The Brick, The Gun and The Pen 🖊
“O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home!”
The United Methodist Hymnal
“Our enemies learned that we knew all about their plan and that God had frustrated it. And we went back to the wall and went to work. From then on half of my young men worked while the other half stood guard with lances, shields, bows, and mail armor.
Military officers served as backup for everyone in Judah who was at work rebuilding the wall. The common laborers held a tool in one hand and a spear in the other. Each of the builders had a sword strapped to his side as he worked. I kept the trumpeter at my side to sound the alert.” Nehemiah 4:15-18 MSG
Now what? Another black man has been murdered. To be honest, this is a fluke of timing and divine intervention. In the midst of a global viral pandemic, a police officer continued the abusive tactics on poor people like it was another day. This time, a video in real time drew the world in to watch a merciless execution. I believe the horror, shock, and disbelief that other people experienced was the preverbal straw that broke the camel’s back.
Be clear…these other people were not the people who had hit the snooze button on systemic racism and injustice for decades. These were not the same people who elevated materialism and hypocritical policy over real world existential challenges like the environment or disparities in health care or the wealth gap. No, the people who watched George Floyd die had watched Eric Garner die. They remained silent at the murder of Ahmaud Abery and Bonita Taylor because they had become numb to the reality of other people’s pain.
These people were our amazing young adults from every hue, political persuasion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status who couldn’t look away, hold their nose, and vote for a racially bias President. Nope, they took to the streets and exercised their constitutional right and reclaimed their power. They allied with people who have been in the struggle and lent their whiteness, not as a weapon, but as a shield. Their diversity became empowered and invited a global echoing of “I Can’t Breathe, Again!”
They endured insults, racial slurs, rubber bullets, tear gas, and arrest to peacefully demonstrate and protest, in a moment, a problem which existed 400 years. They witnessed a dispassionate police officer with a seared conscious, with a privileged look on his face, and with his hands in his pockets keep his knee on the neck of an arrested, subdued, helpless man who was pleading for relief and his mom. This time, another generation saw it, and this generation must answer the question of the iconic Civil Rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King:Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?
In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. isolated himself from the demands of the civil rights movement, rented a house in Jamaica with no telephone, and labored over his final manuscript. In this prophetic work which has been unavailable for more than ten years, he lays out his thoughts, plans, and dreams for America's future which include the need for better jobs, higher wages, decent housing, and quality education. With a universal message of hope that continues to resonate, King demanded an end to global suffering, asserting that humankind, for the first time, has the resources and technology to eradicate poverty.
The senseless murder of three black people within three weeks at the hands of abusive police and racist bigots have created an opportunity for this nation to look at themselves and make a choice. Do we continue being who we’ve always been or can we be better?
Systemic injustice and systematic racism will require systemic change. Admittedly, I am disillusioned to believe that the necessary change required to make black people whole in this nation will never be achieved. Yet, I can no longer live in the hypocritical world of ignorance nor be pacified with the sorry retort of needing to listen and learn more. I have concluded that macro change occurs when consistent micro change accumulated over time is sustainable. We must choose to heal from our pain and vigorously protest any form of its brutality continuing in our lifetime.
Black America will not heal until White America changes its definition of JUSTICE. Seeking reconciliation is impossible without the power class fully embracing and being impacted empathetically with the present horrors of our 400 year nightmare. Justice must now include reform, restitution, replenishment, repair, renewal, revival, rehabilitation, and the resuscitation of value to bring about a new meaning. Justice first, healing next, then reconciliation has a chance to be sustainable. Until we share collective vulnerability, we are unable to honestly grow our communities.
The question has been raised: How do we move forward from here? I reject the answers to this question! I object to the notion that moving on will be better. Too long have our oppressors and victims desired to leave uncomfortable places and spaces. We don’t allow pain to complete its emotional and social protocol. We’ve adopted a coping strategy which encourages being absent from the pain so we’re not present for the process of healing. Press the pause button, not the forward button. We will only repeat yesterday’s failures on tomorrow because we didn’t have the courage or stamina to sit in today’s pain. Without controversy, we will need to push pass this pain. We must return to life and find a way to coexist. We will need to strengthen our personal and community connectivity. We must clarify our ethnic, political, and theological communication while building a coalition of next generation change makers! Our lawful protesters are purposed in this moment, assigned in this season, and ordained to do more with their young lives than many who have simply benefited from racism without preferring its tactics.
Brick was made for building, not busting! Too many far right conservatives choose to focus on the malcontents who violate the sacred right to dissent instead of standing with citizens who need redress from its government. I am convinced that three types of people have come to this crucial moment in history: those who protest, those who riot, and those who loot! Inciting violence through destructive rioting is a fool’s errand. Rioting didn’t help blacks in Watts in the sixties and for sure is not helpful today. I push back on the use of the word looting because depending upon which culture defines the word, there is a tendency to parrot that culture. Looting was acceptable in the Revolutionary War because it allowed the protesting and riotous gang to seize their oppressors stuff and use it against them or aid them in some form. Today, it is a high-jacked termed turned on poor people who seize (wrongfully I might add) an opportunity to live better than they currently do in the wealthiest nation of the world.
Blacks used bricks to build communities, neighborhoods, cities and to preserve their posterity and wealth; but, then there were white people who used the brick and fire for nefarious and unscrupulous deeds.
Around the start of the 20th century, O.W. Gurley, a wealthy black landowner from Arkansas, came to what was then known as Indian Territory to participate in the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889.
Greenwood, Tulsa, Oklahoma, or better known as THE BLACK WALL STREET was a neighborhood containing many African-American businesses in the early 20th century. Protesters who incited violence and looted this pristine town decided to bomb and burn it in the Tulsa race riot of 1921 where a white mob destroyed much of Greenwood.
The massacre began over Memorial Day weekend after 19-year-old Dick Rowland, a black shoe-shiner, was accused of assaulting Sarah Page, the 17-year-old white elevator operator of the nearby Drexel Building. So weaponizing whiteness is not new to black people.
It has been called "the single worst incident of racial violence in American history." The attack, carried out on the ground and from private aircraft, destroyed more than 35 square blocks of the district which was, at that time, the wealthiest black community in the United States. It was known as "Black Wall Street".
“African Americans Have Lost Untold Acres of Land Over the Last Century. An obscure legal loophole is often to blame. By one estimate, 81 percent of these early black landowners didn’t make wills, largely due to a lack of access to legal resources. Their descendants then inherited the land without a clear title, and it thereby became designated as heirs’ property. Although heirs’ property exists in many regions of the country, it’s most prevalent in low-income communities.” [Leah Douglas, The Nation, June 26,2017]
“On September 22, 2016, Nikki Haley, then governor of South Carolina, signed the Clementa C. Pinckney Uniform Partition of Heirs’ Property Act. The law, named for the revered state senator and pastor who was killed in the 2015 massacre at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, provides several protections for heirs’ property owners.” [Leah Douglas, The Nation, June 26,2017]
Blacks have another kind of precondition in addition to racism and health; it is a wealth problem. The statistics of black people on a holistic level is alarming and preposterous. The cyclical life of a black person in America ranges from poor health, last one hired, first one fired, wealth and housing disparities, environmental disparities, and the list goes on. Now that the diverse bravery of Generation Z has created momentum, it is vital that we don’t step on this moment. Black Lives Matter! They always have and they always will. The question of Martin remains, Chaos or Community?
Martin endured bricks, water cannons, and dogs so that the moment of civil unrest would mature to a movement of civil action in order to get to a pen to legalize Civil Rights. He was assassinated by a racist gun owner who protested the humanity, equal, and fair treatment under the law! He was a riotous mind that incited violence, committed murder, and looted the treasury of black America because Martin wouldn’t use the brick nor the gun…Martin used the power of the pen to change the lives of generations of people and help to restore the soul of a slave nation. April 4, 1968, MLK Jr. was assassinated by a person with a gun…a gun because he had the pen.
With a pen…Three major pieces of civil rights legislation were passed by the United States Congress during the 1960s. These three major pieces of civil rights legislation are the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Civil Rights Act of 1968 which covers fair housing for minorities. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, is considered one of the crowning legislative achievements of the civil rights movement.
Now what? From Chaos or Community? With what? The Brick, The Gun or The Pen?
Today’s Generation Y&Z should focus all efforts to educate themselves on the language and power of the pen. Organize your skills to optimize technology and emotional awareness, to develop cultural allies, to register and promote the vote of millions, and to mobilize and empower yourselves with the use the pen! Learn from the mistakes of those who squandered a movement, learn to increase your demand! Unlearn the foolishness of selfishness and relearn the value of community!
There was a time for sacrificial violence-to fight to the last black man to defend a future. That was when we had lands, property and wealth. Now our people are primarily a nation of renters with no vested interest in the properties that they have lived in for generations. Political intervention with focused attention on our priorities is the demand. Police reform is playing the small and short game. Don’t take a bow when the Senate agrees to stop choking us out! Don’t celebrate when they criminalize putting their knee on our necks! Don’t waste the movement in exchange for a moment!
Protest! Disturb the status quo! Loot their intellectual treasuries and their sensibilities until we close the wealth gap between black, brown, yellow and poor people and the power brokers!
Don’t thank them for taking the knee off our neck.
Demand they return the BREATH THEY HAVE STOLEN since 1619!!