I guess I hadn’t realized how much I use this blog as therapy until I realized simultaneously how depressed I was and how long it had been since I had written. Realizing it makes me feel like I did when I was thirteen, when writing to my diary felt so crucial, as if I were actually writing to someone.
Of course, now I actually am writing to someone. Even though I try to pretend that these words are just moving from my fingertips into the great abyss of the internet, the reality is that my readers are (almost) exclusively people who have been in my life at one point or another. So, I guess it is more appropriate to title this post, Dear Person I met on BART That One Time, Dear Friend of My Mother, Dear Crush From 6th Grade, etc.
We are now all in a (admit it) somewhat voyeuristic relationship that has been going on for nearly a year now. You’ve seen me in the best of times and the worst of times. You hung out with the bacterial crystals growing in my armpits, spent the night under the overpass waiting to hop a freight train, moved into a community of boat freaks and got evicted with me, and nearly got yourself arrested a number of times. Thanks for hanging in there.
Anyway, this last month has been hard. I’ve been trying to deal with the trauma of police violence in St. Louis and here at home at the same time as realizing just how much work I still need to do to move beyond white supremacy and how much work we all need to do to end the war on black people in this country. I’ve also been adjusting to my new living situation amongst a bunch of mostly-male strangers far away from my work and my community, and looking for housing in a saturated housing market where homes are commodified and neighborhoods are highly politicized and nothing feels neutral. I also somehow survived a holiday season that made my own loneliness and grieving even more conspicuous and disruptive.
Through all of this, I’ve been writing to someone new. I am writing now to a penpal at Pelican Bay State Prison, someone who has been in solitary confinement since 2008 and who hasn’t seen the sun in years. He was part of the hunger strike last year that won prisoners some limited legal gains. In order to make that reality, my penpal refused to eat for more than a month, ending up in the hospital twice on the brink of death. He has been encouraging me not to let my depression get in the way of the power I have to work towards a future without racist police, without prisons, without slavery. He’s also encouraged me to slow down, and be grateful for the small things people out in this world take for granted but that are so precious to an incarcerated person (the ability to kiss a loved one, to feel the sun, to march alongside my comrades).
I spent my new year recommitting myself to this ongoing struggle, for justice for my penpal and for us all. At midnight I was screaming and dancing outside the downtown Oakland jail, making noise to let the prisoners know that they have not been forgotten.
The lights in the cells flickered on and off to let us know our voices were heard.
The silhouette of a fist appeared in a tiny window way above my head.
Inside, outside, we’re all on the same side, fighting for justice and freedom.
If you’ve been with me through everything that happened in 2014, please, commit to fighting with me in 2015. All of your love and support has held me through the anxiety, illness, and adventure this past year. In the new year, please think about coming and standing next to me in struggle, be that putting your body in front of police and their weapons, or being the person with the maylox and vinegar washing out burning eyes behind that frontline, or just talking with your family about racial justice or non-monogamy or corporate power or hetero-patriarchy.
Let’s stand together on the freedom side.