Ten Ways the Black Community and Their Allies Can Transmute Pain Into Power

Million Hoodies protest in NYC, Union Square

by Kanene Holder 

[Former Colin Powell Fellow and activist Kanene Holder wrote the following piece for the Huffington Post days after the George Zimmerman verdict was handed down. It can be read as both a manifesto and a balm for wounds that run deep through many Americans.] 

“You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity and in as many ways as possible that you were a worthless human being.” — James Baldwin

Hang onto the world as it spins around
Just don’t let the spin get you down…..
Keep on walking tall, hold your head up high
And lay your dreams right up to the sky……. 
Donny Hathaway

In the coming days after the Zimmerman not guilty verdict, many will cry, some will wallow in despair and disbelief while others will take to the streets. In each instance, we are forming a more perfect union as we realize that #ajmia — American Justice is MISSING in Action. We realize we can no longer satiate our humanity in the trivialities of Twitter followers and Instagram likes. We are searching for justice, as we pursue happiness.

We have been force-fed the myth of “post-racial” America; that electing a black president will somehow Etch-a-Sketch 400 years of racial strife from our collective memory. For many youth, this is the first time they have visceral first hand experience with the stinging slight of hand known as institutional American racism. The #TrayvonTragedy unearths notions ofwhite superiority and black inferiority. Fortunately I believe at the root of all inferiority and superiority complex is a need for love and power. So how can African Americans, love themselves and feel empowered? We are going to have to shift our paradigm, our concept of being black and hence our role in society. Below is my prescription. Let’s embark on this journey and please keep me abreast of your progress.

  • 2. Sign the NAACP petition to demand justice for Trayvon Martin’s family.
  • 3. Make Love: Che Guevara stated and Dr. Michael Eric Dyson reaffirmed that the most radical action you can take in the face of injustice is love! So often we forget the power of love to conquer all. Love being #black. Love being #BlackInAmerica. For centuries we have internalized our own inferiority, hence perpetuating a cycle of pain. You don’t have to wait for Black History Month or McDonalds 365black.com as an excuse to indulge in your heritage.
  • 4. Unplug and Realize that the Revolution Will NOT Be Televised: Mainstream media and music is a steady stream of negative depictions of black and brown people. Malcolm X stated,

The newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.

Instead support independent media and especially watch Fruitvale Station a new film produced by Forest Whitaker about Oscar Grant, another unarmed blackman slain #ubs by a BART police officer. The film is a riveting portrayal heralded by the NYT.com as making

“Oscar a fully human presence, to pay him the respect of acknowledging his complexities and contradictions. The radicalism of “Fruitvale Station” lies precisely here, in its refusal to turn a man into a symbol.”

  • 7. Realize Strength in Numbers Part 1: Once you know your rights, now you can defend them! Start a Community Cop Watch! Have meetings with your local precinct and share all of your knowledge about the prison industrial complex. Take down badge numbers and file complaints with your local civilian complaint review board.
  • 9. Develop some type of spiritual practice and way to handle stress: Research shows African-Americans are at a higher risk for high blood pressure, diabetes and strokes, due in part to Mundane Extreme Environmental Stressors (MEES). According to Dr. Grace Carol, from the moment African Americans wake up to the time we go to sleep, we are bombarded on a conscious and subconscious level with feelings of inferiority and challenges to our humanity, which cause everything from anxiety to depression. Too often we self-medicate with unhealthy foods or habits. Instead, honor your life and your body by committing to being healthier and happier! Hold yourself accountable to your family and your community by being the best you can be!
  • 10. Enjoy Teachable Moments about racism and white privilege: Be willing and open to have discussions about race in the moment! So often throughout the day we as blacks ignore jokes and comments that may offend us. We want to be polite and not rock the boat. Instead embraces these episodes as teachable moments! As theBuddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda stated, “Let’s extinguish the flames of hatred, with a flood of dialog.

This world is but a canvas of our imagination!- Henry David Thoreau

Take it from me someday, we’ll all be free, yeah
Hey, just wait and see someday we’ll all be free, yeah
– Donny Hathaway.

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