We can’t win when we ain’t right within.

Where we are now, a year after Mike Brown’s death.


I recently asked the following question on my Facebook timeline:

“Who were you and what was your life like before August 9, 2014; and how have you changed/grown since then?”

It’s a loaded question. Life before a catalyst can be hard to remember. A whole lot goes down in a year.

The thought came to me that while the common goal has been to achieve intersectional liberation from oppression of all forms, who we are and were before Mike Brown’s murder was the result of narratives and experiences of all kinds. It’s the very reason this Black Lives Matter movement is so revolutionary.

Moral Monday, Ferguson October — 2014. Saint Louis City Hall.

Radical liberation work should be a lifestyle, but other things end up flowing into our lives and minds…

…who we are when we lay down at night… what our goals, hopes, desires, and dreams are…maintaining our relationships…how the oppression of the American system impacts us on deeper, personal levels…

When the collective fight gets too murky and disillusioned because of unmet goals, we turn inward — forced to face ourselves.

The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs
The revolution will not make you look five pounds thinner
Because the revolution will not be televised, Brother

In August 2014, Mike Brown’s name spread like wild fire nationwide, becoming a symbol of so many other children lost to police violence. His death spurred the nation into action (imperfectly, but authentically and boldly) and into broader awareness about intersectional liberation. Our city’s hopes were dashed when a jury failed to indict Darren Wilson in the following months. And there are still other structural issues left to tackle that will take more years, effort, and tactical patience to change.

Amidst the ongoing, mundane struggles to root out corruption in our city, the Black Lives Matter movement has become rife with distractions.

People came into the uprising unified, but once a clear goal was lost, people resorted to what they knew. Selfishness and vanity creep in at the most inopportune times. Contradictions abound. Communications and camaraderie break down. Things fall apart. This is how movements and revolutions fizzle out and die.

It has happened before. It is happening now.

October 11, 2014. Ferguson October.

In the year after the deaths of Mike Brown, Kajieme Powell, and VonDerrit Myers, Jr., this is exactly what’s happened:

Some people have arrived with personal agendas and ambition.

Some notable folks have become mouthpieces of the movement, creating political careers out of matters of life and death.

Some on the ground have built self-righteousness out of the ability and willingness to be arrested.

Some have capitalized and cashed out in the name of Black Lives Matter.

Some white and POC allies attached to the groundwork of the movement have: 1) fetishized their black male and female comrades to gain a sense of importance; and 2) overstepped their boundaries of privilege, inadvertently usurping the space and voice of the oppressed peoples of the movement.

Some men (non-POC and POC) are still misogynists.

Some backroom deals have been made between protesters and the police for the sake of keeping the protest community safe.

Oh, the sexiness of activism.

If you’re wondering if this think piece is an eloquent way of stating that there is infighting in the movement,

my answer is yes.

But I mention it for awareness and encouragement. I mention it so that people who genuinely want liberation are aware that there are some in the fight that aren’t on the same page. I mention it as a final warning:

The intersectional Black Lives Matter movement is dying, and not because of the All Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter internet trolls…

Fads ebb and flow, change, come back in season, then die down. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Why is fighting for the dignity and sanctity of life a fad?

Because we treat each other so disrespectfully and unlovingly. Because we don’t see the value of our comrades in the struggle as more than a footstool to global approval and importance, an illustrious career, or an ego boost; because the agenda of self was king before we got fed up with inner city violence and police murders. Because who we are, in all of our inconsistencies and failings, will resurface and stall the progress we want when we aren’t working on revolutionizing ourselves.

As Ms. Lauryn Hill said once upon a time, “How you gonna win when you ain’t right within?”

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