Last night’s “Urban Agenda” radio show was one of those that unfolds as it is in motion, a potpourri about what is going on in the village and across the world, and the people who called in made it sing. It was clear to me that the few, Fannie Lou’s handful, who have committed themselves to the struggle for human rights need the people of the village to stand up so they can keep fighting.
The pain in the voices of a few callers was evident — weary from struggling not only with systems rooted in the prisons of race, but weary from tussling with our own community about trying to do right.
I asked in an earlier column about what you might say if Malcolm or Martin were to turn to you and say, “Your turn.” I am saying to you, it’s your turn. Unless you are living on an island and you are its only inhabitant, you can’t convince me that you don’t see the injustices the collective “we” suffers daily.
Today, an anti-Obama sticker tells its readers, “Don’t Re-Nig in 2012.” Meanwhile, the media promulgates the myths of a post-racial America.
At the end of her song ”When I Wake Up,” Jill Scott sings a beautiful harmony, and just as her silky voice lulls you into a mellow transition, an alarm clock sounds loudly, out of nowhere, completely unexpected upon the first hearing. We need to hear the alarm clock, to wake back up and to see what is real in our shared context. We need to return to the values we held about the health of the whole village over sole concern for our own.
Last night I was privileged and challenged by a letter I read from a young man who is serving time in prison. It is a privilege that the men write to me, and a gift to give their thoughts a voice, to affirm their humanity and value in the world — the writers matter to me.
An excerpt from what he wrote: “I am a young black male…influenced by the ‘Hate U Gave Little Infants Fu**ing Everyone’ / When I look at the man in the mirror I see a man on his own two feet who makes sure we all gonna eat. But when anyone else looks what they see is the three-year-old shot last month while trying to eat his spaghetti / What we are dealing with is differing realities and this dichotomy is destroying our community / And this is the key, we can raise our spirits to meet our challenges, we must raise our spirits to meet this challenge / For this challenge is one of establishing dialogue with our youth, of breathing into them the words of life and uplift, of working together with them to change our reality.”
I can’t say it more powerfully. He is speaking to a solution to close the chasm between adults and youth in the village — we need to develop a dialogue! I am reminded of a Biblical text that tells the parent to “talk to your children from the time they wake up in the morning until the time they go to bed at night.”
It costs nothing to talk to our babies. All the money the systems keep pouring into their oppression and the solution is free — we start a dialogue, a way of relating to our babies that at once affirms and uplifts them. It’s a manner of speaking that sounds like your sweet granny telling you about the day you were born and about the hope she has for you to seize all the possibilities she sees in your future.
Minnesota’s racism is insidious — unless Black people are the source of a problem, we are rendered invisible. Ralph Ellison wrote of the experience of Black invisibility in his work Invisible Man, a work he created in the 1930s — invisibility has deep roots.
We can’t allow our silence to take even one more of our futures, and if it takes three or three thousand and three adults, we need to see our children and speak to them of a future that sees the village rebuilt and their future restored.
Hear Lissa Jones’ radio show “Urban Agenda” on 89.9 KMOJ-FM Thursday nights at 6 pm, stream her live at www.kmojfm.com, or read web posts from Lissa at www.kmojfm.com. She welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.