Hmmm. Revolution. It's a term thrown around in left-y circles as loosely as potluck and poetry. Truth be told, I feel like we've strayed far away from its original intentions. I'm not here to give you the Webster definition though -- I think North Africa and the Middle East are demonstrating that louder than we ever could've imagined in this decade. In keeping up with the coverage of what's happening in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, seeing the youth spearhead these uprisings through technology, seeing women fearless and boldly unafraid, refusing to accept nothing less than HUMAN RIGHTS, I have to wonder, where's our revolution?
It's not like we're incapable. We have these extremely firey minds, hands, politics, groups, workshops, rallies, organizations, and conferences, but I have to admit, I've become increasingly disenchanted with our "movements". Simply stated, we talk a GOOD game. We talk at workshops endlessly, addressing every -ism and injustice in the book, but it seems like there's never enough talking to take place in these 2-6 hr long fragments and breakout groups. Some folks even feel like no real work happens outside of non-profits. This is troubling, as every non-profit across this country is teetering on their own survival, applying for many of the same grants to foundations that are concerned with the "hot button issue" of the moment, treating crucial social justice issues as "flavors of the month". One year, it's HIV/AIDS, the next it's prison reform, the next it's LGBTQ justice. We know the non-profit industrial complex has real impact on whether or not our respective mission/vision statements can come into fruition. Obviously, It's a larger problem, it's bigger than the people. We're funneled into the same capitalistic structure that we're struggling to fight against. However, if we let history tell it, this really shouldn't be what's stopping this necessary work from being done.
We all know the struggles of the Civil Rights/Black Power/Women's Rights/LGBTQ/Young Lords/Chicano/a movements were strapped for cash, most of the organizers not even being paid, because they were concerned about their people. Gaining human rights meant life or death, and many became martyrs fighting for the gains that we (almost) enjoy today. Of course, the racist, sexist, homophobic backlash of the '70s and '80s meant that their gains went out the window as fast as we could say "crack rocks". And here we are, children and grandchildren of these movements, fighting the same damn struggles 40 years later. What we have gained, though, is an incredible advancement in technology to aid our movements -- 5011 ways to contact each other (pick a gadget, any gadget you want), yet our movement is swimming in circles.
The Left is comprised of so many diverse individuals, fighting for, on the surface, the same issues -- we all want clean water and air, don't we? We want to ensure our wombs remain our wombs, and ensure no one controls our decisions for us, don't we? We all want to walk down the street and hold hands without being harassed or beaten, right? We want the extremely draconian Rockerfeller Drug Laws repealed so petty drug offenses don't turn into 15-year sentences, right? We all need affordable housing and universal healthcare, right? It would be extremely naive of me to believe this. Our ideologies set us further apart than myself from Glenn Beck, as the priorities of our issues often take rank over what we are fighting for, let alone our strategies for fighting for it. White middle-class LGBTQ folks, though liberal on paper, are drowning out the efforts of low-income LGBTQ people of color to fight for stable housing or shelter safety with their marriage equality campaigns. They already have their housing, so why worry about yours? The Sierra Club folks have their heads too far in the clouds (literally) to be concerned with the mothers whose breastmilk is contaminated because of the power plant near her house. The anarchists and Marxists keep shouting Revolution!, but their newspapers are about as far as this "revolution" goes. Now, don't think of me as undermining anyone's efforts. We're all fighting for the same team in the end, but truth be told, our differences make us more isolated than united.
So, what's the solution for our Revolution? This is something we all need to willingly come together and discuss, and not only discuss, but begin to take ACTION on. Too often at our meetings and conferences (the US Social Forum in particular, since it's the largest), we have the "Next Steps" butcher paper, inviting everyone to remain in contact, so that none of our phenomenal discussions are left in that room. But, what happens when we get back to our cities? We're left with a bagfull of business cards and email addresses, as well as our swamp of work on our desk that we missed the days we've been gone. It seems that we remain solely dedicated to the issues of our organizations, and are "in solidarity" with the numerous other issues. This is realistic -- we simply don't have the capacity to fight foreverything simultaneously. However, to say "solidarity" is not enough.
I don't, at all, want to equate working on our issues to just working in organizations, as we all as individuals have the capacity to form collectives outside of these (this is how many organizations are started, really). What would need to happen, in my imagination, is accepting our differences, our privileges, and our respective oppressions, to say FUCK IT, and GO. I'm sure the women and men of North Africa and the Middle East are not at all without their ideological differences in religion, language, and of course gender, but they all united with a common goal to FIGHT for human rights. Perhaps our common goals are too numerous. Perhaps we're too sedated by this consumerist country we live in, and are blinded to BUY rather than FIGHT. I really don't want to admit that we live in fear of our government or the Right, if we did, we wouldn't believe what we did. But I am ultimately convinced that if we are to ever achieve revolution, it's action time. And revolution is not just a word written on the lines of Gil Scott Heron's pages. It's tragic. Lives are lost. But what is granted to us is our belief in people power to smack this country into another direction.
Are we ready?
I (before the darts come out!!!) do not - I repeat, DO NOT want to negate the revolutions that are made within our respective communities, either. In our generation, myriads of social, cultural and economic wins have happened through the tireless efforts of women of color, LGBTQ folks, white and male-bodied allies who refused to back down from the oppressive forces of our city, state and even federal government, and members of the community who didn't believe we were deserving of these rights. We are the only ones who have melted the cold hearts of this nation, and I am optimistic that we will continue to do so. What I'm discussing here is a large-scale, national revolution. So please, fight on.
Uni Q. Mical is a black androqueer wryter & excyter who aims to keep it higher from B-more, Murrrlind (it's the accent). In 2009, she got her B.A. from a pricey little hippie bubble named Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, with a concentration in Creative Writing and Black Studies. She's a Smashittarius with a moon in Pisces, passionately starting multiple projects at once, and completing them all simultaneously, since she's so damn scatterbrained and can't sit still. Her heart is tied to reproductive justice work, ie, organizing with women of color/queers&trans folks around our issues. Besides the infinite iTunes playlist in her brain, she thinks in poems, plays, essays, and bars (a la hip-hop). She'll laughs loudly, and will answer any and every question you ask, so ask with caution. She's been a seafood fanatic since her mama's womb, and will make you the best damn shrimp dinner of your life -- pick a recipe. She's unabashed, somewhat obnoxious, and has a love affair with Jameson Whiskey, IPA's, and The Simpsons. She parties and dances like it's sho'nuff 1993. She's currently chillin' in the cut in Flatbush.