What Next, Justice Beyond Grief

In Direct Action, Interpretive Editorial, Racial Justice on December 11, 2014 at 10:15 pm

The amount of media, journalism, and blog articles about Ferguson over the last two weeks has been staggering.  There is no conceivable way to keep up with all the new and forthcoming information.  And that’s too bad because much of it is really really good journalism and analysis.

Of all the pieces that I encountered, two stuck with me because they proposed not just an analysis, but specific actions of solidarity.  Each was shared multiple times and even built upon one another.  The first, Becoming a White Ally to Black People in the Aftermath of the Michael Brown Murder, published at, presents, in the words of the second article’s authors –

only thinking, reading, contemplating, reframing. While these personal acts are absolutely necessary, they are insufficient. They are not enough, and especially not today. They fall short because they don’t facilitate change, because they don’t hold whiteness accountable, and because they aren’t sufficiently tied into movements of racial justice.”  – 12 Things White People Can Actually Do After the Ferguson Decision – Joseph Osmundson and David J. Leonard

I’ve also seen many many people sharing these articles and making a personal statement or two on Facebook about the Mike Brown killing and the Darren Wilson non-indictment (and now as I write this, the non-indictment in the Eric Garner killing).  In the case of my set of Facebook friends, this generally means solidarity as an ally with non-whites, and enragement at the Grand Jury decisions.

The comments that accompany the posts and articles that most strike me (besides the calls for demilitarization of the police) are the ones that call for jobs, economic development, and citizen engagement from within the ranks of, or from members of, disenfranchised groups.  These things won’t come about solely from facebook clicktivism or protests or marches.  Note: I am not here to diminish these actions.  They are important, and I can’t wait for ensuing marches and rallies that will energize and galvanize.  They allow #GriefFrustrationAndAnger to be expressed, a #GrowingRacialJusticeVoice to be heard, and a chance and a reason for reflection, especially I hope through encouraging #LookingBackAtYourOwnRacistHistory and recognizing how you have been influenced to perhaps look the other way.

I will though offer the following other actions, as a contribution, that you can take to not just deal with the immediate aftermath of the decisions and the resulting emotions, but to bring about necessary “change to laws, to our institutions and how we carry ourselves each and every day” as I riff off of my favorite item from Osmundson and Leonard’s list – “11. Do Something Beyond This Week”.

#ShutItDown may be the new age of civil disobedience, but civil disobedience in itself does not equal change.  Effecting the system, effecting the root causes with root solutions, effecting our own internal revolution and evolution, these are the next steps – Participatory Democracy, Cooperative Economics, Assurance of Basic Needs, Continuing Lifelong Personal Development.

  1. Move your money from a corporate bank to a member-owned community development credit union such as Cooperative Federal.  If you believe that the system is functioning to keep power in the hands of the few who currently have wealth and power, and that police brutality and militarization are facets of the control structures in place too, then divest from those structures, and put your money into the hands of your community and your neighbors.
  2. Become a member owner at Eat-To-Live Food Coop (or Syracuse Real Food Coop).  Similarly to moving your money, move your consumption and your grocery purchases to a member-owned store.  There are currently two choices in Syracuse, the Eat-To-Live Food Coop on South Salina St, and the Syracuse Real Food Cooperative on Kensington St.  Both are run democratically, and revenues stay within the neighborhood, and within the operations of the store itself.
  3. Form your own cooperative business, collective home, or sharing economy project.  Value people over property by putting property and ownership into collective hands.  Examples that currently exist are community gardens, housing coops, and tool shares.  But the possibilities are endless.  Worker cooperatives, in which the individuals who work at a business also own the means of production of the business, are the holy grail of cooperatives. We don’t currently have one worker cooperative in Syracuse, let’s change that.
  4. Know the history of police brutality and corruption locally, and understand what this current racial justice movement is demanding.  I honestly don’t know this history as well as I should, but I hope to keep learning about it until there is no more of it to learn, i.e. we’ve put an end to such violence.  Look to the New York Civil Liberties Union and the United As One Coalition for this information. Read Howard Zinn’s “The People’s History of the United States” to understand the roots of white privilege, beginning with the violent colonization of Native Americans by European settlers. Also, read and be familiar with the demands from the Ferguson Action Group for radical change to the nation’s criminal justice system.  These are the endgame goals that we should be discussing and communicating.
  5. Become a digital witness (learn and practice citizen journalism techniques).  If you have a smart-phone, download a live-streaming app and learn how to use it efficiently and in a moment’s notice.  Practice documenting events that the paid media do not show up at, and sharing them with the world.  I currently use Bambuser app on a Galaxy S3 phone, and post via Independent Media CNY.  Ask me how.
  6. Support a political party that supports equality and fairness without qualms.  The Green Party accepts no corporate donations, and puts voluntary caps on individual donations.  This removes special interests from the election and governing processes.  Greens stand with gumption for everyone to have the basic needs to live a dignified life – which would include free education, appropriate housing, health care for all, and public jobs programs for full employment.
  7. Healing and self-care.  We are all human biological and chemical organisms, with limits, and personal struggles and needs, whether they be emotional or physical, outside of the movements and activism we participate in.  Allow yourself time, sleep, creativity, exercise, quiet, poetry – allow rest and peace to enter your heart in stillness and solitude – without guilt.  Build connections through the universal languages of music and art – attend a DFR Tent Revival for Freedom and Democracy performance and jump, dance and sing together.  It takes a village, the weight is not just on your shoulders, nor should it be for a successful revolution to take place, be your brothers keeper, but first be your own.
  8. Share more civic skills, positive value propositions, and alternative consumption models.  Work on voter registration drives and teach about the voting process; conduct a street medic training and create helping roles for people as parts of actions; volunteer with Food Not Bombs to not only feed the hungry but learn how to cook fresh food from scratch; demonstrate a degree of frugality, that demonstrates economic thrift and prudence in the consumption of consumable resources such as food, time or money, and avoids waste, lavishness or extravagance.
  9. Engage in intersectionality with the organizations that work to continue the conversation, not “arrest” it. –  Gratitude to the new Syracuse Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference for opening the doors to expanded dialogue without ulterior motive.  The public service and non-profit industrial complexes are similar to capitalism in that they need to feed on competition by being “one-up”  to keep them relevant and flush.  Privatization of public utilities, schools, and healthcare prevent true intersectionality due to the holding and control of power by the capital owners. Understand that intersectionality is not just based on issues horizontally (such as with multi-racial groups or the LGBT community), but also vertically.  The military functions on an international level, just as the police do domestically, to maintain control and prevent people from exerting influence over their own affairs.  Recognize that when groups such as the Syracuse Peace Council are fighting against drone warfare at Hancock Air Base here in Syracuse, they are fighting against the same system of oppression.
  10. Contact your elected representatives directly and personally.  After you show up at a march or rally en masse, send an email, make a telephone call, mail a letter to, or knock on the door of those same exact public representatives that you were trying to get the attention of.  Tell them you were outside their office with that crowd of people, and reinforce your demands, wants, needs, and goals as an individual who is part of a movement.

I had put off writing this piece for days and days as I let the realities and the perspectives sink in, and as I watched and learned what was happening around me.  I clapped and chanted as I live-streamed one of the biggest and most successful displays of public power that I have seen in my time in Syracuse – the “I Can’t Breathe” Syracuse March for Justice on Monday December 8th that saw community and campus in unison (thanks to the strong showing of THE General Body coming off of campus).  I was eager to know what was next. I was disappointed by the low turnout (compared to the march and rally) at the following evenings’ community forum on “Syracuse, Ferguson, Gaza: Rebellion is a Right” at New Salem Baptist Church, but optimistic that folks were in their own neighborhoods taking action.  Many of you are likely aware of many of the tasks and actions I outlined above, and are likely even engaging in them.  But many of the people who were out at the march are probably not aware, and I especially dedicate this to harnessing their energy.

Journalist Chris Hedges recently called for professional revolutionists, and claims that civil disobedience is “the only mechanism left that offers hope for systematic legal and judicial reform”.  I would agree, but the rise of a professional revolutionist class will be difficult, especially while putting food on our own tables – because as far as I know right now the job listings for professional revolutionist are few and far between, if at all.  So I would encourage you to harness the thought that “mass acts of civil disobedience” include the actions I have discussed above (as well as others that aren’t included here), and are not just limited to marches and sit-ins and professional revolutionists.   Don’t give up your power, use it via ballot, brawn, or buying power.  Use your power as Everyday Revolutionists for connecting, and for loving, to overcome the current differences that manifest as status and class.


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