As always, I'd like to begin by offering peace and respect to all. I have not posted an original writing in a long while, but the timing seemed right. Today the trial of the Oakland police officer that killed unarmed Oscar Grant was set to start. This past weekend, Oakland erupted again when four police officers and a young man were shot and killed in a standoff. Many call it karma. Others call it war. Maybe it’s a sign of the crossroads to come, where the path chosen will lead to either deception and war…or truth and peace. Recently I’ve received some messages with this sentiment from Shamako Noble of Hip Hop Congress: War is Deception. Peace is the Truth.
This essay will be different than most. I want to examine this sentiment in light of recent events in Oakland and what our reaction should be to them through a visual and textual essay of words and ideas. Video clips and quotations will be incorporated throughout to paint a picture of struggle and resistance, philosophy and strategies.
How do we fight for our rights when others are killing us to deny them? How do we choose the right(eous) path when the war path may be an easier way to freedom? No justice, no peace rings true.
Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. - Frederick Douglass
You have to understand
That people have to pay the price for peace.
If you dare to struggle you dare to win.
If you dare not struggle then god damn-it you don’t deserve to win.
Let me say peace to you if you’re willing to fight for it. – Fred Hampton
Fighting for our humanity is not optional. No lasting peace is possible without full human rights for all. The police state our communities have been subjected to denies our humanity. We are treated as suspects. When we are shot in the back (unarmed), there is no mainstream outcry. When a white woman is killed by her rich black husband and he gets off by working the system, a nation never forgets and finds a way to make him pay, even a decade later. Where is the same public outrage when a black man spends 20+ years in jail for a crime he was railroaded for by a racist sheriff? No outcry…just silence. No wonder there is resentment and distrust.
We are capable of bearing a great burden,
Once we discover that the burden is reality
And we arrive where reality is. – James Baldwin
Malcolm X: No progress
It is no surprise that Oakland would be the crossroads in this struggle for humanity. Oakland birthed the Black Panther Party for Self Defense (BPP). Malcolm X’s assassination birthed the BPP. The BPP and Malcolm X addressed the police state head on and provide a framework to understand the fire this time.
Malcolm X: Police and Criminals
A true student of Malcolm X knows he never advocated violence, and lived his life by rule of law and a code of morality. His fight was a human rights struggle and he believed all had the right to their humanity and to protect that right when threatened…by any means necessary.
Malcolm X: On Violence
The BPP actually used the language of the Declaration of Independence as inspiration at the party’s inception. Huey P. Newton studied law to empower people with knowledge of their rights under the law when practiced as written. The BPP challenged the police state oppressing our communities (or the racist pigs as they often referred to them) but never advocated violence as a solution. Self Defense and understanding human rights as defined by international law was the foundation of BPP ‘s revolutionary struggle. Law was never the enemy…it was the weapon of choice.
In his note on the recent Oakland shootings, hip hop journalist Davey D describes a scene at a concert of crowds cheering when news of the police shootings were announced.
If this is war, I guess, it makes sense for the embattled to cheer a “victory”…enemy down.
But is celebrating more death really a victory?
For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? – Matthew 16:26
It is scarcely worthwhile to attempt remembering how many times the sun has looked down on the slaughter of the innocents. I am very much concerned that American Negroes achieve their freedom here in the United States. But I am also concerned for their dignity, for the health of their souls, and must oppose any attempt that Negroes make to do to others what has been done to them. I think I know - we see it every day – the spiritual wasteland to which the road leads. It is so simple a fact and one that is so hard, apparently, to grasp: Whoever debases others is debasing himself. That is not a mythical statement but a most realistic one, which is proved by the eyes of an Alabama sheriff – and I would never like to see Negroes ever arrive at so wretched a condition. – James Baldwin
James Baldwin: On Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the American race question
In the end, universal law dictates all. We reap what we sow. I once heard Julianne Malveux tell a story: Someone asked her if the weight of being a descendent of slaves and that oppression was a burden. She answered: "better to be a descendent of slaves than slave masters". The righteous will be okay because they are have always been on the right side of the struggle...that is why some enslaved Africans were freer than their masters...and could sing and dance and smile and laugh and survive and LIVE under the most oppressive conditions. Our moral flame guides us through our darkest hours, and will lead us to the truth…peace.
So “be against nothing...just be clear what you are for" (Iyanla Vanzant). When we concentrate on what we are against (racism, sexism, white supremacy, capitalism, fascism, homophobia, etc.) we frame the struggle in terms of negatives and sooner or later can lose the true purpose of the
Life is your right..so we can't give up the fight..get up stand up - Bob Marley
...If we frame the struggle in terms of life affirming principles - peace, justice, love, and sustenance, our eyes remain on the prize, and our moral authority is the compass that will guide us down the right(eous) path.
Martin Luther King Jr.: Nonviolent Resistance
And I hope that each one of you will be able to die in the international proletarian revolutionary struggle and then be able to live in it.
And I think that struggles going to come.
Why don’t you live for the people.
Why don’t you struggle for the people.
Why don’t you die for the people. – Fred Hampton.
In our struggle against those that deny our humanity, and the impulses to compromise our own morality, let us DARE to pay the price for peace.
DARE…to exhibit moral clarity.
DARE…to define our humanity.
DARE…to face reality.
DARE… to love.
War is Deception. Peace is the Truth.