Activism

Ferguson and the long wave

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At the local Ferguson protest the other night two students from Minneapolis’ South High School talked about the sit-in and walk-out they’d organized, coordinated with other high schools. I realized that forty four years ago this week I was part of planning a walkout at my Chicago high school, coordinated with other schools. It was to protest the police killing of another young Black man one year before, twenty-one years old, named Fred Hampton. He was the target of a police-FBI hit that also took the life of another Black Panther leader, Mark Clark, age 22. Chairman Fred’s murder was my tipping point. It pulled me from being a young radical in my head to one in the streets. From observing to organizing. I’ve been at it ever since.

I know what you’re thinking – all these years and nothing’s changed. Don’t believe it. It’s true that the abusive structures are still in place but history spirals, it never circles. Back then we were up against an empire at the peak of its power, about to start its long slide. Today we face the time of its exhaustion. It’s 1% reduced to tracking your every tweet and sending tactical military hardware to local police departments in order to sleep at night. Strategies destined to misfire and backfire – as we are seeing. Back then we were at the front end of a wave of fierce repression that would push back the movements of the day. Today we are the front end of a new wave of resistance – one that is starting out wiser and deeper than some that have come before. I’ve been in this long enough to tell that this is not one of those flash-in-the-pan bursts of rage that soon dissipates into the night sky. I have seen those come and go. This is the beginning of a long historical wave. So take a deep breath, bulk up on your history and turn your anger to slow-burn. This will take awhile.

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