Sometimes the best thing we can do is listen
Listen to the voices who’ve been shut down
Listen to the voices who’ve been brutalized
Listen to the voices who’ve been marginalized
Listen to the voices who’ve been resilient through it all
We all have pain, suffering, and sadness in our stories
yet there are many among us who’s voices have been muted
murdered in such massive numbers as to be called genocide
missing women and girls in our modern times who’s stories are lost
We all have pain, suffering, and sadness in our stories
but we need to shine more light on those who’ve been oppressed
enough is enough and how sad is it that we even have to say that
as if just now we are finally coming around to this civil rights pandemic
our shared human rights are rules mostly written by white folks, for white folks
That there is a place where this systemic racism and disregard needs to end
I will continue to listen and to learn from voices less heard
Let us raise these voices up and quite our voices down
as we work to find justice so that we may find peace
I’ve just gotten back from the event at Jefferson High School, organized by Rose City Justice, a collective of Black leaders and organizers who have been doing one helluva job keeping this movement moving. They are doing so essentially in tandem to the many other events, rallies, marches, and protests that are happening across the city of Portland and I am continually impressed by what is happening every day.
Arriving at Jefferson on what turned out to be a bright, quite toasty evening, I was greeted by a person handing out cardboard peace signs with a Black Lives Matter stamp on them, I was happy to receive one as I had left my sign at home and the one I’ve been working on isn’t quite ready for action. After scoring the sign I decided to get up next to the medic/supply booth where there was some shade and I could put my bike for the time being. At this booth, and the two across the way, they had all sorts of things to share, free of charge, for all who needed them. Water bottles, fruit, cookies, granola bars, masks, pepper spray removal kits, you know, that kind of basic shit. All for free. Again, the organization of all this is quite impressive and I really am grateful for all those putting in this effort.
Tonight there was rumors of a march with a special event at the half way point before turning back around to head back to Jefferson although the march never came to fruition this evening. At least, the one at Jefferson didn’t. I bet the one at Revolution Hall down in SE happened but that is not where I was at. And I was glad to be where I was tonight. It turned out to be essentially an open forum/mic scenario where they invited mostly the Black community to come up and share their stories and to talk about what this movement and revolution means to them. It was extraordinarily moving at times and mighty powerful. There were too many moments to pick from to even begin to break it down at the moment into bits I can share. Well, that’s not entirely true. The one that stands out the most right now is this young Black kid, maybe 12 years of age, who came up to speak with his sister standing close by. He talked about how hard it was to learn a couple days ago about his 10 year old brother who was killed by police in Texas. Interestingly, I’m trying to find a news story about it right now on google and I am not having any luck. That’s a bit strange. We stood with our fists up, everyone in attendance to honor this young life that was lost just a few days ago and it was a really overwhelming moment in the evening. I also found myself in a deep state of just wishing to be present and so I elected not to really take many pictures or videos from the night. There were a number of folks doing that and I really was in a place where I wanted to take it in and observe.
There were many powerful stories shared. Many different voices and perspectives and one of the more interesting aspects of the evening is that it turned out that there was not going to be a march and instead, this was going to be the extent of the night. Listening to people’s lived experiences and sharing their perspectives on what is now the largest civil/human rights protests in our collective history. These were vulnerable people who were coming up to a microphone in front of thousands of people, many doing public speaking for the first time ever, and going places with their truth and emotions that I felt honored to witness and hear. What was unfortunate though is that around 8pm, folks started trickling out and by 8:30–8:45 a good quarter plus of the crowd, maybe even closer to half, had left. This was acknowledged by some of the speakers who were again, pouring their hearts out and getting super vulnerable as people holding signs were just casually walking away. There is something deeply symbolic in this. And it was noted by a couple of eloquent speakers, saying that it was sad to see people leaving in the midst of this emotional outpouring. As if sitting and holding space, deeply listening to these people was not good enough for them to do on this night and that they had come out for a march. I get it. I sympathize. These speakers were more than worth listening to and while it is a palpable and richly rewarding experience to be in solidarity for a cause, marching with thousands of people, chanting chants, holding fists in the air, and all that good stuff, what was taking place tonight was equally as important if not more so. I learned a lot and was grateful to all these people sharing their stories tonight.
But this is where we’re at and really, I’m not here to give some righteous condemnation to those who bailed out. That’s not my aim, not my goal, not at all. I get that too. Maybe many of them would have been trickling away from the march at those times as well. We each only have so much we can show up for and participate in. I think what struck me so deeply was that showing up takes effort and sometimes it even takes a fair amount of sacrifice. And that is where I still have work to do and encourage other folks, especially those who are white, to lean into that space and get uncomfortable as well.
The other thing that we did today was my wife, son, and I drove downtown to go and see all the beautiful artwork and murals that were done over the boarded up buildings in the Pioneer Square area. Fucking “Pioneer” Square. This state and country is just dripping in colonial and white settler language. Anyways, the place just a few weeks back that I witnessed in realtime getting smashed in, like the Apple Store and Louis Vuitton, which got boarded up the next day have been richly decorated with incredible art and writing and candles and a space that is a living vigil to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others who had their lives taken by a police force exhibiting racist, brutally lethal force. It was an emotional trip and I’m glad we went out there and that our son was at least able to experience it from what limited perspective he has as a four year old. He was feeling the vibes and I don’t wish to negate his sensitivity or emotional aptitude and ability to take in what he was seeing. Clearly he was going through something while we were walking through the area taking it all in.
I did what I could to document as much of it as possible and I’ll share a series of the pictures from there I took below. I talked with one of the photographers on the scene who was taking pictures of his friends mural in process and he had heard that in two or three days it was all going to be taken down. I guess capitalism must go on is the motto downtown and so those inevitable steps will be taken soon. Nobody knows what is going to happen with this incredible are but one of the best things I’ve seen proposed is that an art commons is created that is owned by the public, especially the Black community and those who created this art so that it can be on display, museum style but without that super problematic part of how museums go about “procuring” much of their artifacts. Also, more importantly many of the bigger museums would likely be applauded for putting together showcases of this artwork and seen as progressive or some shit like that and use that PR to you know, make more money that would likely never find its way to the original artists and communities that it is coming from.
Well, it once again is getting a bit late, tomorrow is Juneteenth and it appears all of the United States of America has decided to observe and celebrate it. My school, WGU just texted to inform me that they’ll be closing down for most of the day in observance of this holiday which is just another example of how far this sustained movement has come in these past three weeks. WGU, along with nearly everywhere else in the country didn’t even have Juneteenth on their radar before George Floyd was killed by the police. Now though, the awareness has reached the masses and tomorrow I can imagine there is going to be quite a celebration going down from see to shining see.
At this time, I’m going to jump into podcast work as I aim to put out an episode tomorrow in honor of Juneteenth and it will largely be an examination of White Supremacy Culture. I see it as important work and I’m glad to have at least something of a platform to share about this deeply embedded culture that still holds power to this very day. Ideally a time will come soon where it does not and a part of the way that is going to happen is through more and more education around what it is all about in the first place and more importantly, how basically all of us are complicit in still perpetuating it even if we think we’re not. That is me included. So much work to do…