Dear Lawrence F. Kansas
Dear Lawrence F. Kansas (any city or town for that matter),
I have lived in you for over 11 years. I have grown up here. I have been shaken by your callused hands, enough so, I have been shook awake. And I’m not using “awake or woke” in that shallow and violent way. I do intense self-work every day, therefore, I wake up every morning with eyes anew. I have engaged the life-long process of living in my fullness. I often fall short, but I recommit every day, while thanking the beloveds for giving me another moment to try again.
“My soul has grown deep like the rivers.”
I am grateful to you for providing the space for me to grow, and being the home to many of the key people that have helped to move me.
You have been the home to Langston Hughes, Wilt Chamberlin, and even John Brown spent some time here. You have prided yourself on being a radical space- from the very beginning. A free state you’ve declared- I’m still unpacking the meaning of this declaration, as this land was unapologetically taken from indigenous people. This land was the Shawnee Indian Reservation. I guess you forget the violence, only to replace it with fragility and unending pats on the back. You forget often, and intentionally.
“That Justice is a blind goddess
Is a thing to which we black are wise:
Her bandage hides two festering sores
That once perhaps were eyes.”
Enough is enough.
There are quite a few stories and letters floating around social media. Some [letters] attempting to make the complex, simple. And others attempting to make the simple, complex- and I’m not sure which one this letter will be.
Let me start here.
If your idea of liberation does not include poor people, disabled people (or people with disabilities), queer people, trans people, non-binary people, people of varying faiths, beliefs, and abilities- Not only do I want no part of it, you are wasting your time. Liberation can’t possibly live in exclusion, hate, and willful violence- no matter if your dream, in a singular identity, has been deferred like Lorraine’s raisin in the sun.
As a FAT Black queer cis-man, I am tired of laboring for people that wish me a short and violent life. People that damn my existence, but are in line for handouts and freebies. My back is sore, figuratively and literally.
I. AM. NOT. YOUR. MULE.
White folk who believe themselves to be helpful, please track the risk you have taken in the past, and the risk you are currently engaging. Be honest, white Lawrencians. Don’t coward to your fragility. Putting up Black Lives Matter signs in your business window is great, and a solidarity letter is fine, but don’t confuse this gesture with sustained systemic action. This gesture, and political statement is not enough. We need you to live this political statement, fight for this political statement, and continue to risk in the name of this political statement. Ask yourself why Black Lives Matter folks are the ones requesting solidarity from businesses in a variety of forms? If you’re really about the lives of Black folk, trans and non-binary people, and the indigenous community, shouldn’t you be the people out there applying pressure on the hesitant and violent business owners around town? It’s time for you to labor. I mean really work, not just doing enough for the cookies and the beautiful radical feeling you get when labeled as the good one.
Well intentioned white folk are the most difficult group of people to work with around social justice and liberation work, because you already think you know it all. Deep to the core, you still believe yourselves to have all the right answers. Frankly, at the very core, you believe yourself to be superior to people of color. You must own this inherent belief of superiority, as it is the only way to challenge this deep seeded lie when it pops up in defensive and violent ways. And as a reminder, your close proximity to Black and brown bodies does not exclude you from being a violent being- even if a Black and brown body knee deep in the mud of white supremacy tells you so. Racism at dynamic intersections ain’t gone fix itself. Get to work!
Non-Black People of Color that have pledged their allegiance to whiteness, I have a short message for you. It is time for you to recognize just how much Blackness has fed you, nurtured you, and protected you. And track the many ways you thank whiteness for it. Your sitting on the sideline will not save you. Your anti-Blackness will not save you. And after our demise, we will be waiting anxiously for you to join us in the afterlife, if that place even exists.
Black folk, specifically the humans that believe the most valuable lives in the Black community are Black cisgender heterosexual men. STOP. Just stop talking. Literally, ball up your fist and put it in your mouth. I don’t know how many ways to tell you this- BLACK Queer women and femmes have been the leaders, laborers, and holders of this entire movement aimed at achieving our liberation. And they do this despite your horrific treatment. You call them whores and bitches, and they still labor for you. You call them faggots and homos, and they still labor for you. You call them lady boys, girly, butch, and bitchy, and they still labor for you. We are the ones you lean on when shit goes wrong, and when white supremacy and patriarchy abandons you. What will it take for you to experience us and hold us in our fullness?
I come into your business and you make homophobic and transphobic remarks, and you still have the audacity to expect my money, and anticipate my next visit. You have the audacity to co-sign on outsiders committing violence to us, and then expect us to treat you like the kings you’re not. You yell at us, berate us, kick us, punch us, slap us, stab us, choke us, shoot us, rape us, and murder us. You strip us of our dignity and leave us publicly hanging to dry. You lynch us with an audience, so we all know you are superior. You take our spirit and our body. Yes, white supremacy and patriarchy is the culprit, but the violence hurts something unbearable coming from your hands.
You don’t love yourself enough to love us.
But we’re done dying. We’re done handing over our body and our spirit. We’re done being your mule. And you will soon have to fend for yourself, and to that I wholeheartedly say, “Welcome.” Welcome to the bed you’ve made, with the intimate help of white supremacy and patriarchy.
“Negroes — Sweet and docile, Meek, humble, and kind: Beware the day — They change their mind.”
Black cisgender hetero men, who claim to be woke (mostly due to the labor of Black women, femmes, and queers), collect your people. If this letter does not connect with them, I need you to sit with these humans and help them gain further understanding. I need you to use your voice, and tap into your privilege. I need you to answer all of their questions, poke at basic non-intersectional thinking, and explore solutions. Hold this problem as if your life depended on it- and in case you haven’t figured it out, your life indeed depends on it. Shift the conversation from Black Lives Matter to All Black Lives Matter, as we all deserve radical prioritization. Perhaps this piece on radical friendship will be helpful in beginning these critical conversations.
To sum it up, All Black Indigenous Trans and Non-binary Lives Matter- and if you’re not moving with a framework that centers the deeply marginalized, liberation will always elude us.
Black Lives will never matter in LFK, if we refuse to lift up all Black Lives.
If you decide to post this letter, please tag the folks you know who are doing intersectional liberation work. Thank them for their labor.
Cody K. Charles
“Tell all my mourners
To mourn in red-
Cause there aint no sense
In my bein’ dead.”
This is the work of Cody Charles; claiming my work does not make me selfish or ego-driven, instead radical and in solidarity with the folk who came before me and have been betrayed by history books and storytellers. Historically, their words have been stolen and reworked without consent. This is the work of Cody Charles. Please discuss, share, and cite properly.
Cody Charles went deep undercover to study Hotepology at the University of Distinguished Hoteps, where he successfully slayed numerous colonies of Hoteps on nippy Saturday evenings- accompanied by the occasional libation and a Popeyes two piece and a biscuit combo. He is the author of The Radical Friendship Contract: 10 Expectations for Loving People Fully, 10 Common Things Well-Intentioned Allies Do That Are Actually Counterproductive, Ten Counterproductive Behaviors of Social Justice Educators, I Will Burn My Name Onto It, and CLASS is in session: The Spinning Wheel of the Poor. Join him for more conversation on Twitter (@_codykeith_) and Facebook (Follow Cody Charles). Please visit his blog, Reclaiming Anger, to learn more about him.