I spent the following month visiting my family in Minneapolis, where I'm from. After the May Day march, it finally dawned on me that I have options. I can stay in my apartment all day, sad, angry that I have a pain disorder, bitter that my life has been altered forever, scared to get involved, angry at the world for being what it is, irrationally frustrated with my fellow white citizens who, like me, haven't done enough to change this fucked up system, OR, I can lead by example. For the record, I don't blame anyone one person here, and I am not angry at all white peoples, because this whole system is made this way by design. The only person I really blame for this is myself and that's more to keep myself in check. So I spent May trying to get back to who I was before my surgery, before the summer of 2015 when the thread of my life as I knew it was being pulled apart before me very eyes. I started by using childhood pictures to remind me of the parts of me I'd let go of over the years and it turns out I wasn't actually looking for myself from before the surgery because I never left, I just got lost in the pain and the feelings that go along with it (and there are a lot and they are complicated but that's ok, so is dang life!). What I was really doing while in MN was building upon what I already knew, sorting through a plethora of information I was just learning, and coming out on the other side of all of it with a better understanding of my purpose on this planet. While I was there, I talked to every person I saw about the injustices I've seen in Chicago. My family is huge and I have a lot of childhood friends, and each and every one of them listened to me. I talked about the difficulties I've faced becoming disabled in this country, and the impossible and depressing process of filing for disability (over a year later, my case will be heard by the end of next year). I discussed what it's like to go from an active creative business owner to laying in bed all day, feeling alone and terrified. I discussed the financial woes that come along with this situation, not to hint for help or get some pity energy from the person, I shared this info because I firmly believe that our society's focus on rugged individualism has been a lie to keep us split and has caused people to shut down. It's made people forget we are all the same. It's made us lose the idea of community. Its so easy to remain insular or to avoid someone else's problems, it's a lot more effort to try to understand, to get past assumptions so that the want to help beats out the voice that tells you "it's not my problem."
I am in with love New Orleans. I know that seems like a non sequitur but just hold on tight. While I was back home, I had this idea. New Orleans is a town of struggle. For all of its amazing culture, food, music, history, and humans, there is another side that is pretty intense. The corruption there is on par with Chicago, maybe worse. The weather is insane and the city is seemingly always on the brink of flooding. Also in Nola, for two weeks in the summer, there are swarms of termites that fly in the air and women will come home and find them in their bras. Gnarly. But man that city is magical. There is a tradition there that when someone dies, their soul is sent off with a Second Line March. A brass band plays songs like "When the Saints Go Marching In," and the like, while people march along and dance to celebrate the life of the deceased. It occurred to me while I was in MN that this is what Chicago needs right now. What began as an idea while I was at home became my entire summer mission. My job was to make this happen.
So, I approached the Chicago chapter of Black Lives Matter. I started with emailing them and reaching out to the contacts I had made so far. But it wasn't moving fast enough for me, so I approached them in person. They were having a Fathers Day event for the families who've lost their fathers to violence, and a march for Philando Castille. I showed up before it started and approached a few members. Keep in mind, they had no clue who I am, and I can be an intense human. I don't mean to be, it's just how I'm wired. Add to that my frangs, and imagine that comin' your way with a determination as intense to match. And they were all very kind to me. They told me that a few members had actually already discussed doing a second line, but they are so busy, it hadn't been made a priority. Ronald Johnson's mom, Dorothy, was also there. Ronald Johnson was killed in 2014 by police in the very park their event was taking place in, Washington Park (they are currently trying to get the park named changed to honor Ronald "Ronnieman" Johnson to Ronnieman Park). Imagine that for a minute, the stomach it would take to not only have to face the spot your son was killed, but to celebrate his life in the very same location. I was so taken aback at meeting her because I just didn't expect to. I wanted to hug her and tell her I'm sorry and that this system, this city, this whole world is so fucked up and that she lost her son as a result. I wanted to do something right then and there, but I just kept it simple and told her this march was for her. Looking back, I should have hugged her.
We spent the rest of this summer planning. BLM Chi is an amazing organization. The amount of planning and community outreach they do is unmatched. Follow them on Twitter, or just go to their website. They are filling a much needed void in their own community, a void sponsored by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and the city of Chicago. One of my favorite things they do (among many) is they organize fundraisers for families with incarcerated mothers so that the families and children can have access to the transportation needed to visit their moms on Mother's Day. They protest, they march for those who've lost their lives in Chicago to police and gun violence, and they march for those victims in other cities as well. They put their bodies on the line in the streets. And with each and every one of these events, there is no violence. They are peaceful. This is a group of humans out to change the system. They are currently changing the bail bond system in Chicago through legal action. And if what they are doing works, then that could change the very racist, convoluted and antiquated bail bond system for the entire country, which will not only help poor people of color, but it will help poor people of all races, white included. They are doing the work that no one is doing, not just because they have to in order to survive Chicago, but because they are the kind of humans who see a glaring problem and say no more. They are leaders, they are pioneers, they are fighters. All with peace.
The march was originally slated to take place this coming weekend, but with the events in Charlottesville, the group is focused on some very pressing actions and that must be their focus right now, so we've postponed it until further notice. I thought if this march didn't happen, I'd be super disappointed, but I'm not at all. I'm excited for them to have the momentum they have right now so they can focus on making big strides in Chicago, and I'm so grateful to have even had the chance to work with this group of humans, and they took me seriously. It's hard to know what someone's intentions are, but they gave me the benefit of the doubt and let me come in, frangs a blazin', and taught me things I never would have learned anywhere else. I want the world to know the truth about BLM. I want people to see what I see. BLM should have as many white humans standing by their side as they can. I want them elevated and uplifted by anyone and everyone. I know we are headed there, but it doesn't mean I'll stop what I'm doing. I'll never stop because they will never stop. That's what BLM Chi has taught me: never stop fighting for what's right. Never.