There is no separation. We are the disenfranchised. We are the ones who crossed the borders “illegally” to save our lives and keep our children fed. We are the ones raised in poverty, born of violence and reborn in the brutality of dehumanization. We are the margins and the powerful. We are the ones who know there is living beyond surviving.
We remember in our DNA, there is the possibility of a nation, community and a world which looks and feels nothing like the one we live in today. Until that world is made, in the face of disenfranchisement, amidst the rally cries of the bold and the silent moans of the broken, we have a choice to make. Do we hide in the corner and cower? Do we ignore the sinking feeling in the pit of our stomachs? Do we speak to ourselves and say “this too shall pass” or turn to ritual and healing methods out-of-season? No. There is a time to heal but today is not that day. Today is the day we force them to see our faces which have for too long been invisibilized. Now is the time to walk out into the open. Whether we’re pinned to the wall or met with vicious hatred, let us be still in the chaos so we can hear the voices of those who fought before us, beckoning us to climb onto their shoulders, and rise.
People died so we can vote. Rise up from your closets, rise up from your low and high places, rise up from the places in which you have been made to live in squalor and hopelessness. Go. Vote. Let them hear you. Let it be an overwhelming “nay” from you.
Rise up and make that speech to your family, your friends and your colleagues that freedom fighters make before a battle. These are often words uttered before a war that only feels unwinnable—words like “if you fall today, then fall with your fist up in the air.” If you fall today, fall with a battle cry on your lips. Let them feel the rising masses. Losing is the least we should fear. What we should fear, is the regret of doing nothing. We should fear rape. We should fear the hands of the law once again roaming over our rights and over the wombs of those who have them. We should fear the poisoning of the land under our feet and the defiling of the water at our lips. We should fear the erosion of democracy, civil and human rights. We should fear imprisonment when we protest. As for the disenfranchised—all of us in some way—being suppressed, being erased at this very moment, rise now and fight! No matter what, let your voice linger long after this moment.
History will be written with or without you. The question is where do you want to land? We were not born to survive. We were born to thrive.
I leave you with the words of Claude McCay, Black Jamaican Poet. These words may not offer something to all, but they may give strength to some.
If We Must Die
Claude McKay, 1889 - 1948
If we must die—let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.
If we must die—oh, let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
Oh, Kinsmen! We must meet the common foe;
Though far outnumbered, let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one deathblow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!