Friday, December 14, 2018

Farewell Gramps (nnanne)

Grandpa's Tribute: 

Also found here

When I found out my grandpa had passed away, I was in San Diego with my comrades fighting against anti-immigration policies, specifically mass deportations. This is when the court rounds up tens of people and orders them to pay an insurmountable bail amount and potential deportation. I had just come out of a meeting and had my phone turned off, cuz security. I had so many missed calls from my sister, parents, best friend, and partner and I was anxious. I get anxious and feel a lot of guilt. Am I putting this movement shit before my family? Did I miss something important? Did something happen and I wasn’t there? Am I not supporting my family in the ways I should? Am I creating harmful boundaries or not having enough boundaries? I am always reacting. I am always on call. Before, I made any calls back, I listened to a voicemail my mom left me crying hysterically telling me to call her back. Finally, I called back and found out the news.

It is because slavery, colonization, imperialism, xenophobia, and anti-immigrant policies that my family is scattered across the globe. For the most part, they are all surviving, struggling, surviving, struggling, surviving, some of us here thriving with the illusion of security. There is a lot of survivors’ guilt that I see in my parents. A guilt fueled by white supremacy making you feel like you are not doing enough even when you are barely hanging on. These perceived class differences drive deep wedges in one’s family dynamic. It fuels insecurity and jealousy. It creates an environment where you are constantly giving while pretending you are good or secure when Lord knows you are constantly trying to hustle. It makes you feel vulnerable to someone else’s misdirected rage. I know my parents have sacrificed a lot. I don’t know how two people have consistently provided for countless people and villages while navigating the economic constraints in this fucked up country. My parents have been in this country for over 40 years, most of their lives.

Luckily, I have had the opportunity to meet both my maternal grandparents (both my paternal died before I was born). I would say my grandfather and I were as close as we could be, given the distance, frequency, and language barriers. He was far from perfect which makes me feel guilty for mourning his lost. Much of who he was and what he represents is staunchly against what I believe in while much of him has shaped who I am and what I represent. That is the reality of family, we live in our contradictions. It is when we sit in our contradictions and discomfort that we are able to liberate ourselves. We have to confront what we often go outside to place blame on or confront. But these very systems live inside of us, they live inside of our homes, they live inside of our families and our communities. He was a chauvinist. He was a patriarch. He was polygamous. I never got to witness his rage and his abuse but I know it was there. I’ve heard the stories and I have seen the impact. And everything he did in some shape or form has shaped my own trauma. My own trauma around family, love, culture.

I am also feeling a sense of guilt for not having talked to him enough, asked him enough questions, spent enough time with him. I feel guilty for not confronting him about a lot of the issues I organize around and the values that uphold. Though I know I have made a tremendous impact on his life and his outlook on his life. I remember telling him that I wanted to have multiple partners of different genders and he said that is fine as long as I am happy. I could have candid, open conversations with him and take him on a debate. He is stubborn. He is a debater. He used to try cases. This is me to the t.

Most of what I know about my culture and history comes from my many interviews and random calls to him. Almost 6 months later, I am still sorting through my feelings and emotions. Every time I see his picture or listen to his old voice mails, I just burst out in tears. I have not felt this type of lost before. Part of it is a complete disruption to my connection to my lineage, history, and culture that he provided a blanket for. Last year, my whole family went home to celebrate my mother’s 60th birthday not knowing this would be the last time I saw him.

One of the most politicizing moments in my life was when I learned about the Aba Women’s Uprising of 1929, where Igbo women from all over Southeastern Nigerian staged numerous protests and disruptions, dancing, singing, burning colonial buildings, sitting on patriarchal and oppressive men, demanding freedom from violence and oppression. Due to my indoctrination, I could not at the time conceptionalize a well organized resistance (the biggest) against British colonial rule by Igbo women. But this history is complicated, because my great-grandfather was a warrant-chief (a title/position/institution these women were fighting against). I have no intention of rewriting or shying away from history because I have the agency and determination to fight against oppressive systems and institutions today. I also know this is one part of my history, from the stories I have learned about my great grandmothers to my time with my maternal grandmother, I know resistance is a large part of that/my struggle.

Today, my grandfather was laid to rest in Umuawa Alaocha, Umuahia, Abia State, Nigeria. I did not attend because money, work, life, and quite frankly I just am not in a space to face that reality.

On June 30, 2018 when I found out my grandpa had died, I knew I was exactly where I needed to be. That day I had disrupted a court hearing and was dragged out, shut down the entrance to immigration courts, and was in the midst of a beautiful for liberation. In those moments, I was transformed and whole. In the struggle fighting so families don’t have to save up thousands of dollars to see each other, so families do have to go through a million holes trying to get papers for everyone, so that families aren’t in-fighting because of lack of resources, so families aren’t experiencing generational trauma, so that gender-based violence can come to a halt, so that there will no longer be borders, so that women don’t become entrapped in violent situations both outside and outside their home. One of our fights for justice is about one’s ability to define family and have the resources and tools to raise families in safe communities, the ability for human beings to connect in ways that are not limited to pre-determined biological binaries and assessments by white scientists.

We all deserve freedom and I appreciate my grandpa for providing the vision, rigor, and analytical tools to connect my stories and experiences beyond what I can physically touch and what seems tangible and real. I am limitless. I represent the limitless of this world.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Vote or Be Shamed

"Vote or Die" 
A Rich Millionaire
Photo via Getty Images

It is that time again where people come out of their 2 year/4 year silence to shame people into voting.

These are the same scare tactics/strategies that people did in 2016 which unsurprisingly got folks to the poll (because voter turnout in 2016 was on par with voter turnout in previous decades) Yet there is this inclination to continue blaming 3rd party/non-voters for the predicament we are in. It is old, boring, tired, and un-motivating.

Stop using your guilt of inactivity to shame others into consolidating their power and their strategies into one largely symbolic day. Our primary strategy cannot be voting especially when the ballot initiatives and candidates are underwhelming and not reflective of what people need or want. The illusion of the two-party system has people excited for this ambiguous "blue wave" when Black people live in largely democratic leadership and have continuously been failed.

I am not here to tell people not to vote or vote because I believe in self determination and community education. AND because so many millions of people have been left out of the voting sphere. My parents did not and could not vote for 30 years of living in this country due to false/violent ideas of "citizenship" and "documentation". The state has no moral authority over who is and who is not worthy or value in this country and in this world. The state does not "grant" people rights. Most "rights" have come after decades of people organizing in the streets. And what is a "right" on paper, if there is no people power on the ground to ensure people's basic needs are being met? What good is a right to vote if people cannot eat? What good is a right to education if people don't have a place to sleep? What good is a right to sit next to a White person if a White person has the ability to gun me down at anytime?

I don't vote for people just because they are Black, queer, woman, immigrant, or whatever identity they have. I also don't rock with the #trustBlackwoman wave because my local governance has Black woman who align themselves with profits over people like me everyday. I care about issues and what types of issues people and organizations will move. Sometimes that aligns with an identity sometimes it does not.

So if you are going to vote, do you research.

Questions to ask yourself :
1) What do I care about and why? What issues do I care about? What issues impact my communities and my friends? What world do I want to live in?

2) What candidates (on every level city council/board of education; not just governor or presidential races) has power over the pockets of money that you care about? Which candidates are easier to hold accountable and organize under (that could very well be NO ONE cuz duh politicians are overwhelmingly corrupt) ? Which candidates will harm your communities and need to get THE FUCK out of office?

3) What ballot initiatives are up and how will they improve the material conditions of people who live in your communities( could be that there are ZERO)? What initiatives will harm your communities?

4) Is your voting tied to a longer term organizing strategy to build power? Are you shaming people into voting "blue" (which means absolutely nothing since Dems have no coherent platform or any sense of moral spine or vision) or are you using this as a strategy to educate people and bring them into your organizations or politicizing them to move their own work?

5) What alliances are you building in order to hold these corrupt/trash politicians accountable once they are in office? Have you done the research and power mapping to know how the elections can shift your organizing?

6) What else do you do besides vote? What does your week to week community and civic engagement look like?

Here are some places to start:
1) READ. READ. Read about the U.S.'s corrupt political system. Read about how people have historically organizing to make changes. Read about alternatives to capitalism and alternatives to the current political system we currently have.

2) Read with other people. Reading in isolation es no bueno. Read and discuss what is happening in the world with other people.

3) Find out what you care about. Are there other organizations working on this issue or do you need to start your own?

4) Create spaces for people to engage in political education and discourse and carve out collective solutions.

5) Research your city budget. Does it reflect your values? Can you pop up at the elected person's house, favorite restaurant, office hours and turn up on them to start prioritizing $$ in ways that meet the material needs of others?

6) Don't have time for organizing or reading? Donate your money to mutual aid projects and organizations. not BIG organizations like Planned Parenthood or ACLU but your local volunteer org that is trying to build power in your city. Because if you can't, they are willing to and need as much as support.

7) Attend your local city or council council meetings. Figure out what is happening and how you can interrupt that, educate the masses, and bring more people into your orgs/movements.

8) Build your own alternatives. People are farming and teaching others how to farm, people are creating child care cooperatives, people are creating doula, people are creating underground economies to meet their basic needs. Folks are teaching each other how to have abortions in the home, giving out free testing, etc. Create or join a collective that is doing this work to reimagine a new world.

9) Run for local office ( if you are so ecstatic about the electoral process; do something more than just voting and run for office if thats your theory of change)

10) Show out for calls of action. When people say pack the court, show up. When people need a ride to their jobs, show up. When people need you to jam the phone lines, show up. When people need you to occupy a school building, show up. The Women's March is dandy and all but are you showing up for lower asks when people are trying to hold police accountable? when people are stopping the closure of a maternity health center? when people are trying to close down a youth jail?

I can make a longer list and I am at a space in my organizing where I am able to engage people who have questions.