Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Stand Up To Live

I was recently asked where my interest in activism originated. I never really thought about it, but I replied my thoughts on the fact that, I think, some people are just born with an activist's mind and spirit. I know the things that I am passionate about, and I am very firm in my convictions, but a lot of my beliefs are very different from those of my family members, and even some of my close friends. And they've always been.

I've always been interested in Black leadership and human civil rights. I've always been crazy enough to believe that if enough of us wanted to make change happen, it will happen. I've always believed that if you aren't willing to speak out and against wrongdoing, then you are silently allowing it to happen. I've constantly spoken about my proud roots in nerdom; but I think that intelligence without the willpower to motivate any form of change or without the slightest bit of social labor is meaningless and selfish. Henry David Thoreau said: "How vain is it that you have sat down to write when you have not stood up to live." This is one of my favorite quotes. I love applying it to politics and the rule-makers, especially in the ongoing debate on health care, because many of the people who are in charge don't know the needs of the people because they've not been there. I do think that writing is a beautiful form of activism; blogging is still an evolving process. To inspire people who have traditionally cared little about moving forward in resolving the issues of the world is one of the most fantastic things about the internet. Sure, you have to push past a lot of bullshit before you get down to the good stuff, but it's there and people are, at the very least, becoming advocates in their minds; delivering words of encouragement, motivation, revolution. People should do what they can, and if writing is all that they are able to do, so be it.

In the last year, I met two of my sister-inspirations. On separate occasions, I met SisterLegend Angela Davis and SisterWarrior (heh, I stole that from her) Aishah Shahidah Simmons. Over the course of my life, several other sister-inspirations that aren't "famous"(?) for their social activism have come into my life and I've always been attracted to forcing change and balance into a world that has, for too long, lacked both qualities. Many people don't know that I was considering studying History in school (after my stint as both a Music and Creative Writing Major). I always enjoyed learning about slavery and civil rights in school, and you know what? I've never had a problem arguing with my teacher about the supposed "truth" that they fed me versus what my Dad schooled me on at home.

I wish I could say I developed this spirit in high school or college like most people I know (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that), but the truth is I've thrown my fist in the air without regard to when and where; I've burned a bra before I wore one. Even though my mother chose to straighten my hair when I was young, I've eternally internally maintained the spirit of my nappy roots (and proved it when I cut my long, straight hair off in high school).

Why should anybody else care to be an activist?

1. It not only helps the people who need it, but it improves the quality of life for people who do not directly benefit from it.
2. It's a challenge, and something that people can commit to for the rest of their lives.
3. For the next generation.
4. For the generation that has yet to be born; who wants to bring children into a world stuck in social desolation?
5. Because Black people/women people/bi-gay-lesbian-trans(sexual AND gendered) people/Immigrants (legal or otherwise)/Native Americans (who were here before any of us)/poor people/abused persons/children/victims of crime/people who are looking to change their lives after committing crime/the religious AND secularists/atheists/religious minorities/any other disadvantaged group of people are still people. It doesn't matter if you "don't agree" or think it's "okay as long as they keep _____ away from you"; disagreeing isn't your business and by contending that someone else can live a certain way as long as you don't have to see it forces people into boxes and closets.
6. It could always get worse.
7. If you allow it to get worse, you could be directly affected.
8. Being complacent in a situation where you have and always directly benefited only makes you a perpetrator of the wrongdoing.
9. If you don't care now, will you care when things get drastically worse?
10. What did the historically disadvantage fight for? For THIS?! Would they be disappointed?
11. The progress that has been made is great, but is it enough?
12. Your great-great-great-grandmothers were slaves , Black people (not even that many "greats" for some people). And white people, you are also related to this slave; you know why? Because your direct great-great-great-grandmothers were nursed by her and your great-great-great-grandfather raped her and had kids with her too.
13. Because people are still discussing whether or not the first Black President is a citizen, only to avoid saying flat out that they don't think he's capable because of his skin color.
14. Because no great movement is a movement of one person; they have to have back-up to move forward against the people who don't want them to.
15. Because there is a Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.
16. Because far too many people are unaware of their rights!
17. Because the media disproportionately reports crimes occurring to young, single, white, females far more than they report Black women that have gone missing.
18. I know if feels safe to not be involved and not feel obligated to question what is spoon fed to you, but I know seven words that should dissuade any person's complacency: Who is in control of your mind?
19. The "big" movements were not that long ago; my mother was a young child when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.
20. We take for granted the little things that we have in life, like clean air and water.
21. The world's natural disasters are scary enough without having to be concerned about whether or not people respect you behind closed doors.
22. To teach someone who "doesn't know better" to feel, think, and act better.
23. Because hate speech motivates hate acts, especially among those who aren't able to distinguish the difference between reality and entertainment.
24. Because if we continue to fight each other, the job of the person that expects failure from us is done without much effort on his/her own part.
25. Because far too much bullshit gets taken seriously (and as such, serious issues are regarded as bullshit and, eventually, ignored).
26. The people who are really in charge (forget all that official stuff) are more concerned about their money than your rights.
27. Because people are ingesting toxic food daily, and fast-food chains and supermarkets are allowing it to happen.
28. All people are still not regarded as equal in the eyes of the law!
29. For the people who have died on death row before advancements in DNA evidence, and for people who are STILL being exonerated. I met a death row exonoree two years ago and it changed my life. How the fuck would you feel after you've been on death row for over 18 years for a crime that you had absolutely nothing to do with?
30. Because people still use religion as a reason to harm other people.
31. Female genital mutilation.
32. Because so many people don't even know that there are conflicts and civil wars currently happening that people do not know about.
33. People still think that only gay men can contract and spread HIV/AIDS.
34. Because I have been called a nigger in my lifetime. I was three, and it was by my three-year-old white best friend who, by the way, was the daughter of a preacher.
35. Because even if I didn't know gay people, I'd still have sense enough to know that they are people.
36. Because minorities are disproportionately affected by the recession.
37. Because when I began typing "Black people" in my google search, the first prediction was "Black people jokes". Word?

38. Women only gained the right to vote in 1920. That's less than 100 years ago.
39. Rosa Parks was not the first or only arrested for refusing to give her seat up to white people; she's just the most famous. If it weren't for the others, though, Rosa wouldn't have become such an influence. Believe that.
40. Because of police brutality.
41. Because people who take rape jokingly are laughing all the way to to bank, while you're broke and laughing at their tv shows.
42. Violence against women starts young and often goes unreported.
43. Because being involved with something positive is the right thing to do.
44. Activists and advocates live longer because they feel as though they have something to stick around for.
45. Thousands of people are killed by drunk drivers every year.
46. Because life is beautiful; how do you know how good yours is if you don't know how bad it has the potential to be?
47. To be someone's role model. I love feeling like I've inspired someone, and it's an even better feeling when they tell you that you have.
48. To be remembered when your time is up.
49. Because democracy is defined by nearly every source who knows the word as: a political government either carried out directly by the people or by means of elected representatives of the people.
50. Because if you don't stand for something, you're bound to fall for anything. And fighting doesn't have to be physical to make an impact.

Be Righteous.

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