Monday, October 17, 2011

The Occupy Movement Isn’t Supposed To Be A Kumbayah Cake Walk

Written by Azizi Powell

[slightly revised march 1, 2015]

On May 1, 1992, after the acquittal of Los Angeles police in his beating trial sparked widespread rebelling, Rodney King put aside his prepared statement and spoke these words from his heart:
"People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?"

But getting along doesn’t mean acting like everyone is the same or believing that everyone should be the same. "Everyone getting along" doesn't mean that there should never be any disagreement. Sometimes you need to put yourself out there and take a strong stand even if it makes others uncomfortable and disrupts the fake kumbayah vibe.

"Kumbayah" has really gotten a really bad rap. "Kumbayah" didn’t start out as a "huggy kissy, let’s join hands because we are the world" song. Instead " Instead, Kumbayah" was a soul wrenching Spiritual, a plea for divine intercession from people experiencing the horrors of chattel slavery.

Just because you want everyone to get along doesn’t mean that you don’t recognize the inequalities that have existed in the past & still exist today. The Occupy Wall Street movement that is spreading around the world coined the phrase “We are the 99%” as a referent to the fact that 1% of the world’s population controls the wealth and power in the world. There are some things that unite all of the 99%. But that doesn’t mean that everyone in that 99% has the exact same immediate needs & concerns and the exact same long term needs & concerns. Invariably, some of those needs & concerns and the most effective strategies for addressing them are going to clash.

Here’s an excerpt from an open letter that Harsha Walia wrote about the Occupy Wall Street movement:

The very idea about the multitude forces a contestation of any one lived experience binding the 99%. Embracing this plurality and having an open heart to potentially uncomfortable truths about the systemic oppression behind the ‘evil corporations and greedy banks’ will strengthen this movement. Ignoring the hierarchies of power between us does not make them magically disappear. It actually does the opposite-it entrenches those inequalities. If we learn from social movements in the past, we observe that the struggle to genuinely address issue of race, class, gender, ability, sexuality, age, and nationality actually do more, rather than less, to facilitate broader participation…

This should not be misunderstood as advocating for a pecking order of issues, it is about understanding that the 99% is not a homogenous group but a web of inter-related communities in struggle.

Harsha Walia also included this quote from Grace Lee Boggs in that same open letter

The coming struggle is a political struggle to take political power out of the hands of the few and put it into the hands of the many. But in order to get this power into the hands of the many, it will be necessary for the many not only to fight the powerful few, but to fight and clash among themselves as well.

That entire post is a great read. I highly recommend it. One of the things I got from that post is that the Occupy Wall Street and all the other Occupy movements in the USA and worldwide aren’t suppose to be a kumbayah cake walk. We must commit to recognizing and addressing the inequalities and injustices that exist not only with regard to the 1%, but with regard to the 99%. And that means that instead of wearing rose colored glasses, we have to be for real about the toxic existence & toxic effect of White privilege, homophobia, gender bias, personal racism, systemic racism, sexism, colorism, colonialism, ableism, and all other negative isms. If we don’t do this, we’ll never reach that higher ground.

Here are two songs that I find to be great inspirational boosters when the struggle gets me down:

Soweto Gospel Choir - "Khumbaya"

Uploaded by joashstilltheman on Feb 19, 2010

This is from the album BLESSED (LIVE)

Higher Ground | Playing For Change

Playing For Change, Sep 6, 2011
Playing For Change is a movement created to inspire and connect the world through music. Join the movement here:
-snip- - "Higher Ground" is a song that speaks of the perseverance it takes to reach the higher consciousness. Let's all keep trying together, one heart and one song at a time, until we all reach the Higher Ground.

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