Tuning into the noise or the signal, and knowing the difference

Sometimes, it’s hard to shut out the noise and focus on the signal – what’s actually important. Each day, our inboxes, Facebook pages, twitter feeds and other social media platforms flood our hearts and minds with urgency. Each post is a call to justice, or public shaming, and draws our attention toward the spectacle that is before us. Each is an appeal to our conscious, an appeal that reminds us that things are not as they used to be. The more our social media feeds tell us what is important, the more we see, believe and relate that importance to our own way of thinking and quite possibly to our lives. So when I’m asked to think about what compels me, or what moves me to agitation or action, my first thought takes me to how I came to learn about what I want to change, how and why is it important to me. Can I separate the noise from the signal or am I just reacting over and over again to what I see on the planet of 1 billion strong called Facebook? With such a juggernaut behind our thoughts and feelings about today’s world, I think it important to really think about this question, and how we relate to our own consciousness, because it does indeed affect us. I like to believe I am immune, but I am not. I inhabit planet Facebook.

So what is my signal? What do I think is a matter of importance worth fighting for? I sit here with tears in my eyes as I write this. Love. Love is what I fight for. Love is what black mothers fight for.

When we take away all of the different words we use to describe what it is black women want and care about – it is love. As black mothers are liberated from oppression in all its forms, our liberation will envelop and heal our country. The centuries old wounds that black mothers have endured have yet to be healed and are barely acknowledged.  I come from centuries of women who have experienced loss of their children being sold, killed in their bellies, and as mothers could not respond to basic needs expressed by our babies for fear of punishment. Black mothers could not find ways to nurture our children, advocate for our children, or to really be mothers to our own children in the way that many people have taken for granted for centuries. We were wet nurses and tended to our master’s children while our own children were neglected. We have fought for love, to strengthen our bonds with our children and families despite this. We struggle to be mothers not living and mothering under the threat of violence. Those centuries of experiences stain our mothering to this day and are perpetuated in various forms. We are still unpacking those survival-based coping strategies that kept our children and families safe. We still mother under surveillance.

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Healing can only be rendered through justice and justice can only be rendered through liberation. Once we get to love, we get to the unenforceable laws that Dr, King wrote about in his final book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? Unenforceable laws speak to the ways that we understand and employ justice beyond what is legislated. Unenforceable laws are the laws of love and justice. When these laws are enacted, then black women will be able to love. Truly love. The ways that black women organize help to facilitate a journey to love. Black women know better than most that the journey to love is often paved with broken promises, pain, struggle, and resilience. Activist Erica Garner did so until her last breath, as countless others have. It is a bridge toward our reclamation of our own humanity.

We organize through use of food, the arts, music, inclusive organizing practices, and using circle work to be clear about pain, suffering, loss, and anger. Creating spaces through organizing work where acknowledgement of differential power dynamics and oppression exists are spaces where we can disrobe from the all of the signals that teach us to bury pain, loss, anger, and suffering. No justice seeking campaign is complete without these spaces being created. They take time, but that time is necessary. It’s exhausting, but what is more exhausting is living and dying at the same time. And black mothers engaging in organizing work are sick of living and dying at the same time. Doing so is cutting our lives short and our quality of life down to little or nothing. Nina Simone put it best in her song, “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free”.

I wish I knew how
It would feel to be free
I wish I could break
All the chains holdin’ me
I wish I could say
All the things that I should say

Say ’em loud, say ’em clear
For the whole ’round world to hear
I wish I could share
All the love that’s in my heart
Remove all the thoughts
That keep us apart

I wish you could know
What it means to be me
Then you’d see and agree
That every [wo]man should be free

I wish I could give
All I’m longin’ to give
I wish I could live
Like I’m longin’ to live
I wish I could do
All the things that I can do
Though I’m way overdue
I’d be starting anew.

Well I wish I could be like a bird in the sky
How sweet it would be
If I found I could fly
I’d soar to the sun
And look down at the sea
And I’d sing ’cause I know
How it feels to be free

Aluta Continua…


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