We Don’t Need No Haters*

I’m not a football fan. I respect the athleticism, but there are more negatives around the professional sport than I can tolerate, like the over $5 billion dollar SOFI stadium in LA. 

SOFI is a student loan company. There’s something about putting that name on a stadium when scores of people are struggling to repay student debt that screams “out of touch”.

And then there was the nod finally given to Hip-Hop at this year’s Super Bowl. Since 2017 R&B / Hip-Hop has been dominant on billboard charts, but the NFL wasn’t ready to add more controversy to the storm already brewing until now.

I watched to see how the super star ensemble would handle the moment. I wasn’t let down. It was an energizing performance by all. I confess I need to read lyrics to catch some of the words, but the passion and the insights are well worth the time. 

Mary J. Blige sang her hit from twenty years ago (Family Affair) and if you missed the line “We don’t need no haters” then you missed the point. Artists of every generation have been the ones to chronicle the suffering of people and call out  – in their own way – hope and triumph. This is what the half time show gave us, if we could hear it.

Fifteen time Grammy winner, Eminem knelt for almost a minute during his song, “Lose Yourself”. It’s still a hot debate whether Eminem’s replay of Kaepernick’s protest against racism and police brutality was ok’d by the NFL ahead of time or censored and ignored. Either way, it was a telling moment and as I watched the replay of the half time performances, I found myself hoping he took the knee as an “ask” of forgiveness for white inhumanity through the years

  • “We Don’t Need No Haters” – from Mary J. Blige’s “Family Affair”.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., center, leads a group of civil rights workers and Selma black people in prayer on Feb. 1, 1965 in Selma, Alabama after they were arrested on charges of parading without a permit. More than 250 persons were arrested as they marched to the Dallas County courthouse as part of a voter registration drive. (AP Photo/BH)

Awakening Our Humanity

As a child, I went to church every Sunday. But that’s not where I learned to pray. 

Prayer was what came through my Italian grandmother as she sang to me. Prayer was imbedded in the final words my father said to me each night, “God bless you always”.  My mother had the amazing ability to curb her rage with prayer. Like a tuning fork I could feel it.

I’ve always gravitated to those who could drink from the cup within. It never mattered to whom they prayed, or for what. There is something in that humanness that touches me. Something in that desire to be heard that assures me.

I can’t find it in the prayers that are made like lists to Santa Claus or are scribed by another long ago. I find this shared humanness in the silence behind the words and it is in the heart not in the ears where it’s felt.

I had the good fortune to find my way to a Navajo Grandmother who guided me towards Walk in Beauty. And it was the prayers of the people at the camps at Standing Rock that beckoned me and held me there.  

So it’s of little surprise that the prayers for justice are awakening my humanity once again. And after the guilty verdict was announced each person who spoke carried the ancestral trauma and the ancestral strength that I could recognize and feel. Their prayers were powerful and offered with certainty.

And I can add my plea to theirs: that we embrace our humanity; that we see one another as kin; that fear and intolerance be dissipated by love and kindness. 

And that humility will outlast power. 

The verdict was not an ending but a beginning. 

And prayer without effort is futile.  

photo: Creative Commons

Nine Minutes and Twenty-Nine Seconds

The Derek Chauvin trail has begun. 

Instead of over eight minutes of Chauvin with his knee on the neck of George Floyd, we now know it was 9 minutes and 29 seconds. 

We know the first two arresting officers had handcuffed George Floyd and that he had begun to plead, “Please don’t shoot me.” And that he expressed fear of getting into the squad car. 

Then Officer Chauvin and his partner arrived. 

The four officers’ escalation of force had bystanders expressing concern for the safety of George Floyd. And one by one they spoke tearfully and painfully from the witness stand of how they watched George Floyd killed that day. 

They spoke of feeling helpless. They spoke of regret. They wondered what more they could have done to save the life of a man they did not know. They recognized it could’ve easily been one of them, there on the cement, held by four men with a man’s knee on their neck. For 9 minutes and 29 seconds.

They’ll never forget George Floyd begging for his life, crying out that he couldn’t breathe, and calling for his mother.

The entire world is watching. And again we are reliving the senseless killing of a man of color by an officer sworn to protect and defend. Once again we hear the defense of fear as the excuse given to treat another human being as less than.

I can’t help but recall the photos I’ve seen of white hoods and hatred. Of whips and forced removals, of white ugliness cloaked in religion and shielded by politics and the “law”.

And I hope and pray that we see ourselves on trial and that we make it our business to not turn away. Make it change.

Say his name. George Floyd.

photo courtesy of No Spiritual Surrender on Facebook.

Roll Up Your Sleeves

It’s a new day only if we make it so.  Clear thinking, less words and more action are essential.  Love is imperative. 

The finger pointing must end – from all angles, because if you haven’t noticed there are more than two sides to this nightmare.  Somehow and by some grace we are being given another chance to make the promises of this nation manifest.

The word nation refers to people that populate a land and hold things in common. For us to be a nation we must do some house keeping and some healing.

For us to be a nation will require an honest acknowledgement of our treatment of Native Peoples since the beginning. It will demand our recognition of systemic racism and our deliberate eradication of it.  It will force us to undo the legacy of classism, which is allowing the pandemic to take the most vulnerable among us.

For us to be a nation, we will need to honor the land we walk on, the air we breathe and the water so essential to life. We will need to surge ahead ending our use of fossil fuels and do all we can to protect the earth.

For us to be a nation, we must care for the least of us. There’s no need for hunger or for people to be without shelter. Our food systems have drifted into industrialization. The true cost for this has been our diminished health. Yet the solutions are simple and present. We can grow food. We can help one another. The earth can feed and shelter all of us. 

For us to be a nation, we cannot rely on any one man, woman or vaccine. We are sovereign human beings coming together for the common good.

Roll up your sleeves. There’s work ahead.

The Arc Bends Towards Justice

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice”. Martin Luther King revived this Theodore Parker quote and the state of Georgia has reminded us again of its fundamental truth.

Reverend Raphael Warnock became the first Black senator of Georgia and the eleventh to hold that office.

In a week when the police murder of a Black child went unpunished; and a Wisconsin prosecutor declined to file charges against the officer who shot Jacob Blake – a Black man held by the shirt and shot seven times in the back, in view of his children and ultimately paralyzing him … We needed Warnock’s win. Not just Black people. All people, even the ones who remain defiant in their ignorance and claim white supremacy. We all needed this.

And then I forced myself to listen to Trump’s speech prior to the storming of the capitol by white nationalists. There is not a doubt in my mind that his words fed the anger and the actions of these terrorists. There is not a doubt in my mind that the on-duty force stood down as the insurrection took place. I have witnessed militarized police take action against peaceful protesters. There was none of that. The terrorists were determined to stop the proceedings and they succeeded. There was nothing peaceful about it.

Remember this: the arc of the universe bends towards justice – but it does not bend on its own. We need to stand firm against injustice. It’s within our reach to end the disease of hatred, but it will take each of us. It will take our honesty. It will take our courage and it will take our love. 

This country has tolerated the ignorance of racism since its inception. 

It’s time we end it.

Stop Line 3

This week the last of the permits required for Enbridge’s Line 3 were granted. Construction can officially begin, although it’s been going on illegally for some time.

The granting of the permits was of no surprise. The governing agencies grew out of the diminishing era of fossil fuels and are reluctant to rock the boat. Even though we know fossil fuels are being replaced by clean energy, even knowing the threat to water from ruptured pipes.

Enbridge was granted the right to totally abandon the original corroded line and build a larger, higher volume corridor.  It will transport the dirtiest of tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wisconsin even with our knowledge of diminished need.

Disregarding tribal sovereignty and indigenous ways of life, Line 3 will traverse Minnesota passing through tribal lands, wetlands, lakes and wild rice beds. 

Minnesota’s Department of Health now show that covid infection rates are higher along this new corridor than any other parts of the state and Native Americans are among the highest at risk for covid hospitalizations. Increasing the number of construction workers at this time, when we are asked to stay in place, is unreasonable and dangerous. 

Since 2013, many have opposed this pipeline, but more of us are needed to stand up for indigenous sovereignty and to protect the land and water. Now more than ever, as covid is ravaging our people and overwhelming our health care workers, we need this irresponsible act to stop.

The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, the White Earth Band of Ojibwa, Honor the Earth, Youth Climate Interveners, the Sierra Club and Minnesota’s own Department of Commerce have filed a court appeal for a stay on the construction.

For more on efforts to stop line 3, visit the website: stopline3.org.

Or call or write.

Office of Governor Tim Walz & Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan 
130 State Capitol 
75 Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. 
St. Paul, MN 55155

Staffed office hours are: Monday – Friday, 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM

Telephone Numbers 
Telephone:  651-201-3400 
Toll Free:  800-657-3717 
Minnesota Relay:  800-627-3529 

The Dilemma of the Status Quo

The rock and the hard place have us. Some are treading water; some are content to be sunk. Our love of reality TV has come to life as vigilantes are given thumbs up by those sworn to protect and serve. Yet all that is getting protected is the right to remain racist. 

Change is inevitable. Change is natural. Anyone who has lived through four seasons will attest to that, yet somehow we cling to the way we were as if it were not dysfunctional, as if it were superior in someway, as if it deserves to be the only thing that does not change. And that is the dilemma of the status quo. White knuckling and holding on at all costs. These last gasps of white supremacy can be horrifying, but they loose their grasp when I realize why they roar and thunder.

They roar because the end is near. Not the apocalyptic end that churches use to control people, but the end of an age of ignorance that allowed dominant cultures to enslave people either by chains or credit cards. They thunder because they have been pitched the idea that they are the last bastions of civilization and they are finally being given their due as important players in this game. They are being played.

And if we fear them, we are being played. Because the best way out of this nightmare remains our love and devotion to the earth and to one another. And Love cannot reign where fear is king. 

Yes this election is important, but far more important is how we proceed now and after, regardless of outcome. Put anger and fear aside and fight with determination and clarity. The history of hatred will not hold a candle to what Love can create.

photo compliments of wikimedia commons

An Election Won’t Save Us

It’s time for a do over. The bloody struggle with King George’s men did not give us independence. The king of corporate and wealth driven greed now enslaves us.

Every four years we get our hopes up that someone might in fact be listening and we engage in the destructive battle of joining sides. The pendulum swings and little changes.  The two parties count on that.

We are an oligarchy*. Our leaders have always been chosen by power and money.  Doubt it? Look up the letters to George Washington begging him to come to the Constitutional Convention. Apparently a Massachusetts farmer named Shay was tired of paying more taxes than even the King had asked. He formed a militia and demanded change. Fearing this mood of disharmony would catch on in other states, a convention was called.  The Constitution was constructed to create and to strengthen the federal side of the union. It was deliberately designed to protect the wealth and the property of the wealthy. A representative republic was formed, not a one-man vote democracy.

It was not merely a slight of the era that Blacks, Natives and Women were ignored. It was a conscious and purposeful choice. Maintaining power is intentional.

Let’s be clear, I will vote against the puppet currently holding the presidency, but I am not jumping for joy at the alternative puppet.

I am also not advocating violent overthrow. I am advocating the most radical change of all: that each of us take the position of being human first; that respect and care for one another and for the earth becomes paramount; and that we live as if we are the recipients of a great gift and are choosing to leave a great legacy.

We have the means. Do we have the will?

 

ol·i·gar·chy
/ˈäləˌɡärkē/
noun

Humanity Rising

Apparently evolution is a slow process. A few hundred years ago, some people decided to break free of King George, and declared: all men are created equal. This was a great ideal for a new beginning. But then they were slammed by their own ignorance of how to treat “others”. We may have left the king behind, but we carried the imperial desires of conquest and greed into this new land.

Later, we helped defeat the Nazis, but we ignore the fact that they took a page from the United States’ playbook on how to systematically eradicate people. Our history taught the Nazis. Think on that.

Caught in the lies and the shame of it all, we have allowed ‘ole time religion and crooked politics to morph into the travesty we now call leadership.

But there is this positive note: many of the descendants of the people who were brutalized by the Doctrine of Discovery and of those who were enslaved to build this country, have never given up. We should be grateful for their strength and for their effort. We should stop hiding our shame behind militarized police and stop supporting the corporate kings, who now rule the land.

We should be grateful: for the constant reminders of what it means to love the land; grateful for the resilience of those who choose to triumph with love instead of fear; and grateful for the opportunity to make it right this time.

It is a beautiful land and it needs to be preserved. And yes, we are all created equal and with the unalienable right to Happiness. In spite of all the violence and the struggle for justice, there are those who still remember we are one race.

For that I am grateful.

Respect

If you support the words and actions of this president, this piece is not for you.

If you want people to obey unjust laws, this is not for you.

If you believe that destruction of property holds the same value as systemic injustice towards of people of color, this is not for you.

If you are pushing for a civil war, this is clearly not for you.

If you are hoping the election will save us, it’s not for you either.

If you think change isn’t possible; I encourage you to think again.

This is for the Ones who recognize we are one People, one Race.  It’s for the Ones who won’t allow systems to control our human narrative.

It’s for the Ones who despite the entire struggle, can still make hope take action, and can still choose kindness over fear.

This is for the Ones who are picking up the pieces in shattered neighborhoods and who are feeding and clothing their communities. It’s for the Ones who are growing food and providing shelter, knowing that winter’s on the way. It’s for those who are stepping up to have the hard conversations. And for those who are not standing down in the face of militarized force.

The rhetoric of violence has been dominant too long. It’s time to let the healing begin. Yes, in the midst of absolute chaos, let the healing in.

Find your strengths, find your allies and fight like hell. Not with violence, but with the resolution of those who know it is our time.

Don’t tolerate ignorance. Save your energy and your passion for those you love and for creating something new. The old will wither and die. Let it die.

Stand firm in our common humanity; it is worthy of respect. And so are you.