It is 3:20am and I am have decided that tomorrow morning I am going to visit the Occupy Boston encampment. I have been following the Occupy Wall Street movement through their website and a barrage of articles, blogs and email posts. I am excited that folks are choosing to speak out radically against what is happening in our country. I have no idea what to expect and at the same time I am worried that I might know exactly what to expect.
In college it was so clear to me that - WITHOUT STRUGGLE THERE IS NO PROGRESS. I envisioned a life of hand-me down furniture and time spent on communal farms and being a freedom singer. I thought that I would be putting my very life on the line for what I believed in. That is what my ancestors did to give me the opportunities I have and that was what I was supposed to do for the next generation. Instead I am writing this from a custom couch built to fit in my condo and I just turned off my flat screen because I thought this was a better way to work out my insomnia rather than watching reality TV shows. And while I did come back to my community to live and work, I have to admit that my life doesn't quite look like I imagined.
The truth is that Occupy looks at lot more like what I envisioned for my life. Going there might make me confront my failure to meet my own expectations of my life of social justice. If that was the only fear then I could march right down there, be in solidarity, give of myself and my privilege and have an epiphany. But my fear actually runs a little deeper.
Growing up I lived in a community where many of the other kids on the street were not doing nearly as well as I was. They called my family the Cosbys because we were the most stable Black family that they knew. Between the constant of poverty, the tumult created by the onset of crack in the 80s and the epidemic of violence that my generation lived through in the 90s, things were not so great in Roxbury when I was coming up. And yet I was surrounded by a strong web of Black families who were determined to both raise their families and serve as pillars in a community that sometimes seemed to be crumbling no matter how tall they stood.
So when I hear Black children associate basic prosperity and quality education with "whiteness" I feel the need to stand and show that we too have a right to the American dream. I want them to see that Black people can have nice homes and stable marriages. I want them to know that being healthy and eating well are not "white" things and that we have just as much right to walk into the fanciest restaurants in Boston and be waited on with courtesy and respect. In part I have constructed my life to be stable so that I can hold up my community. I have tried to become a pillar of my community because I think folks need some solid and stable things to believe in.
So what does all of this have to do with Occupy Boston and Occupy Wall Street?
I admire their desire to call out the economic system. But I worry that these same protestors will not ride a few train stops be in solidarity with many of the folks in my neighborhood of Dorchester who have been screwed by the same banks that they are calling out. I worry that the encampment might not be a welcoming place for the young people who I work with because they haven’t had the privilege to go camping and might now know how to work a tent. I worry that the families I am fighting with and for will be so turned off by the appearance of the protest that they will not hear long enough to connect with the message.
I am going tomorrow because I am drawn to the willingness of people to sacrifice. I am okay with the fact that they do not have an organization, or a spokesperson or a 10 point plan. While all of those things are important and have their place, I have been doing that stuff for a few years now and I have come to see it as important but not the fundamental thing. What I had growing up in that small network of Black families and in our tiny church is what I want to for the world. BELOVED COMMUNITY.
Beloved Community is that thing which Dr. King talked about, which the Zapatistas are living, and it is what I really believe the world needs. To create spaces where all of us are loved and where our love at the local level is so strong that it helps us to love all of our fellow human beings. Beloved Community is the place where we learn to let of our "dog eat dog" mentality and where we make decisions based on our love for each other. Beloved Community is not a place that we can get to through policy changes. We can only get there through being with each other - hanging out, laughing, sharing pictures of our families and talking about the things that really matter. TOGETHER.
So the truth is that I have a lot of hope for what this space can be. The idea of a space of deep community that stands in opposition to deep oppression - that is what I have been looking for and trying to create. I want it so bad and I am already prepared for the fact that it will be a mostly white and mostly young space. I suspect that most folks will come from at least as much privilege as I have. I am not going tomorrow expecting to see utopia. I just want to feel like the other people have as much desire to struggle for radical Beloved community as they do to struggle against the banks. If the desire is there, then I hope I can start to be a bridge builder between some of the folks that have had the privilege to be out there to this point and most of the folks in my hood who don't even know it is happening.
Maybe Occupy can't be and won't be that space. Maybe it will be a huge let down. But at least it has reminded this Black activist woman what she really wants and it is not just another non-profit program. They have reminded me that I still want to cross boundaries to work for the vision that my biggest hero, Jesus, talked about. So now it is 4:20am and my body needs to go to sleep. But my heart has been awakened.............