A Michigan native, I had the pleasure of spending last week in Chicago, indulging in many different neighborhoods of flavors and variety you just won’t find here in Grand Rapids where I live. I hadn’t spent that much time in the City before, and it really gave me an opportunity to see the culture(s) in a new way. In one week – we could have easily spent much more time there – my partner and I squeezed in a visit to the Field Museum of Natural History and the DuSable Museum of African American History. We shopped many neighborhoods and dined in many cultures’ restaurants. We watched the sway of shift in the town from day to night and weekday to weekend. And we even had the experience of being a little too far outside of the city and running into a town of proud Good Old Boys. (Stay sharp in Gurnee, Fam.) So of course, being the overthinker and social observer I am, I absolutely came away from this trip with some very startling conclusions I never thought I’d embrace, even just a short time ago.
Things I learned after a week in Chicago that I did not expect to learn:
The military and war is essential to independent society.
As spiritual beings, we may feel turned off by this idea, but I believe that is due to our nation’s lineage of misuse and abuse of power that has tainted our perception of the necessity of military defense. We do too much. But that is us (US), not war itself. A military is supposed to be defensive, protective as needed. War is not meant to be wielded to plunder. But without that ability of protection, you are subject to whatever the bullies feel like doing that day, just because they can. And you betta believe, if you’re out there sloppin on your shiny red apple and they want it, if you do not have a way to prevent it, they will snatch it right from your palm and not blink – and might even force you to clean up their excrement afterward, depending on the situation.
We cannot be free without some form of organized armed defense.
No matter how much we want to be peaceful, I learned as I strolled the museum displays, the peaceful ones either get absorbed or annihilated. You cannot fight weapons with good wishes, sadly. History bears this out consistently. We do not have to be this way as humans, but we are this way, and to stay alive, this is what is necessary. It doesn’t mean we have to go out toting or shooting, but it means we need to have defense systems in place, and we need to know how to protect ourselves at all times, in all instances, which means we also need safe spaces we’ve built for ourselves to defend.
Military protection of borders actually leads to the accumulation of wealth and the development of a society and a people.
While we take these things for granted here and now, there were times when little girls spent 8 hours of the day grinding corn. Societal development frees humans from labor tasks and introduces the possibility for enrichment and personal development beyond survival; it stimulates the development of technology that can allow creativity and innovation to flourish. In other words, without the accumulation of wealth, which comes as a result of military protection of borders (people can’t just take your stuff – or you), human development is slow or stagnate.
While we have excelled despite living centuries in survival conditions, we can also easily imagine how different our situation might look were we afforded the same luxuries our white peers have expected as their norm for the last several generations.
Weapons (technology) were used to decimate our cultures. Did we sho nuff not build us up another one? Oh yes, we did! – a whole slew of them bitches. But still, we can’t even protect ourselves or our children from the “authorities” we’re supposed to trust most, and we see the terrorism we experience daily as just life. We’ve surrendered to it. We teach our children to surrender to it. As a whole, our highest aspiration is to live like them and to be welcomed by them. We call this idea “integration,” but in practice, what it means is assimilation – the erasure (or exploitation) of that which distinguishes us from the dominant culture.
Integration is hostile to the Black soul.
Where we progress, there is (often violent) backlash.
I noticed a pattern while walking through the various museum exhibits. Historically speaking, whenever there was a large movement forward in the lives of Blackfolk, say a northern migration out of the heat of the oppressive South, or a Black president elected, there is always a backlash from those who believe this is their country, and that “theirs” is defined by racial status. In other words, progress without defense will only get us killed and staying at their mercy. While we continue to lose son after son, we may begin to realize climbing their ladder into “integration” may be more of a sacrifice than we want (or need) to invest.
Are we accepting a hostile life experience because we think it’s the only way?
All these conclusions point to the glaring reality that we have not created any safe spaces for ourselves in this country. There is nowhere safe to live, nowhere safe to learn, nowhere safe to travel, nowhere safe to become. As a people, we have diverted and directed almost 100% of our energy and resources back into the culture that eats us for dinner instead of growing our own gardens.
What I see is no lack in our people. We are brilliant, bold, passionate, creative, innovative, and together, we have no shortage of experience or resource. There was certainly a time to focus on climbing their ladder, as they built this world and the playing field we’ve all inherited. We needed to learn how to play the game. And we did. And now we are ready to apply all that and start funneling it over into establishing safe and nourishing spaces for ourselves.
Integration diverts all our resources to ask their permission for “equality.”
There is no need for it. We can create anything of our own that we’d ask for from them. And forced “equality” is not actual equality. What we really want is to be seen and treated and valued as the human beings we are. We don’t need to strive to be around hostile people for whom only the law is preventing them from harming us more overtly. This is degrading to ourselves and our souls.
The idea that race will soon be obsolete, or that things will just magically get better over time has kept us locked into accepting these conditions and living with substandard expectations. We are continually re-traumatized by everyday life in America, and yet steady in our stride to move on up, pouring all our resources and dreams into their system. These ideas also demonstrate a misunderstanding, a false correlation we’ve made between population and power. Few are those in control; this “race” thing is just a cover, but make no mistake, we are talking about a system of governance, a caste system of power based on arbitrary rules invented by those who benefit from them.
This is currently a white supremacist system, but do not get lost in the illusions here. Power is no more about genetics than is race. This is not a race war. It is about recognizing the very deliberate design of the current power structure to systemically and strategically disempower and harm black people, and a need to get the fuck off that system as our primary aspiration in life. We are talking about consciousness, paradigm, and the associated legal institutions and culture built to divert power to a specific group – not genetics, even while all these things have curious and mysterious connections and correlations and distinctions between them.
What Chicago taught me is that we need to wean off the supremacist system by first creating safe regions in this nation to live, eat, breathe, exist, shop, pray, play, shit, and fuck. To just be human. From my vantage, this means no longer working toward assimilation (“integration”) as our primary effort as a people. This means diverting our expertise and resources into building these spaces and nourishing them to life so that our people may be nourished. This also means defense systems will be required.
Again, there is no lack of resource or expertise…only lack of belief in us as a people and recognition of the essential need that safety is for the human soul, and accepting that we cannot get that in an “integration” situation without having at least somewhere safe for us to heal, develop, and flourish without repeat aggressions, “micro” or not, often from the people we love and deal with day in and day out. We ain’t gotta shun nobody, but we need our own spaces to come home to at the end of the day.
This means collaboration, organization, and belief in ourselves, despite what we’ve been told about who we are. If we haven’t already, that means remembering what they’ve hidden, what they’re so afraid of us finding out, why they have to do so much to keep us beneath them. We are activated by the memories alone, so perhaps that is our first step as a group: to remember who the fuck we are, because from this perspective, we would not accept regular violence as a simple standard of living. Queens do not sit in shit.
What do you think? Tell us about it and we’ll publish your well-crafted response in a future 13Moons issue.
Where in the world do we begin?
How 13Moons is getting started.
FIRST LET US POUR INTO US
Aside from this yearning I know we are all beginning to feel as we peel back the layers of lies we’ve lived on like Wheaties, I would really love to see organized and wide-scale efforts to help us divest from the Western system and redirect our resources into building communities and systems that are nourishing and safe, created for us by us. In its fruition, this is quite a tall order, but we only get there by marching forward. 13Moons is committed to supporting Black communities and to directing resources into organizations and businesses that will help Black families thrive. We would like to play a part in “keeping our diamonds Black.” Meaning, let’s start by keeping Black money circulating in Black communities.
We can’t wait for how this effort will evolve and take shape over 2022, and we’d like to open this portal with our first Small Business Directory,Black Diamonds. Let’s keep our money flowing among our brothers and sisters by supporting families and individuals making a way for themselves in this world through small business. We hope for this directory to grow exponentially over 2022. Please come back to see new offerings, and reach out to share about businesses you’re excited to support. If you’re a small business owner, we’d love to feature your offerings in our directory and elsewhere in our community. Let us support you for us! Reach out to Astara @ firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Featured Art by Ija Charles]
About Sarah Asia
I’m a multimedia, multidimensional artist, hopelessly in lust with dramatic punctuation that stuns the page and arrests the reader. I like to challenge the rules by teasing the skirt of under- and innerstanding – art that demands presence and, sometimes, patience to digest.
Trained in more formal settings here and such, my work is primarily birthed by the flow of my Ancestors spiraling through my veins, the Storyteller within me, she who likes to play wordsounds like Jane plays Jacks and Hopscotch.
They call her ‘Blood: the magic within me who dances forth as art for your eyes’ delight, in word and color and form of every sort.