Monthly Archives: July 2009

Oakland, birthplace of the Black Panther Party

this work at SOUL has got my gaze returned on movement building and my spirit returned to the gospel of community organizing. it really is the way out of this mess of a world. the world that we want really is in the untwisting and unmangling of the current one. it’s not like i didn’t believe this before. i don’t just want to be an individual artist doin my thing tryin to get mine. i don’t want to look away. i want to know how the peasants in brazil’s countryside take back the land through occupation. i want to understand how the tomato pickers in Florida fought and won against Taco Bell for better wages and conditions. i want to know how South African Freedom Fighters kept their spirits strong during apartheid with the music of their people. i want to honor, shed tears and speak the names of the warriors who have died fighting for this vision of a better world, the ones who never even made it out the prison cell.

we’re going on a self-guided Black Panther Party Tour tomorrow in Oakland. I’ve been preparing the route for the past few days, doing research on significant places in Oakland where the Party left their mark. i’ve always known this place was the birth of the Panthers, but in the past couple days I’ve been hella struck by their legacy and feeling their power. It’s making me look at every block in Oakland again, knowing that this whole city was a war zone between the Panthers and the cops. That on so many blocks, members were murdered, that panthers fired back, that these battles are the realest thing i know of about these streets being our streets beyond a chant at a march or some gang turf bullshit. and then i knew that the panthers had serve the people programs, but i had no idea how many. At least twenty. Free shoes program, free grocery program, optometry, safety for seniors, etc etc.

i’m trippin of the thousands upon thousands of layers that fall upon a land and how a movement of people with a unified vision leave an entirely different kind of layer than anything an individual might. Tomorrow we’ll go to the Alameda County courthouse where the Huey Newton trial took place. We’ll stop by the church where the free breakfast program started. We’ll stop on the block where the youngest panther member, Bobby Hutton was murdered by the police. It makes me hella sad knowing that all these places where we’re going we will not be able to see these things with our eyes. That we’ll be standing in front of vacant lots, slowly gentrified neighborhoods, no evidence of greatness. But I realize that I don’t need eyes to see. That is what blows me away. I am a part of the Panther legacy. The work that I’m doing this summer, the interns in SOUL’s summer school, SOUL as an organization, all of this and more would not be as it is if the Panthers would never have graced and stormed these city blocks, the nation, this world. This is the first time I am properly paying tribute and my heart spills over with love and gratitude.

“Settle your quarre;s, come together, understand the reality of our situation, understand that fascism is already here, that people are dying who could be saved, that generations more will die or live poor butchered half-lives if you fail to act. Do what must be done, discover your humanity and your love in revolution.” -George Jackson


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the science of nature

i just finished watching Pan’s Labyrinth after coming home to an empty apartment after a long long day at work. Losing my voice and got a mean headache. Poor Ophelia. She got a raw deal. Stuck in Franco’s Spain surrounded by murder murder murder kill kill kill. So she escaped into fairy world and magic. Got lost in the woods where the guerrillas were hiding. And in the end she died but her last thoughts were of the fantasy world and so that is where her spirit went on to.

I don’t have any elaborate belief of the things beyond this world. The science of nature feels like magic to me often enough to think that there’s no need to believe in gods. No need to personify the moon, the sun, the ocean, the sky, the earth. They are powerful and relatable as they are and I feel their forces everyday.

But then again, I pray. Most times to God. I pray just about everyday in some form or another. When I imagine my prayers, they float upwards like dandelion seeds. They travel anywhere in an instant though when I picture them they are slow and drifting. When I pray for someone in particular I imagine they find their way directly to their hearts and land there like miniature astronauts on the moon, bouncing up and down on the surface of his or her chest. Something like that. The point is, it physically reaches them. Maybe my prayers go straight to God first in a little red drawstring pouch and God blesses them. Maybe then God opens the pouch by its string and turns it upside down into the world like emptying lint from a pocket. i think of my prayers like little tiny pieces, flecks of love without shine or grace. Just a drifting thing that wants to make itself useful. A way for my heart to mingle with the science of nature without getting in the way.

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