Numbness, sorrow, rage, then…solutions

To determine the next steps in addressing racism and violence in the U.S., we can look beyond its borders. (Updated on 14 Aug 2017)

Alton Sterling. Sandra Bland. Philando Castile. Pedro Erick Villanueva. Five Dallas police officers. So many other souls…

Now Heather Heyer.

Orlando. Istanbul. Baghdad. Kabul. Dhaka. So many other lands…

Now Charlottesville.

It is seemingly unbearable. And yet here we are — the families and communities surrounding those who have died, in the cities and countries and the world where these atrocities have occurred.

We are responsible for what’s next. We are responsible for the living.

Thousand Currents artist-in-residence Sharon Bridgforth (left) embraces the late Prudence Nobantu Mabele, one of the first people in South Africa to publicly come out as HIV-positive and the founder of the Positive Women’s Network.

There are examples to draw from, of people who transformed pain and despair into concrete change. There are abundant examples of people re-creating the world anew outside of text books and social media feeds. These examples live in our own families and ancestry. These examples are abundant among Thousand Currents’ partners. These examples can embolden us if we look for them and to them.

What if solutions can be found near the earth, in the soil and the plants and the trees, in the regenerative power of nature that transcends the contradictions of humanity? What if solutions can be found in each other, in the courage to uphold and honor each other while always learning to love ourselves? What if solutions are dependent on community, in our ability to find and affirm our commonly-held values, and then build on them to make demands together?

When we talk about solutions at Thousand Currents, it is not merely in a shallowly hopeful or inspirational way, that “some day” we can “address” global poverty and injustice. We talk about solutions because there are proven and powerful strategies our partners use that are more than informative for people in the U.S. They are edifying.

Milvian Aspuac, Interim Director of Thousand Currents partner, AFEDES — Asociación Femenina para el Desarrollo de Sacatepéquez, walks with the daughter of her colleague in one of the protests against government impunity in Guatemala City last year. Members of AFEDES went to the highest court in Guatemala in 2016 to demand their right to intellectual property for their Mayan weaving textiles designs. More here: thousandcurrents.org/weaving-a-narrative/

We can make the connection between global and local issues and movements. We can learn to organize and infiltrate. We can learn to listen and then adapt. We can learn from Thousand Currents partners about going to court and winning. We can learn from Thousand Currents partners about what to do when activists are murdered and keep the pressure on. We can learn to wake up to the problems in our backyards, produce our own knowledge, and then dream our futures together. We can learn what it takes to have a massive political awakening, and how our coyuntura, or collective analysis of the context, makes this possible. We can emulate Thousand Currents partners’ staying power, even when the going gets tough and the earth shakes. We can learn to celebrate our source of power, and our moments of glory.

We can dare to see the world outside of the current system.

Women working with Thousand Currents’ partner ASHA Nepal use seed banks to preserve food sovereignty, or the right to determine how their food is grown. Here women share how to line jars with ash to preserve seeds and protect them from insects.

As our new name suggests, the web of grassroots movements and local solutions around the world is vast.

When we are ready, beyond this moment of sorrow and rage, we can look upon these examples. We can let them be instigative for us, when so many systemic changes are needed in the U.S. and around the world to struggle against anti-Black racism, when hope seems like a privilege denied to too many. This is a moment of deep crisis around racism and violence in the United States, and the ways forward will have to be rooted in the most transformative vision possible for a world that is not race blind, nor race neutral, but has the capacity to heal the legacies of imperialism and slavery.

We can receive the gift of the examples of fortitude in the Global South.

We are responsible for what’s next. We are responsible for the living.

Very little grows on jagged rock. Be ground. Be crumbled, so wild flowers will come up where you are. You’ve been stony for too many years. Try something different. Surrender. ~Rumi