Marching Again

BLM March July72016 VL

Thursday July 7, 2016
#BlackLivesMatter march for #AltonSterling, #PhilandoCastile, and all.

As I march through my city, enraged at the continuing and most recent murders of black folks in seemingly benign situations, I remember the first time I was part of an impromptu march in response to a publicized attack on a black man (not counting 1968). It was 24 years ago – 1992 – and Rodney King had been brutally beaten by a group of white cops. The officers were acquitted, riots broke out, and NYC marched through the streets.

24 years ago: I’d been working a part-time receptionist gig in midtown, and the meet-up point was Times Square sometime in the early afternoon. Wearing my pencil skirt and my kitten heels, carrying my bag full of dance clothes, I left work to join the people. I passed by shops closing up everywhere, pulling down their gates, fearing an outbreak of violence and destruction (which never happened). I joined up with the crowd of incensed New Yorkers and we soon began our march down toward the West Village. At some point we came up against a phalanx of cops in their riot gear – before tasers and zip ties and body cameras or cell phones. I remember how young they looked, how scared they looked, and how much adrenaline was in the air.

A fellow marcher and I fell backwards over some police motorcycles. Two cops grabbed us both by our shirtfronts and shoved us up against the nearest wall. I remember swearing my head off while explaining what had happened, and wondering at the same time: Can I be arrested for cursing at an officer? But they let us go, and we marched on.
Somewhere near Houston Street the march dispersed, and I caught a train to my African dance class in Brooklyn.

And here we are, 24 years later. This time we were meeting at Union Square and marching up toward Times Square. This time I came from home, so had more appropriate shoes on. And this time, as we were marching, I remembered that march so long ago, and it occurred to me that Rodney King was “only” beaten up.
If that happened now, he’d be dead.
In our new world, a beating is passé. Murder is what’s on. Murder after murder after murder.

Around 5 p.m. I joined a crowd of sad, hurt, and enraged New Yorkers gathering in the south end of Union Square Park. Already the barricades were going up. There was a summer stage concert going on – completely incongruous music. At some point they turned up their volume, but soon, they were done and we were ready to move. We had to stream through a strategically  tight opening between barricades to begin our march across 14th street. We chanted as we walked over and up and through the city. At times, folks chanted Whose streets? Our streets! I thought: Wishful thinking.

Sure, we streamed through traffic, snarled it some, rerouted around the cop lines to stream back through the streets. But we don’t own these streets. We passed by, through, and under all the blazing markers of ownership of our daily and nightly lives. We passed by the neon mega chains. We passed by the loud signage telling us who and what to buy. We passed by the cool cucumbers in their crisp cotton shirts looking down from behind high glass windows while sipping their expensive drinks. We passed by clean cut manicured couples clearly miffed at the inconvenience we created. We passed by fancy carriages, the horses getting skittish. We passed by the Strand bookstalls that tempted me to swerve – but I resisted. We passed by scared white chicks in their cabs. We passed by black and brown cab drivers honking in tune with us. We streamed our way up 5th avenue, past the museums most of us can no longer afford to visit. We made our way up through all the streets that are not ours at all anymore. We passed into the night, and up into Harlem, closer to what used to be a home, where folks stood in the streets and hung out their windows, cheering us as we went by. At this far point there were fewer of us, only about 200 hundred left. Eventually we came face-to-face with a calm line of cops up by the entrance to a bridge folks thought to shut down.

But no matter how many times we’d chanted “Shut It Down”, the cops weren’t going to let us do that; and nobody wanted to die for it, so we regrouped and went up Malcom X Boulevard to 145th, then across to St. Nicholas where, after 8 miles and 4-plus hours of marching, we finally sat down to have some silence, honoring those most recently murdered in cold blood.
When the police finally arrived, dispersal began, and many of us, including me, said goodbye there.

It was good to cover this city with our rage; good to shout Black Lives Matter, and Racist Cops Have Got To Go; good to shout out What Do We Want? Justice! When Do We Want It? Now! But Our Streets? Less and less. Shut It Down? How? When? Where? What? A bridge? A street?
Yes, all streets; that might help. Everyone “Out of Your Homes and Into the Streets” – maybe then we’d get somewhere.
But I fear the weapons of the masters. And I am in no doubt they will not hesitate to use ‘whatever means necessary’ to silence the rabble – including, now, robot bombs.
Without the kind of uprising and organization folks had in place in the 1960s, without phalanx after phalanx of our own, willing to die – because that is far more likely now than it was in the 60s – it won’t mean a thing.

This day, I felt like the cops knew it was best to let us blow off some steam – they weren’t really interested in messing with anyone. But they did have their boundaries, and bridges were at least one. Oh the happy youth who thought they were getting over on the cops, moving from one check point to another, thinking they were outwitting them. Wait til they suit up, like in Baton Rouge as I write this.

Early in the journey, one young person passed by me and said “Just like the 60s!”
I wasn’t sure if he was being sarcastic or not, but all I could say was “No, it is NOT like the 60s; nothing like the 60s. Don’t sleep -” The 60s were tame compared to what’s on now. And sure, we had a moment back then, but assassin’s bullets worked so well that our legs were taken out from under us and we’ve been floundering ever since. Malcom X, Fred Hampton, MLK, RFK…No, we lost.

One legacy of the undoing of that movement is this understandable idea that there should be no leaders of the current movement. But without leadership, there is no organization. When I was in Oakland at the initial Occupy skirmishes, this idea of no leaders played out: one person said Go this way; another said No, go this way. Some followed one person, others followed another. All the while I was thinking: Not only is our strength becoming dissipated, but these people folks are following could be working for anyone, splitting us up, leading us into a dead end, or worse, into a cop corral. But…try saying that, you older person. This is not your revolution.
Revolution, Ha.
I don’t want no revolution; I don’t want another go round on the circle.
I want out.
I want Evolution.

Black is Beautiful, and so is Diversity. And I want to celebrate that.
I want to share what we have with each other. I want smiles all around when I’m on the subway train. I want an end to rampant heartless greed. I want a country of villages of neighborhoods of the unique flavors that make the best of what this country has always been.
I couldn’t live without what I’ve experienced and learned from other cultures.
None of us would even be here – probably none of us anywhere in the world.
So, sure love is the only way out.

But it is hard not to rage when enraging things are happening, being committed, for years, 24, 60, 400 – or is it 500 years!

America is not the only country where one can find racism or oppression, but America is our country, and America threw that “All Are Created Equal” idea out there; so those of us who are fed up have got to say NO to the BULLSHIT. Every day, in every way. We don’t all have to get along; we won’t, we can’t; but we do have to cultivate an overall sense of Justice for ALL, Tolerance for differences, Love of the strengths we have here.

And for the small-minded tight-hearted haters, we have to leave no room – anywhere.
Excise that shit.

Eulogy for Another Murdered Business in NYC

Louis Shoe Rebuilders, in business since 1921, will be out within a month, and along with other small businesses already gone, the spaces are rumored to be slated for yet another restaurant.

What follows is the eulogy I delivered at the Funeral event held last week.

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There is an ever growing hole in my Soul being gouged out by the devastation of local worlds all across New York City.

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Brothers and Sisters of the Heart of NYC, our communities, our villages, all our neighborhoods are under siege.  Our city, Our HOME – NOT our vacation spot – is being hollowed out by Dollar signs.

As if money makes a community!

Money doesn’t care; Duane Reade doesn’t care; CVS doesn’t care; BANKS don’t care; Landlords DO NOT CARE!! “Dolla Dolla Bill Y’all”!

New York City has long been the cultural capitol of the world – a city for everyone, a place where anyone could make a simple living and contribute to the multi-coloured vibrance of the streets, create Art, open a unique business filled with things that could only be found in NYC, become part of the fabric woven here.

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Now – like the towns across our nation, we’re being mollified! Sanitized, Homogenized, Disneyfied, Branded.

With the loss of each small business, we lose a part of ourselves; and we drift ever farther, becoming a diaspora of refugees from NYC.

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Let it not be lost on us that Manhattan, once bought for trinkets, is now being tricked out and sold as one herself –

What can we do? At this point, I don’t know;

BUT –

We can be here together, in our distress, in our sadness, in our anger and in our grief, and we can continue the fight, knowing that the real NYC burns like a flame in all our Hearts, and they will Never take that away from us, no matter how many lives and buildings they destroy –

And to para quote Robert Loggia (in Jagged Edge): Fk ‘em;They’re trash.

~ thanks to Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York and #SaveNYC.

My Judaism

My Judaism taught me to remember
the oppressed and the marginalized,
to stand with them,
to hold hands with them –
for once we were oppressed,
once we were marginalized,
once we were slaves,
once we had to wander
without a home…

My Judaism taught me to consider
all sides of an issue, to weigh all facts
perspectives and permutations,
to learn as much as possible and to
think critically about everything.

My Judaism taught me to question.

My Judaism taught me to struggle
with the truth, with god even,
to struggle to understand
what is right and
what is wrong.

My Judaism taught me
the irreplaceable value of
the written word.
My Judaism proved to me that
the oppressors control the story,
and unless you can
scribble away in buried journals,
onto slips of paper left behind in the cracks,
thrown from the slits between the bars,
hidden in the pockets of discarded clothing,
your story will never be heard,
your story will never be known.

My Judaism taught me that
it is MY JOB to speak for
those who can’t speak for themselves;
it is MY JOB to speak out against
Injustice Everywhere;
it is MY JOB to Heal the World.

My Judaism taught me that
the world doesn’t care,
only people do.

They O U

Bernie Mad-off-with-the-loot Ponzi Schemer was the Whole Thing in micro; We’ve been being ripped off for centuries, becoming even more enslaved, getting bled dry by these schemers –

as always, personal greed allows people to commit acts they know in their hearts to be evil, to be against niceness to others, to be screwing someone else over;

just look at their cruel faces,  coldhearted eyes,

of course you can’t always tell by externals,

but actions will steer you the way,

sooner or later.

and if they’re acting like heartless assholes,

they probably are

heartless assholes.