Must The Children Lead Us?

To the other alleged adults critiquing the Parkland survivor-activists:

They are not yet adults. Chronologically, you are. They’re not supposed to, and couldn’t possibly know everything they need to get through life, much less take responsibility for changing society. That they are taking it on and doing so with courage and considerable clarity, is laudable and should humble a great many adults who see and complain about the problems, but have done little to shake this society out of the stupor and fear that holds it in thrall and leaves us vulnerable to charlatans, violence, and greed.

Who these young activist-leaders will be, their lifelong allegiances, etc. have yet to be fully determined. They are now responding to tragic violence that shook their lives and took the lives of friends and schoolmates. They are fearless in part because of their youth, but they are also fearless because they just survived a small massacre that should never have happened. They are angry, they are mobilized, they have purpose. It doesn’t make them perfect or demons, it makes them human and it makes them a force to be reckoned with.

Historically, revolutionaries come from every class. Most workers are no more revolutionary than the capitalists they work for. People occasionally wake up (or are awakened) and once they really do, they move to throw off the shackles of oppression where they find it: in the family, by race, gender, or class. If one is really awake, there is no choice. Stasis becomes intolerable and one must act to change the situation and circumstances.

To expect middle class high school kids who’ve been suddenly traumatized by murders to have done a realpolitik or other sophisticated analysis of their own class socialization is ridiculous. Most adults never have, so why expect it of them? Who were you in high school? How woke did you think you were and then how old were you before you realized you had just been turning over in your sleep?

These kids can’t go back to sleep. For better or worse, they’ve joined the millions of other traumatized, woke or awakening young folk from various walks of life. The difference is, these kids have a platform that allows them to be heard. You didn’t listen to the Black and Indigenous and Latino and and various other kids who’ve been victimized by violence for, oh, centuries. But you can see and hear these kids and apparently, that an uncomfortable situation that you’re bracing against. I get that, I just don’t care about your comfort. I’ve never believed in unrequited love and have little concern for those who display no concern for others. So take a proverbial chill pill, do some self reflective analysis and ask yourself why you’re so heavily invested in (figuratively) shooting these young people down? There are always critiques to be made, but when, how, and to what purpose are good questions to ask before jumping on the media blitz.

Again: adults should have done the work and adults should be picking up the slack now. If you don’t trust these kids, teach them in solidarity, otherwise you’re not far different than the conservative “critics” who practice overtly divisive tactics. It’s simple: lead, follow, or sit down quietly, out of the way of those who are doing the work.

And to those who think these kids are the group messiah: they’re not. Do your own work, stop waiting for saviors, and stop putting it all on a group of very bright, very courageous, but also very young, traumatized youths.

Everybody, please grow up.

Sainthood Not Required

This was inspired about two weeks ago by a friend who seemed to want to control my memories. I think it’s pretty common, but it rubs me the wrong way. I understand not allowing outright lies or even disrespect, but no matter how close we are to folks, we know them differently than do others.

I’m sure my dubious reputation as a relatively friendly, fairly feisty, determined-to-be curmudgeonly crank is in no danger, but I want you to promise me that after I’m dead, you will not forget those contrasts in my personality. I promise that I will haunt you if you try to cover me with false ideas of perfectionism.

Don’t diminish me by glossing over my less than wonderful traits: I worked hard to learn how to speak up for myself, to curse, and to embrace anger. I like my sometimes twisted humor and have no desire to be portrayed in a one dimensional, sanctified way. I don’t want to be silenced in life and I don’t want the silence of the tomb to be the end of the complex human that I will have been. I can accept that I might be entirely forgotten- I’ve done nothing that rates immortality- just don’t make me over, for however long my name conjures up a picture in anyone’s mind. Enjoy the contradictory stories and opinions: consensus is not required, I changed over my lifetime and treated various people differently. I am as I can/should be.

My mistakes are mine

My struggle remains real

It took many years for me to recognize the inherent violence in perfectionism and ideologies of “sweetness” and being “good” that are thrust most particularly upon women, but just as damagingly, on the various subaltern peoples in societies that hold fast to the notion that we are inferior and must therefore strive harder to be better. It is a dehumanizing concept that supports racism and the institutionalized oppression of the many people who are literally beaten into simplistic characterizations, whether it be the “thug” or the “model minority.” Every stereotype is a diminishment of the complexities of human lives and a deterrent to human be-ing.

So have the laughs remembering the stupid things I did (please never forget jumping from a horse at a fairly high speed or crossing streams by swinging from vines in Dominica- I did that!) or the petty, snarky (yet hopefully witty) comments. Remember the failure to sometimes be there in some way when I might have been needed; the (many) times I ditched social events in favor of solitude. Maybe I’ve helped a few people, certainly I’ve hurt some. I hope I’ve been kind more often than not: I admire gentle souls and see the immaturity in my own restless, sometimes thoughtless spirit. I abhor liars, phonies, and respectability politics, but respect good bullshit, a well told story, and politeness. I’ve been blessed to have a couple of friends who’ve loved me enough to “pull my coattails” when I’ve gotten too narrowly focused or have been just plain wrong, and I can only hope that they’ll outlive me and keep anyone inclined to whitewash my memory from spoiling the party or trading in real memories for Disneyfied bull. Don’t try to control the way others who knew me saw me: they have their stories, their own relationships. But thanks for wanting to come to my defense, I appreciate the love.

I want my life to reflect my growth, my human be-coming, and memories of me should do no less. If you were lucky enough to have had the Anjana Experience, accept no substitute!

#Popeye ain’t got nothing on me.

PS I do expect to be around for another twenty years, so please don’t get freaked out and call me or start eulogizing me now. Respect the rant for what it is!

International Women’s Day

On International Women’s Day, I saluted my mom, a good representative of all the women who struggle to raise and educate healthy children and provide them with the tools needed to deal with racism and other obstacles in life. She was one of the countless women who cook, clean, and iron; care for elders; help raise neighborhood children in need, as well as helping with their grandchildren. The neighborhood women who garden for food & beauty; pick, pickle & can what they grow for winter meals; cook from scratch, every single day; work outside the house to pay for “extras” like art supplies, swimming & piano lessons, sports gear, etc.

Women who believed that love was shown, not spoken, but sometimes spoke it just for our sakes. A woman who loved music but only shyly sang; who baked for pleasure and to express love, a true homebody, yet my mother also boldly fought for us, privately and publicly. She would fight police for our sakes but made it clear that if we ever wound up in jail, she’d only visit if we were serious political prisoners “on the level of MLK and Malcolm, honey, or else you’d better stay out of trouble!” Still, when I was involved in protests, she sent food. She worried for the occupiers on Alcatraz like they were her own children, but her eyes watered with pride that The People were standing up in that way again.

She read constantly, mostly for pleasure and to better understand how to maneuver around the systems that oppressed her and threatened her loved ones. She supported other women who struggled, taught me the history of unions and suffrage, and honored the likes of folk like Harriet Tubman,Paul Robeson, Helen Keller, Mary McLeod Bethune, Ida B. Wells, Marian Anderson, and for her, “St.” Fannie Lou Hamer. I grew up knowing the real stories of Native America, and what we were being told at school was supplemented with the stories of her people. We were taught to be respectful, but question outside authority, especially institutions. She was an introvert who cared about people and showed up for them and made herself fierce on behalf of what was right. She was also humble enough to apologize when wrong and try to step outside of her comfort zone to “walk a mile in another person’s moccasins.”

Mom was one of those millions upon millions of women who go unrecognized outside of their families: women who did not gladly suffer fools, were seldom “sweet”, but were always “good.” That legion of women who always tried to do what they thought was right for their families and the world. Women who understood at the core of their beings that we are all related.

She is the spirit of a billion women we honor today and should honor every day. We aspire to their strength and love and devotion.


Pẹlu ọlá ati ọwọ: às̩e̩