The Black Nightmare on American Streets – Part 2

In 1980, Stevie Wonder penned what has commonly become known as the Black Birthday National anthem; and it was written as a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in an effort to urge the government to name MLK’s birthday a national holiday.  When King was assassinated in 1968, the Black community said, “this is the least you can do,” considering his murder a blatant act of racist terrorism sponsored by the federal government.  The song gave a sort of fire to the urgency to celebrate this man, who left us with a legacy to DREAM…..

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You know it doesn’t make much sense

There out to be a law against

Anyone who takes offense

At a day in your celebration, cause we all know in our minds

That there ought to be a time

That we can set aside

To show just how much we love you

And I’m sure you would agree

It couldn’t fit more perfectly

Than to have a world party on the day you came to be

Happy birthday to ya

Happy birthday to ya

Happy birthday

I just never understood

How a man who died for good

Could not have a day that would

Be set aside for his recognition

Because it should never be

Just because some cannot see

The dream as clear as he

That they should make it become an illusion

And we all know everything

That he stood for time will bring

For the peace our hearts will sing

Thanks to Martin Luther King

Happy birthday to ya

Happy birthday to ya

Happy birthday

Why has there never been a holiday

When peace is celebrated

All throughout the world

The time is overdue

For people like me and you

Who know the way to truth

Is love and unity to all God’s children

It should never be a great event

And the whole day should be spent

In full remembrance

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Of those who lived and died for the oneness of all people

So let us all begin

We know that love can win

Let it out don’t hold it in

Sing it loud as you can

Happy birthday to ya

Happy birthday to ya

Happy birthday

We know the key to unify all people

Is in the dream that you had so long ago

That lives in all of the hearts of people

That believe in unity

We’ll make the dream become reality

I know we will

Because our hearts tell us so

Happy birthday to ya

Happy birthday to ya

Happy Birthday

(Song Lyrics - "Happy Birthday" - By Stevie Wonder)

To dream for equality and equity.  To dream for liberation and civil rights.  A dream to just live free from terrorism or threat.  A dream that makes Black skin beautiful and Black genius enough.  That was the DREAM for Civil Rights, and today BLM Sacramento will continue to #ReclaimMLKDay in honor of his RADICAL, REBELLIOUS AND REVOLUTIONARY self.  The MLK that was murdered because he was unapologetically, outspoken and willing to sacrifice being comfortable.  We RECLAIM the MLK that the system feared the most.  The MLK no one wants to speak of.  The MLK that doesn’t accommodate the legitimacy of white supremacy, but instead the MLK that tells us, “A riot is the language of the unheard” and that “I’m Black and Beautiful.”  This is where the dream won’t die; not on our march, not on our watch.

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Today is that day, the third Monday of January, closest to his actual birthday, January 15th.  If you didn’t know by now BLM Sacramento has annually hosted RECLAIM MLK Day to preserve his legacy of rebellion, resistance, strength, radicalness and being a badass revolutionary.  He was the spokesperson for the nonviolent Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, which successfully protested racial discrimination at both federal and state levels.  King and others marched in the streets, shut down bus systems, sat at lunch counters; and as a result were attacked by dogs, sprayed with water hoses and jailed.  King, while known for his “I have a Dream” speech, spoke and wrote more radically to anyone who would listen, specifically to the heart of the Black community.

What King realized and was clear on, was the fact that America had failed to hear the needs of the Black man.  It had failed to come through on promises of freedom and justice.  He wanted the world to know not only was America failing the Black community but even segments of white America.  He was adamant about exposing the tranquility of the status quo for the sake of justice and humanity.  He was willing to encourage white America to put forth efforts to “reeducate themselves out of their racial ignorance.”  For it was this ignorance that solidified a sense of white superiority.  So even though he is highly revered today, we have to be clear that he was disliked by the American public, up and until the time he was murdered, with a 75% disapproval rate, according to a 1968 Harris Poll.

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This year when I started thinking about the greatness of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, I wanted to create an image in our minds and an atmosphere in our souls that intentionally would activate the spirit of his activism.  I wanted to remind everyone within the stroke of these words, that he was public enemy number one.  Let me remind you that he was vilified and criminalized for marching.  He was vilified and criminalized for sitting.  He was vilified and criminalized for speaking out, for standing, for protesting, for silence, for being courageous in uncomfortable times.

So like King, we have to be willing to be uncomfortable when calling out RACISM, implicit biases, and microaggressions.  Let us be uncomfortable calling out when the most marginalized are not centered, aren’t asked to lead or asked to speak.  Let us be uncomfortable calling out of oppressive tactics and policies that make it hard for certain segments of our community to just live and be free.  Let us be uncomfortable calling out of educational inequity, gentrification, medical genocide and cultural appropriation that has become a normal part of the white normative…..thievery is real and it’s disrespectful.  It is ok to be uncomfortable when calling out of thin blue lines that equate to the promotion of hatred and clap backs to Black Lives Matter; an unauthentic reality that elevates a blue uniform over black and brown skin that POC have no choice to wear every day.

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Let’s be uncomfortable more often…..so that the people who see our getting along, who see our employee status, who see our educational achievement or not, who see our living situations, who judge us if we have health care or not, who judge our level of professionalism or not, who determine if our natural or dreaded hair gives us access to or not, to all of those who hold the keys to norms that hinder the matriculation of ALL of us…..let’s be uncomfortable with them.  It takes a special kind of courage to not fear the uncomfortable, but I promise you it is the only way to promote change and growth.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was motivated by the uncomfortableness that situations of the unknown brought.  For it was in those moments that he was brilliant in maneuvering for the movement.

King has become this almost mythical figure to American history and culture. But when he was alive he was hated, he was on the FBI most wanted list, and assassination attempts were numerous. He made the public uncomfortable with ideologies that make people uncomfortable to this day. But what white America has done is stolen, co-opted and distorted his message to be one SINGULARLY about PEACE. This theft has gone unCHECKed for far too long. Hence my conclusion that Black America has lived a nightmare.

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Currently, in today’s time, you will find marches and celebrations sponsored by the very entities he was fighting against. For example but not limited to, the #MLK365 march in Sacramento that is partnered with Sac PD, Sac Sheriff, CHP and big business like SMUD. While this may seem harmless in the grand scheme of things when speaking of peace and unity.....but these entities are the ones who take advantage of the most vulnerable and marginalized still to this day. So to RECLAIM is to be outspoken, to be uncomfortable, to DEMAND, to shame the systems that kill us, and to call out the hypocrisy each and every time it rears its ugly head. He was arrested over 30 times and ultimately murdered for his work.  King wasn't then and isn't now a token to be hailed as the godfather of peace by our colonizers.....he was about that life, until his demise on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in 1968.

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After pressure from the Black community and then specifically from Stevie Wonder, surprisingly it was President Ronald Reagan who signed today into a holiday in 1983.  It was first observed three years later because opposition and pushback were as real then as they are today, with respects to continuing the fight for EQUITY, LIBERATION, and REPARATIONS.  But it was a long fight that began immediately after his assassination in 1968.

It is important that we tell our stories in a manner that etches forever like birthmarks, our birthrights, our soul’s right to breath and dreams like Kings.  So, we can then regurgitate this truth like second nature and second languages.  It is my honor to craft ideas that end up performing like verbal jujitsu on the minds of those who are comfortable with being comfortable, even if we get boxed in, are strangled, or even left for dead.  These stories, these voices, this blood that has spilled so that we might stand here decades after our ancestors marched and stood on the shoulders of those who came before them, and those before them, before you and you and those babies, and our elders; who are the conductors that connect us to the earth simultaneously connecting us to King and our other assassinated brethren.  Our connection to their energy is forever.  This is my attempt to write/right the wrongs that get convoluted in imagined spaces and time, that are real and relevant to all of our existence…..even when the normative tries to debase King to a suit-wearing reverend in a suit, FIGHTING TO DREAM.

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So today, we stand firm against misguided attempts to align with the very people who terrorized King, other Civil Rights leaders, other Black historical figures and even us to this day.  Well today, 4 years in the making, I am here with a message that hopefully drives home the point that only with uncomfortability will change ever occur.  Let me repeat that, ONLY WITH UNCOMFORTABILITY WILL CHANGE EVER OCCUR.  So we fight for the lives taken and lift their names because the city won’t and the police pretend like they can’t do anything to foster accountability.  Uncomfortable is our presence at the DAs office for 10 months.  Uncomfortable are the words we refuse to sugar coat at City Council and Board of Supervisor meetings.  Uncomfortable, like the signs we hold in the streets that say things like, “Pigs belong in Pens” and “Their Blood is on Your Hands.”  Because at the end of the day, JUSTICE looks like FIRING, CHARGING AND CONVICTING cops who use excessive force or murder us. It’s that simple.

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While we too want King’s dream to become reality, we have to face the fact that we have lived in a constant state of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome and the Black Nightmare is a real phenomenon we have to face head-on….while DREAMING to honor King.  It is a reality that is connected to white supremacy, which was the by-product of colonialism, slavery, capitalism, patriarchy and Christianity.  It is all of these things that have fostered this American Nightmare on streets all over this country, the experience Black, Brown and poor people experience collectively.  When we recognize that truth, we can ABOLISH and REBUILD with collective intent.  We need each other to fight the white normative that has convinced us that we are not enough when in all actuality they fear the fact that we are more than enough.

WE ARE MORE THAN ENOUGH.

WE ARE MORE THAN ENOUGH.

WE….WE ARE…..WE IN OUR BLACKNESS IS…..MORE THAN ENOUGH!