Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Letter to a Community In Need Of Healing

"During the search for Christopher Dorner, and subsequent confrontation and murder, I thought often about Larry Davis.  I concentrated on the fact that in mist of the media and journalistic efforts to characterize him as a scourge, and contextualize him as practically an enemy of the state, one key point had been dropped from the mainstream's narrative: the allegation of corruption and police misconduct in the LAPD.  
This erasure coupled with the odd mixed messaging around the cabin fire believed to have taken Dorner's life.  The sum of this situation, has pushed me to reflect on my views and understandings of  criminality; justice; power; violence; and healing.  It has led me into critical intellectual engagement with the ideas, practices, and compositions of family, community, and law enforcement--the things that are supposed to mediate.  It also has become a point in time that is strained  onto my consciousness, where racial history and experience confronts the impact of systems and present day socio-economic conditions.
I sent the trailer of a soon to be released documentary on Davis' life to a friend.  I then wrote a follow up email to to reflect on all this; to try to make sense of it.  I share it here, with a few edits, as a letter to our community in name of historical memory, healing, and strengthening." 

I grew up hearing that story. Crazy.  When people do not understand my trepidation with law enforcement and the criminal justice system, I have to explain that it is not because I am an apologist for those who commit crimes.  

My angst is around this history of practicing corruption and the usage militaristic strategies and tactics to unjustly destroy communities and ruin lives. In combination with the lives destroyed by the drugs themselves (both street dealers and the White operatives that facilitated and profited from distribution), we cumulatively have:

1. fractured families 
2. missing parents
3. psychological trauma
4. stigmatized communities

This has become multi-generational. Me and you see it now, almost two generations later, when we are trying to figure out why so many young people are directionless, why so many adults make such poor decisions and set such a poor example, and why the character and will does not exist within our people en mass.  And that those who have not become overwhelmed by the above are the outliers, and not the median. 

Broken homes; traumatized people; disrupted relationships between parents, children, families, adults, and communities.  
How to understand this?  How to think about beginning to strengthen the positives that exists, scaling them up, while also filling gaps and addressing persistent problems?
It makes me think about the Panthers, because their analysis was systemic, and they engaged in "wrap-around" services before social policy popularized it. From free breakfast, to community education, to health care.
It makes me think about Malcolm because he had a comprehensive analysis, and multifaceted rebuilding and strengthening program.
It makes me think about Tupac, because he too had a comprehensive analysis; and around the time of his passing, was expressing what a multifaceted empowerment program would look like with him at the lead.

It makes me remember anti-colonialist thinkers and activists. 

It is not because they were radical or oppositional, that their work and thought endures.  It is not just romanticism and being arrested by the past.  Rather, it is that they cohesively explained and understood how all the parts matter--it was not just economic, or just cultural.  The entire social prism; the entire life experience; they strove to learn about each component, and then developed strategies and actionable steps to address it.   The approach is a model for us.  It is the right frame.  We just are looking at different picture; one altered by the events of the last three decades of the post-Black Freedom Movement.

So we look for models of people in this current moment, who are working on framing and changing the current picture. People like ____ are trying to rebuild and heal. Me and you are spending what must be the equivalent of weeks on g-chat talking through our ideas about what might be the causes and problems and solutions.  And we read and think about what to do about this mess; like where to start.  And then we volunteer, and listen, and reflect, as we try to grapple with what to do with our thoughts and our lessons-learned.

But we have a macro system that isn't invested in improvement, healing, and empowerment. We have a structure not designed to do those things either.  It is premised on social inequality, and its strongest feature is its ability to reproduce itself.  Which makes this observation saddening: our folks haven't had the clarity and balance to stop making it worst; to stop adding self-inflicted wounds to these problems. It makes what you and I want to achieve challenging. But thinking about this as a whole, it does not overwhelm me.  Instead, it just reminds me how deep it is, and that it will take time.  The project is big.  We just gotta keep getting tools, keep working, and remembering that it takes time.

Let's keep shining.