Every activist I know finds these times dispiriting, often paralyzing. Those of us who came to our politics in the anti-Vietnam War era (or those somewhat older than me who came to theirs in the era of the Mississippi Summer and the March on Washington) remember a time when activism–yes, yes, for all its flaws–was growing and hopeful and you could feel it in the grassroots and the groundswell. It’s been a long time since that was true: in the last forty years or so, we’ve had moments, tastes, senses of what’s happening other places–from Montreal to Egypt, from South Africa to Occupy Wall Street. So much more often than not, the candle blows out and business as usual re-takes the stage, while the climate changes around us, the rich get richer by stealing from the poor, the police kill with impunity, and the House of Representatives votes against health care for the 40th time.
It’s too damned easy to feel that “the best lack all conviction/and the worst are full of passionate intensity.”
Which is why Feminist Wire’s “Love is a Radical Act” forum matters so much. Darnell L. Moore launched the forum at the beginning of this month.
Scholar Wenshu Lee notes that love, or, rather, our “deep participation with each other,” might very well be the affective force necessary to move us beyond neoliberalist preoccupations with the self, which is really a disdain of “the social” and the collective. It is the deep participation with each other in community, as opposed to the type of separation (between people and nation states) that neoliberalism engenders, that is powerful. Indeed, it is the deep participation with each other in community, as opposed to relationships enacted through a spirit of competition, that help us to imagine the human as living-body/soul and not a commodity (a value-less target to be shot down by drone strikes or murdered by way of chemical weapons or social disregard)
To enact love, then, requires that we move — that we “do” — that we act — with a commitment to creating spaces, engendering practices and fostering relationships that recognize and honor our connections to each other and upholds compassion, understanding and a willingness to act on the best of what we know to be right. This is about is waking up each day, choosing to be conscious of our interdependence and acting accordingly. Love requires that we must want for others not only the best of what we want for ourselves, but that we are willing to listen to the deepest needs of another and to respond with gentleness and care.
My radical motherlove for you chooses to love your blackness as bell hooks describes, “as political resistance.” I choose to love and nurture not just your physical blackness—the beautiful nut-brown of your skin or the precious curl of your hair—but the parts of you that our world is afraid of, wants to control, wants to stamp out. I choose to love fiercely those aspects of your being that, when they interface with your physical blackness, will make you threatening to our social order. I love your sharp attitude, your creative thinking, your explosive temper, your quick reflexes, your independent streak, your outspoken nature, your fearlessness, and your intellectual curiosity. These are the parts of you that I will teach you to let shine and are also the traits that people will find most troublesome about you.
I believe that in trying to protect you by squelching any of these qualities, by teaching you to be afraid, by raising you to be the black man that our system wants you to be, would be to rob you of your self. In this loss you would also lose your ability to feel free. I am more worried about the damage this forfeiture would do than I am about the confrontations with the social order that you will have to encounter throughout your life. So I will instruct you to be whoever you are, but to make smart choices. I know that America has very little space for physically and psychically strong black men, that your margin for error will be paper thin, and that there will be moments when you will be forced to compromise. And when the day comes that your boldness hurts you, in a way big or small, I know that a piece of my soul will die.
At age 66, loving ME is a fundamental feeling that I must acknowledge and feed every single day. I love my family. I love my community. I love my Sista-friends…and I love myself. Knowing that love for self allows me to love all others and enables me to get the job done, whatever that job may be. As I strive to show love, build love, honor love, and make love, I have to know that loving myself is at the core.
In the work that I do with prisoners, their families, and formerly incarcerated people, I must always acknowledge the humanity of all concerned. We are all human beings, deserving of love and respect. When a crime is committed, the “victim” and the “offender” are both victims; human beings worthy of loving consideration. As a proponent of restorative justice, I have learned that love can restore, heal, reform and transform people and circumstances.
Read the rest, including the poetry that isn’t susceptible to excerpting, and Heidi R. Lewis’s wrap-up piece which brought the whole forum to my attention.
For myself, I can only say that no matter how dark it gets out there, I am stronger when I love and weaker when I do not; and I do better work loving radically than I can even imagine when I forget how to do that.