Even Still

It’s been difficult to write; more difficult than usual.

The news has been especially disturbing as of late, and I can still recall the days when I’d criticize mom for paying attention to the news on television, back when we still had it running in our home. Years later, I find myself in a similar position, unable to look away; scared, angered, and disheveled by the scene on the screen of my laptop all at once.

To make matters more difficult, I don’t know what else I can really say to anyone else at this point. For a long time, my writing’s operated on the premise that I could appeal to reason within others the way others have appealed to the reason within me, but now, I’m not so sure anymore.

Now, I don’t know who’s listening, or if anyone is listening. At the very least, I tell myself, the writing will go on some kind of record, for whatever that might count, except that there are so many records, and they’re all just so terrible. They all just describe a moment of helplessness before the act of a great crime or tragedy against humanity, but they never really contest or fight back against the act of injustice itself; they just merely recount it.

The idea, then, that I can at least write to educate others about injustice to spare them a bit of its cruelty offers little respite from the great sense of disappointment that my efforts of this process have produced thus far. Toni Morrison once said “the purpose of freedom is to free someone else,” but what’s the point of freeing one person’s mind if three times as many will still remain in chains at the end of the day?

Howard Zinn once said “we don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.” I agree, but how can I trust in the millions of this country to create change when the majority of them care more about Black Friday than they do about how black lives matter?

Here though, another quote comes to mind. James Baldwin, on the state of racial injustice in America once said: “I can’t afford despair…you can’t tell the children that there is no hope”. Of course, he’s right. And I guess in this instance, the record is about more than just recording helplessness, but about recording moments of hope just as well.

And how can I not return to hopefulness, when it was just a couple of weeks ago that I said to an audience of students at RFK that despite any evidence to the contrary, we’re all still building this city together? How could I not find encouragement from within, when it was just the other day that I told Carlitos, a neighbor of mine who started ninth grade just this past fall, and who I’ve known since he was three years old, that despite a rough start to the school year, he could still be an astronaut on Mars if he truly wanted to be?

Here, another quote comes to mind, which I remember reading on the screen a few odd years ago: “Existence is resistance.” Unlike so many quotations, this one hit me right away, and I’ve shared it with my friends and loved ones in their times of dismay time and time again. Now, as I recall it from within, it works its same magic again: it lifts me up, and renews me with a sense of freedom from my disorient.

“Existence is resistance.”

Suddenly, in contrast to my initial uncertainty, I feel empowered by the words of the liberation fighters before me; they channel me back to my own voice, so that I can begin anew, and extend the timeless cycle of delivering a message twice as worthy for its having come to light despite originating in darkness: that existence is resistance; that our young people need leaders, and that we have to be the change we hope to see in the world, as I choose to be hopeful rather than not about a better society for all of us. One word and action in perseverance at a time.

After all, I have not yet begun to write; I am only just rising, and for those out there who are listening: stay tuned. I assure you that the best is yet to come.

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