Where Were You?

I was shaking as we loaded into the cars. I was shaking as we went through the toll plaza. I was shaking as the cars started to slow down, and when they stopped in the middle of the Bay Bridge. I was shaking when the cops pulled my arms behind my back and my voice shook as our voices lifted up the names of the dead. I was terrified, I was furious, I was inspired.

And by the time we got to the Highway Patrol office, I also really, really had to pee.

I was pleading with every cop that walked by to let me use the bathroom. They told me they had to find a female cop to take me, and that there were none on duty, though I could see several gathering outside our makeshift cell and knew they were lying. Finally the comrade sitting next to me offered to undo my pants, and after stalling (pun intended) for another half hour or so, I finally relented. My pants were around my knees when the cop looked up and I gleefully saw the panic on his face as he ran towards me, shouting at me to pull my pants up.

And then they let me pee. Which is how I know direct action works.

Where were you on Martin Luther King Day?

This is probably the first year I will remember the answer to that question. I was with my comrades stopping traffic, stopping what felt like the world in its tracks, the way it should be every time another black body is shattered on the pavement by the whim of a police officer swearing it is for our own good.  How every video uploaded to YouTube in which a black person is choked or shot or beaten by people wearing masks to hide their faces should end, with tension and stillness greater than that holding up the Bay Bridge, followed by an explosion in which all the fragments of white supremacy fall into the choppy waters.

The hours in jail are a simply the afterthought of the minutes spent in truth. The reliability of transportation, the quiet politeness between sides, the acceptance of police in all of their violence are, in a moment, revealed as misty imaginings to be dispelled by our dreams and our fury, which are stronger than theirs. The myth is quickly reassembled in every polite lie the cops tongue as they pull our zip-ties tighter and fake a smile, but the tension lingers because the truth is hard to destroy, and now we know what it feels like.

Where were you on Martin Luther King Day?

The Bay Bridge shut down happened because a group of black organizers imagined that moment of truth, in which our understanding of power is queered and taken back by the hands that were stolen, to build bridges between this world and the next and escape from myth into freedom. As my arms ached from the zip-ties and my heart shook in terror, the comrades around me sang songs, stomped their feet, danced, and dragged me into a celebration of freedom in this moment of captivity.

On Martin Luther King Day 2016 these black liberation fighters shut down the Bay Bridge and shattered the myth of peace, if only for a moment, and I was honored to stand behind them in struggle.

“Which side are you on?” the shaking voices of the small chorus rose over the sounds of car horns and police sirens and asked directly for a moment of reflection and decision on this bridge between two worlds.

We are on the freedom side.

Which side are you on?

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Credit: Brooke Anderson: Stills of Our Stories and Struggles

#blackseed #96Hours #BlackLivesMatter #BlackHealthMatters #ReclaimMLK

***I am a white activist standing in solidarity with the Black activists fighting white supremacy***

“The mettle that it takes to look away from the horror of our prison system, from police forces transformed into armies, from the long war against the black body, is not forged overnight. This is the practiced habit of jabbing out one’s own eyes and forgetting the work of one’s hands. To acknowledge these horrors means turning away from the brightly rendered version of your country as it has always declared itself and turning toward something murkier and unknown…But that is your work. It must be, if only to preserve the sanctity of your mind.” — Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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7 thoughts on “Where Were You?

  1. Reblogged this on A Working Writer: Paula Friedman's Blog and commented:
    This account by a participant in the MLKing Day Black Lives Matter civil disobedience action on the Oakland Bay Bridge is so right on! As some of you know, my novel of the late-1960s antiwar demonstrations at Port Chicago now nears completion, and I am struck how alike are the challenges then and now for those who would, nonviolently,change the social structure.

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  2. Thank you for what you have been doing. I wish so much that white people as a whole would see what’s in front of us–your power, your determination, your phenomenal brilliance. Why can’t people SEE that we’re missing all that you bring to the table–throwing it away with both hands! Like throwing gold down the drain. What our world could be if we welcomed Black people: so much more than it is. The creativity and toughness it has taken to survive, to stand before oppressors with pride, to parent children when Black fathers are stolen away by the millions, Black mothers blamed for all the ills of society–if we stopped making you use (waste) your strength to fight for survival, embraced it instead …

    Thank you. And I am sorry that this is still your fight, when I know it should be mine / ours.

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    1. I actually am a white person as well, honored to stand behind the incredible black activists who pulled off this action! It is my fight too, because ending white supremacy is good for everyone, including white people. I fight for black liberation because not doing so means willfully killing the parts of my soul that love deeply and truly, and gauging out my own eyes to keep from seeing the suffering my whiteness and the construction of whiteness generally creates in the world. Just added an addendum to make my own identity more clear to readers! ❤

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