Friday, October 6, 2023

To Be Awake and Aware

 America is in trouble.

America is in trouble.

America is in trouble.

I remember sounding an alarm about what was coming when I was still a budding-reluctant-activist after a shooting happened in my new town of Kirkwood, Missouri.

February 2008 was when the shooting happened.

That was also an election year.

I joined with other community members to talk across race, ethnicity, age, gender, and location.

Oh those days of people still innocently thinking the good.

When African American kids were marginalized in what looked like a literal Mason-Dixon Line in the high school. The Atlas kids, the ones who needed more educational attention despite growing up in this somewhat affluent suburban school system. Well, they mostly came from Meacham Park and their parents may have been tired of fighting the then all white school board. 

White and claiming to be liberal, but white still.

With one Black woman principal who had her little kingdom of this program and the Black Achievement Awards.

Then along came me, idealistic, hopeful, insightful, prophetic, actionable.

There were community groups that I became engaged with that examined the redlining history of the town, the ways that historic African American land - Kentuckytown and Tennessee Town, for example, had been swindled away with the annexation.

Resentment still filled the air of the few remaining families who were able to eek out a deal to keep a semblance of their family heritage where generations had grown.

Meacham Park should have been a town, but it was unincorporated.

Like a lot of historically African American communities, they were taken over by the more powerful city government of mostly white capitalist. The principal of the high school was a member of the Chamber of Commerce. Conflict of interest, much?

But there was still somewhat a sense of community. All the schools had the same red & white color. People took pride in coming from Kirkwood. There were progressive, liberal whites who wrestled with the history of neglect and complacency. There is still a weekly protest on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Still standing up for Black lives.

I remember being in this atmosphere and looking forward, not just in Kirkwood, but the whole state and nation.  

There were efforts to get people engaged in the school board and not just for a crisis. I tried to start a couple after-school study groups to help African American students not just be marginalized to Atlas. Now, not all of them were in that program, like me, there were Black people who moved to Kirkwood who were without historical identity to Meacham Park. Most came from other cities and lived on the other side of the railroad track. African American people had always lived over there also.


But that is also a tactic.

Efforts to get people to see their issues were similar were always met with suspicion of the other.

Perhaps that is the same as what is happening today in America, despite the strikes we have seen all summer, there are still groups that do not realize their enemy is not the Black or Brown or even White person who lives down the street.

It is larger and more nefarious.

When I was sounding the alarm and trying to get people to realize their vote mattered beyond just the Presidential Election, that, incidentally, had people literally walking to the polling place. There were lines around the corner at 6 o'clock in the morning in November 2008 when the nation elected the first Black President.

But I tried to get people to realize it was their local that made an impact in their lives.

People wore their "I voted" sticker, some even went to the

2013 happened and some woke up.

2014 happened and some took to the streets.

2016 happened and some paid attention.

2020 happened and some realized.

America is in trouble.

Deep, systemic, almost irreversible trouble.

Unless the collective We, The People, realize this.

Much like that idyllic town my husband and I moved to in 2007. I was in Mocha Moms, raising the last of the kids, the girls were just emerging from being toddlers. I was writing, taking on some consulting projects, but just settling in to this cute quiet place.

Waking up to things happening in the world around you is not always easy or comfortable.

Yes, I always voted in every election.

Yes, I was as involved as my former brand and marketing career allowed me.

But no, I hadn't been to a school board meeting. 

I was like a lot of working parents, just believed my children were getting the best of what they needed. Now, to be fair, I lived in a "good" school district and my husband, the university professor and researcher at the time, did all the interactions for the sons. One was in middle school, the other two were bookends in elementary school, and well, when we went there, the girls were just a dream. So we just moved and grooved.

There weren't book bans in 2000. Or crazy white moms trying to erase Black history. Well, to be fair, there wasn't Black history being taught in schools except for the obligatory mention of King and Parks.

But my family didn't worry about that, our sons were surrounded by Black history in our home.

We took the stance of what my late father taught me, we didn't rely on the schools to tell us about America.

Not everyone grew up that way.

This was long before the Internet took over every part of life and when phones were still flipping, still costing minutes, and a camera was one you held in your hand. I still have the VHS tapes of the video camera my husband used to document moments of our life.

I get the want of a simpler time.

Before 9-11.

When I was working at dream job making big money looking out on the horizon as a boy mom and wondering what this new century would bring. 

I understand the fear that some may feel about the way the world has been rapidly changing.

Technology accelerated that change when smart phones and social media brought instant everything into our homes. 

It was information overload and some of that information showed up in harmful ways.

The past twenty-three years have given us a terrorist attack on our own soil, a war that lasted throughout the majority of the lifetime of my two daughters, economic unrest, domestic terrorism, more Black and Brown people being killed by police, protest, political chaos, unaffordable rents, homelessness, desperation-as-crime, health crisis, a global pandemic, educational apartheid, and the never ending systemic racism, to just name a few.

I get it, it is exhausting to think about.

Makes you want to just get to a quiet cabin in the woods along the lake with a book and a latte and just wait it out. Or maybe that is just me.

Pining for a time of respect, honor, decency.

Not when a fraudster is on trial and still inciting violence like the violence he incited because his spoiled brattiness couldn't take losing.

Not when Nazi-types are walking the streets and running for mayors in cities - openly - and the media is trying to figure out if the current President, who is right-siding the economy and cleaning up the ineptitude of the buffoon, is too old to run.

Not when fear is stoked more than faith, hope, and love.

America is in trouble.

But she doesn't have to stay that way.

Like the town I lived in when the people who thought "we are not like that" found out that "yes, we are" and then set out to have difficult conversations to make changes, it is possible to get past this.

We have to see this for what it is.

We are far beyond 1930.

We are in deep danger.

This is the year to save the democracy and any semblance of hope for my grandsons.

It is just that dire.

To be awake and aware is exhausting.

I'm not in that small-ish town anymore.

But I am fully engaged and hope that everyone else wakes up. Especially for African Americans who are the ethnic group with the target on our backs because all of draconian policies they are coming up with are to erase any gains of the last sixty years.

That is why they went after Affirmative Action and why one dude has his life-intention to stop Black people from helping Black people.

That is why in Texas two oligarchs and multi-millionaires are buying up politicians, organizing PACS, and oh yeah, are pastors with a bully pulpit to push their great replacement theory rhetoric.

That is why in Tennessee they are stopping the Black elected officials from doing their job and have literally Nazi flags at a Mayoral town debate.

What do we do?

We use our voice.

See, the biggest thing about all this is that the bullies try to scare people into silence, into believing they have no power.

You do, we do, I do.

Use it.

You do not have to give in to the fear.

That immigrant, that homeless person, that striking union worker, that Black kids in school - they are not the ones trying to take anything away from you.

Look at the ones who are trying to amass power for the sake of power, for authoritarianism, for power, for control.

If they beat you, me, us down to nothing, if they stop you, me, us from learning and reading and thinking, if they take away the arts and creativity and wonder and joy - then all that is left are drones, robotic type people who just go along. Sounds like 1984 doesn't it?

We are in the times the historians, writers, scribes, thinkers, artists and others have tried to warn us about.

Wake up.

And then, do something.

Anything, one thing. Just one thing to more toward love and humanity.

Evil only has power if you let it.

We don't have to let it be so.

So if they call be bougie and radical or "just too much," so be it, I would rather be that than asleep and wake up one day to my daughters and sons and grandsons in a space that my ancestors fought to leave.

We can do something.

If we are brave.

©2023. All Rights Reserved. Listening to the birds outside West Rock Park thinking about possibilities whie sipping a brown sugar and vanilla latte musing about life.

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