Monday, February 22, 2016

Activism Then, Activism Now

I began my Sunday by listening to On Being, as I do most Sundays.  Krista Tippett interviewed 2 people who are activists, but of different types.  Patrisse Cullors is a founder of the Black Lives Matter movement and Dr. Robert Ross has been doing amazing thinking and work in the field of public health.

He said this about young offenders:  ". . . why do we have juvenile incarceration at all, period, for anybody in this country? And so, again, we are criminalizing sick, traumatized, oppressed children early. This is powerfully spiritual, important work upon which the future of this nation rests. And I think it calls upon us to bring the best of the total experience of our best selves to the table. We can’t mail it in on addressing inequality in this nation. Each of us is going to have to bring the best of ourselves to the equation. Not just the best of ourselves, but the best of ourselves in unity and in coalition."

He talked about how our current Zero Tolerance approach puts young children on a path to jail--as Dr. Ross put it, zero tolerance is "the portal to the incarceration superhighway."

Because it's a show on spirituality, Krista Tippett brought us this nugget:  "I heard something that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. At the American Academy of Religion meeting this year, which is, like, 12,000 theologians, Ruby Sayles, one of these women whose name we don’t remember, talked about how — she said none of us considered ourselves to be religious in the way our parents or grandparents were. There was a lot of religion, but we were rejecting so much of what we’d grown up with. We didn’t think that defined us. And we only realized later that even though that was true, we were steeped in that tradition, in the hope, in the sense of love, in the songs, in the community. We had our armor on. And she said, and then, we became involved in policy and we sent our children out into the empire without their armor on."

Patrisse Cullors pointed out that many youth today are not welcome in their churches, because of their activism and because so many of them are queer.  She also pointed out the patriarchy of the black church.  But she handed it graciously by saying this, "But that hasn’t stopped us from being deeply spiritual in this work. And I think, for us, that looks like healing justice work, the role of healing justice, which is a term that was created probably about seven or eight years ago, and was really looking at how, as organizers, but also as people that are marginalized, that are impacted by racism and patriarchy, that are impacted by white supremacy, how do we show up in this work as our whole selves? How do we be in it as our best selves, and how do we look at the work of healing?"

It was a well-balanced show, an interesting look at where activism is now.  To hear it or to read the transcript, go here.

Later yesterday, I watched the new documentary on the Black Panthers--activism then.  I found it fascinating, but despite it's length, lacking.  I wanted more on the formation, on the community building, on the interaction with the other activist groups.  But I also realize that a 2 hour documentary can't do everything.

I would love a follow up documentary with the surviving Panthers.  Many of them were interviewed, but they were speaking about the past.  I'd like to know what they're doing now.  I'd like to know what that intense activism at a young age meant for them as they moved into their 60's and beyond.

I'd love to know what their spiritual lives look like, and whether or not their early activism shaped that.  But that, too, would be a subject for a different documentary again.

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