Stop Killing the Grassroots : A Series about Organizing in The Land

Reflections on Cleveland

In the month of October, we brought awareness to domestic violence. As an adolescent survivor of domestic violence, I watched my mother fall into a cycle of abuse at the hands of someone who she loved. I witnessed her giving so much of herself in an attempt to change the situation that ultimately drained her. I saw her love potential, apologies and broken promises that suffocated her in her efforts. The more she would give, the more would be taken from her. And I was there with her. I also loved and believed in this man. Now four years out of that situation via more tragedy, I have taken some time to process and reflect upon the lessons that I learned and the transformative nature of both love and violence. I believe that love was there. I believe that love was also unhealthy at times. I have come to realize that love is not enough. Love must be accountable.

Unfortunately, the nature of violence is insidious and pervasive and instances of violence can arise within any relationship or interaction. As a result of my lived experience with violence, I have spent the majority of my life trying to avoid violence within my personal relationships. An example of this comes from my work as an organizer and revolutionary. Within this work, I have found myself in incredibly toxic, manipulative and unhealthy relationships with institutions, especially non-profits. That is why I feel the need to recognize and shed light on the violence that exists within our movement. Our movement is not healthy and we must create new ways to be in relationship with each other, operating from a model of non-violent interaction and communication with one another.

As a 90’s baby growing up on the east side of Cleveland, there was very little history with resistance narrative shared with me outside of stories of visits from Martin Luther King and Angela Davis. It was my relationship with the institution of higher education that gave me access to language to name my experiences and identity as well as tap into the richer histories of struggle and resistance. This institution also helped me to understand toxic masculinity and intra-communal violence as a form of state violence. Did this knowledge erase my trauma? Negative, but in the process of self-analysis and critique of the power dynamics within my own life that was augmented by the knowledge that I had gained, I was also able to expand my power. I quickly realized that I no longer had to protect the people who did me harm. I no longer had to silence myself or my truth. In order to fight for black life, I had to acknowledge my own humanity, something we as black folks have never been allowed or given space to do. Additionally, I quickly learned that honoring my full complex humanity within the active functions of white supremacy has its consequences.

As a young Black Femme organizing in an under-resourced field like Cleveland, Ohio, consequences have looked like being discredited and shut out by exploitative non-profits, politicians, personalities, and institutions. This happens so often that this dangerous practice informs the culture of how folks engage in social justice. Jay-Z hasn’t been to Cleveland since the 2008 election. Yet he feels that a concert for Hillary Clinton ,that supported the same mass incarceration he speaks out against , is the best use of his power and influence rather than plugging in with local organizers and grieving moms like Samaria Rice.

The communities I am a part of that are holding this grassroots work actually have to hold the political line as well. We can not allow ourselves to continue to be pimped by those who hide behind liberal rhetoric and who mean to use our trauma for political gain. That is not revolution. That type of behavior is violence and is poisonous to the movement that we have inherited.

In short, Black people deserve better and I want to help build something better than what we currently exist in. In a city like Cleveland, generational suppression and trauma is being broken through to create and sustain a culture of grassroots black liberation organizing. If you are not supporting and in collaboration with this work, then I only have a few things to say to you. You are in the way and need to stay out of our communities and respect the process.

To some folks this is just business. Work as usual. But for the revolutionary, this work is personal, because our freedom depends on our ability to build Black power.