In naming this blog Alligator Woods way back in 2009 I sought to uplift and share the revolutionary spirit that was alive in the enslaved men and women who declared liberty or death that fateful night in August 1791 in what was then the French colony of Saint Domingue and that continues in its countless contemporary iterations.
I did it to showcase and celebrate our brilliance and to encourage us to keep on keeping on.
This revolutionary spirit, I know, lives on today throughout Africa and its diaspora.
These past two weeks, following the brutal murder of George Floyd by police officers, which followed the brutal murder of Breonna Taylor by police officers, which followed the attempt by a white woman, Amy Cooper, to weaponize the police against African American birdwatcher, Christian Cooper, for demanding that she follow the law, which was preceded by the revelation of the murder in broad daylight of Ahmaud Arbery by two white men, have reminded us of not only the fact that the Black revolutionary spirit lives on, but that it remains as critically needed as ever.
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder we have seen a mass mobilization of a revolutionary spirit that seems to have been laying dormant; the kind of revolutionary spirit that few of us have seen firsthand or been apart of.
A marked departure from the responses that assaults against people of color that we have traditionally seen is the way that white people have shown up to do what is right.
And that’s a good thing.
Because this country is built on the ideology that white life is more valuable than Black life the only way to guarantee that change will happen is if white people place themselves in the line of fire the way that Black folks have been doing since we arrived on these shores.
I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts this morning, For the Wild: An Anthology of the Anthropocene, which featured an interview with Tricia Hersey, founder of The Nap Ministry on “Rest as Resistance,” recorded in April 2020.
Before the recording of the interview started the founder and host of For the Wild, Ayana Young, relayed Hersey’s words during this revolutionary moment:
“My dream during these times of protest against the police state, are for more white folks to be on the front lines and for black folks to be home, healing, grieving, and taking naps. We stand in solidarity with all the uprisings. Cover your faces while out and look out for each other, hydrate and rest.”
While I smiled, completely understanding the sentiment behind Hersey’s pronouncement–Black people have been on the front lines, again, since we first arrived here—and we’re exhausted–the one thing I would caution against is giving into the impetus to turn the movement over to others.
We have to continue to be the drivers of change, because our lives depend on it.
In the tradition of revolutionaries like Patrice Lumumba, Dutty Boukman and Cecile Fatiman, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, and Fannie Lou Hamer–the list goes on–I wrote in a recent personal reflection piece that “people of color must take up the space to speak our truths”.
(The question of what does Haiti have to do with the U.S. context should be obvious, but in case it isn’t, my answer is Everything.
Because Africa and its diaspora are connected in many ways, not the least of which is our historical and continued oppression in the name of white supremacy, as well as our continued resistance to it.)
In the spirit of supporting people of color speaking our truths, and because I am a reader and a seeker and love to share knowledge, I include below a very short list of books, articles and interviews with/by people of color about the history of slavery and its legacy and the damage it does.
So that we may educate ourselves, before, during, and after the protests.
Here it is:
Breathe: A Letter to My Sons by Imani Perry
So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele
Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation by Rev. angel Kyodo williams and Lama Rod Owens with Jasmine Syedullah
Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon
Back To Black: Retelling Black Radicalism for the 21st Century by Kehinde Andrews
Making All Black Lives Matter: Reimagining Freedom in the 21st Century by Barbara Ransby
Have Black Lives Ever Mattered? by Mumia Abu Jamal
Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living with Fearlessness and Grace by Rev. angel Kyodo Williams
Between the World and Me by Ta-nehisi Coates
Sensei Alex Kakuyo, “The Buddhist Pureland and Living Under Curfew” Lion’s Roar Magazine
Claudia Rankine, “The Condition of Black Life is One of Mourning” New York Times
Zenobia Jeffries Warfield, “Why We keep Talking About Racism” Yes! Magazine
I also found this a podcast on Wellness and people of color to help.
There’s also the three-part series, Race: The Power of an Illusion, which is an excellent introduction to the origins of U.S. racism.
Insight Timer, a wonderful FREE meditation app features a playlist of Teachers of Color
Let me know if you’ve read any of the books, had a listen to any of the interviews or podcast, watched the film, done any of the meditations.
Are there other resources you’d add to this list?
In the meantime, Be well. Stay safe.
The struggle continues…