I am a modern Black revolutionary, and I AM ‘good trouble’

A Critical Reflection from an Unapologetic DC Protestor

Abby Shab
7 min readSep 16, 2020


(Photo by Jarrad Henderson/USA Today)

Last Sunday, I got in trouble again.


The last three and a half months have found me in a lot of that.

From seizing barricades at the riot line to heated and mishandled arguments with former friends.

From standing my ground beneath the fierce downdraft of a military helicopter to holding the line against walls of officers and jets of pepper spray.

From shouting my Black rage through clouds of tear gas to crowding restaurants and shuttering white diners with words they still refuse to hear.

On the front lines of DC’s ongoing fight for justice, I am trouble. And I’m proud of it.

But this Sunday, I got in trouble with my mother.

A staunch level-headed Black centrist, she has surprised me over the last few months with her honest, but occasionally reticent, support of my radicalism.

She knows we won’t always agree — a potentially fatal affliction to any relationship these days. But she believes, as perhaps we all do, that change is critically needed right now. And, generally, that is enough for us to get along.

But when I decided to share with her a poem I’d written the week before, I caused my level-headed Black mother to snap. Just for a moment.

LaFayette Square, Washington DC. June 22nd (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

The poem I shared last Sunday ended with the line, “gon’ hunt some pigs been in my home.”

That Sunday was the day after two LA officers were shot and critically injured by an unknown Black shooter while they were sitting in their squad car. Needless to say, my mother found the consonance of my lines upsetting.

I told her it was art; I was chastised. Fair enough.

I told her that the things I’ve seen, the friends I’ve lost, and the desperation I feel because of this system do make me feel that angry sometimes.

Then I told her that I’m not a murderer. And that, beyond the purview of artistic expression, I would not call for physical violence against anyone.

Bloodshed is always, unequivocally, ‘bad trouble’. And that’s coming from a young Black radical antifa soldier — as the president would likely describe me.

H st. & 16th, Washington DC. June 22nd (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

It’s never easy butting heads with a parent. The forgotten aches of childhood criticisms grab you by the throat before you can mouth the words to defend yourself.

But luckily my mother relented.

“Sorry you feel that way,” she said. “But don’t share things like that with me again.”

Fair enough.

It was my mistake. I expected the line to surprise her, but I didn’t intend for the candor of my feelings to resonate with such a shocking tragedy. I did not expect to see my anguish and rage reflected in something as cold-blooded as Saturday’s shooting.

It is too soon to clearly say what the shooter’s motive was. But the circumstances don’t matter, because the American media and their hostage audience have already decided what the tragedy means:

“Bloody ‘bad trouble’ indeed.

And it’s all because of those damn Black radicals…”

I imagine that, for many who may be reading this, my rhyming about hunting pigs may put me in that category.

As shootings occur in orbit of the protests nationwide — jolting everyone with dry-fires into the barrel of what feels like a looming civil war — I know that it is hard for some to look at agitators and demonstrators as anything more than a danger.

It’s hard to see the movement as anything other than a live wire tearing through a country that bleeds gasoline.

You see young people thrashing their bodies and passions against the state, hurling their bleeding hearts at federal buildings, shattering windows and unleashing the scourge of desperate generations onto the nation’s malls and store fronts. You see the fires and looting and think that this can’t possibly be the 'good trouble’ the late hero, Rep. John Lewis, described.

And perhaps you’re right.

Perhaps my generation is too far gone to clearly see the line anymore.

LaFayette Square, Washington DC. June 22nd (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Or maybe, my generation’s revolutionaries are a product of the monolith we are up against.

And maybe we’re reckless because we feel we have no choice.

“Gon’ hunt some pigs been in my home.”

I put that line in the poem because I hold in my heart the conviction to do whatever is necessary to defend Black human beings, and to finally wake this country up.

We have been fighting tooth and nail for three and a half months. Of the time I’ve spent protesting, about 90% of it was spent marching, chanting, and demonstrating peacefully. ‘Good trouble’, some might call it.

For three and a half months we’ve overwhelmingly played by the rules — despite being met with chemical agents, batons, flash-bang grenades, and rubber bullets which many have said were aimed intentionally at their heads and eyes.

We have lost lives in this fight. A fight which began because of the brutalities inflicted on countless brothers and sisters who were already gone.

Three and a half months of sweat, sacrifice, and desperate radical hope that the country might hear our pain and recognize the critical need for systemic change.

But today, it feels that America has already lost interest in what we have to say.

And that crushes me.

Washington DC. June 6th (Photo by Eric Thayer/Reuters)

With my mother, I didn’t apologize for or qualify the line in the poem. The line is honest and, ultimately, it did what it was supposed to…

It forced a centrist to pay attention

Because when it comes to commanding the national stage, a necessity for any kind of real progress, the ‘good trouble’ just doesn’t seem to cut it anymore.

I will march and chant and hold signs with my comrades because solidarity is most important. But you, the general American public, know that these things alone will do nothing to change our society, except marginally relax suburban white folks’ fear of a real Black revolution.

It’s been three and a half months and the rhetoric surrounding the protests is still overwhelmingly concerned with the smoke and not the fire.

I know that this is largely by design, that the president and white male hegemony will stop at nothing to silence Black and brown liberation.

But I didn’t expect to see so many Americans jump straight to being afraid of us, and clean over all the reasons that many of us feel vengeful in the first place.

Louisville, KY. July 25th (Photo by Timothy D. Easley/AP)

As the fight rages on, it seems that Americans are more eager to be afraid than they are to listen to what we’re asking for.

We are demanding a final delivery on this nation’s lost promise.

We are fighting for a comprehensive re-imagining of this country’s structural institutions in order to build a system that honors the dignity of each individual, regardless of their background, and that serves each of their respective communities in a substantive and meaningful way.

But until you, the general public, are as engaged with the brave and emphatic appeals of this movement as you are with an anonymous Black would-be-cop-killer, then you will continue to see the line between ‘good trouble’ and ‘bad trouble’ blurred.

Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC. August 28th (Photo from Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images)

Until the American people are brave enough to face this racial reckoning with openness and genuine commitment, then we, America’s desperate youth, will be forced to draw your attention through difficult means.

Even though I’m the radical Black antifa soldier, You, the broad strokes American people, need to be the brave ones right now.

Because until you find the courage to accept the change that is needed, I will get no rest. And, either from ‘good trouble’ or ‘bad trouble’, I daresay that neither will you.

(Photo by Tom Brenner/Reuters)



Abby Shab

Radical activist of color working to thrive & imagine a better world. I hope we can grow through honest exchange & fearless reflection. Black Lives Matter