly aware, that there are others [for example] who are sick; the awareness is so strong that he associates himself with them, though at the same time retaining his self-identity….Self-identity is retained and material circumstances of the individual have not changed; nevertheless, the self has become larger, more inclusive: large enough to include indefinite others and a consciousness of their needs.
— Max Kadushin, Worship and Ethics: A Study in Rabbinic Judaism. (NY: Bloch, 1963), p.108-109

Kadushin also speaks of prayer collapsing time, so that the travails and delights of the past and a future of blessings we have not yet experienced coalesce in the present. It is in this prayer experience, heavily influenced by language, that the seeds of change are nourished.

We counted 26 on the evening of April 29. Tonight, we count…. Continue reading Consequences, part 2 (beyond 26)

A Prayer and “A Small Needful Fact” (Beyond 20)

To close out this week of Tiferet [“beauty”], the balancing of Chesed [“loving-kindness”] with Gevurah [“strength” or “boundaries”], a few words of prayer and meditation from the early morning service (Koren Saks translation; meditation [mine]) —

May Your loving-kindness be greatly upon me, and in Your might may my enemies and those who rise against me be subdued.
I pray in the spirit of the Talmudic great, Beruriah, who scolded her husband, Rabbi Meir, for praying that “sinners be no more,” insisting instead that he should instead pray that the sins that should be no more. (See Berakhot 10a; Midrash Psalms 118)
— from “Prayers for a Change

— and a thought from Ross Gay on “Split this Rock,” a national network of socially engaged poets:

by Zachary Lynch, mixed media/sgraffito board
by Zachary Lynch, mixed media/sgraffito board
A Small Needful Fact
Is that Eric Garner worked
for some time for the Parks and Rec.
Horticultural Department, which means,
perhaps, that with his very large hands,
perhaps, in all likelihood,
he put gently into the earth
some plants which, most likely,
some of them, in all likelihood,
continue to grow, continue
to do what such plants do, like house
and feed small and necessary creatures,
like being pleasant to touch and smell,
like converting sunlight
into food, like making it easier
for us to breathe.

***
Used with permission.

***Ross Gay is a gardener and teacher living in Bloomington, Indiana. His book, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, is available from University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015.

***
Please feel free to share Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this post, including this request. Thanks! If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.

Shabbat Shalom.

We counted 20 on the evening of April 23. Tonight, we count….
Continue reading A Prayer and “A Small Needful Fact” (Beyond 20)

How Systemic is Our Awareness? (Beyond 19)

What would it mean for reports about Dante Servin, armed off-duty Chicago police officer, and Rekia Boyd, the unarmed 22-year-old citizen he shot to death in March 2012, “to be systemically aware” (see yesterday’s post)?

  • Should we be focusing on a judicial system that let Servin off on a technicality this past Monday (4/20/15)?
  • Should we be focusing on the invisibility of women in the discussion of police killings?
  • Should we be talking about racism in state violence more generally?
  • Or should be we consider the even more fundamental issue of fear?
from BYP100 .org
from BYP100 (Black Youth Project)

Rekia Boyd’s story is not a straightforward example of the “unarmed suspect shot” scenario: Servin was not attempting to arrest Rekia Boyd. He appears to have been reacting to belief that her boyfriend was armed (he wasn’t), complicating any discussion of police response to Black women. Servin defends his actions by invoking police protocol, claiming: “Any police officer especially would have reacted in the exact same manner” (see video in ABC7Chicago story linked above). But he was off-duty, and he shot Rekia Boyd following a complaint about noise because he “feared for his life.” So, really, it comes down to fear….

The badges and guns belong to us

John Domen, 12/8/14,  CBS Local story
John Domen, 12/8/14,
CBS Local story

I symbolically embodied Rekia Boyd during a demonstration at the U.S. Capitol followed by a 4-1/2 hour die-in at the Department of Justice on Human Rights Day, December 8, 2014. I chose her name because she was female (like me) and from Chicago (like me). And while I had already left the city by the time I was 22, I feel some connection with a young woman out with friends on her own streets, maybe forgetting that it was late and time to keep the noise down or maybe just forgetting — as my friends and I did often enough — that there were other people around.

During those long, cold hours on the ground outside the Department of Justice, the following passage — one that has stuck in my brain since I first read it — returned to me again and again:

“…Them shootin’ me wasn’t no accident. You don’t take no scared white boys can’t tell the difference between one black man and another, give ’em guns, and let ’em run around the streets of Harlem and then say it was an accident when they one day shoot down an innocent man….”
— Tempest Landry, speaking post-death in Walter Mosley’s Tempest Tales. (NY: Washington Square Press, 2008.)
see also “Declarations of Independence…”

And, while some sectors, particularly Black media, have certainly addressed the topic many times for decades upon decades, mainstream media is still not asking the most fundamental question:


Why do we allow armed police to roam in areas where they fear the residents?

As Collette Flannigan, mother of Clinton Allen (age 25; killed by Dallas TX police), told “Voices of Grief and Struggle” last December:

 

“Those badges and guns belong to us.

Every time they kill they kill in our name.”

That’s a level of systemic awareness I rarely see and believe we must develop, soon.

We counted 19 on the evening of April 22. Tonight, we count….
Continue reading How Systemic is Our Awareness? (Beyond 19)