We are the Ones
We Have Been Waiting For ~ June Jordan, poet, 1936-2002: Beloved and deeply missed.
What Are Human Beings? ©2021 by Alice Walker
What are human beings? Whatever we are, it will be hard to let us go!
Robots won’t be nearly as unpredictable and crazy and absurd and brave.
I think of this having chuckled my way through a distressingly sad book, The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen. What helped was that I had immersed myself before reading it in the work of Chester Himes – not the detective fiction he became famous for, but the fascinating biography, Chester B. Himes, by Lawrence B. Jackson, followed by volume two of his autobiography: My Life of Absurdity. Much of his early work is out of print; I was unable to obtain volume one, The Quality of Hurt. Himes is not always admirable or likeable which is reality for most humans, and he admitted, happily, once he’d made some, that he wrote for money. Humans can be honest! And so, walking about in my solitude with Himes’ life demonstrating that the absurd is where many black and people of color live in a world that was unmade for us, I was I thought ready for The Committed, having admired Nguyen’s earlier book The Sympathizer, which I shared excitedly with my Jungian therapist (not currently) but which left her unmoved, and actually rather chilled. So unpredictable, humans! A trait I also admire.
At this point in my life I can only point to the medicine. It is too complex usually to attempt to describe exactly what is in it. The Committed let us say is the often quite puzzling book you might write if you could begin to imagine what life has been like for Vietnamese people over the last two hundred years. And for communists and anti-communists in Viet Nam over the past eighty-five. It is a book written moreover in the voice of a man whose young mother was Vietnamese, and starving, and whose father was the French priest who, comprehending this, offered her a bowl of rice. Though his father acknowledged neither mother nor son as long as he lived, the narrator’s “quality of hurt” gives him a double vision, a two-headedness, not unlike DuBois’s description of our own black, people of color, double consciousness. A split consciousness much on display, also, in Himes’ life.
In fact, though the “heroes” in this novel are unapologetic gangsters, criminals, drug dealers, murderers and thieves, it is exactly the double- consciousness of the narrator/protagonist that offers a glimmer of light – perhaps in time for the global community to meditate on its deadly delusion in a world where Henry Kissinger, architect of so much destruction, in Viet Nam and elsewhere, could be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
And then there is The United States Vs. Billie Holiday. One of my favorite films of all time. It begins to appear that all wars are fought over land on which to grow narcotics of one kind or another. The Committed makes a well documented case for how control of drug territory fueled much of the intensive fighting to keep Vietnamese people virtual slaves to a colonial France and its greedy colonial side-kick, America. Did we really believe it was only about Ideology? And who would have intuited this perfectly, though she probably never knew Viet Nam existed: Lady Day.
This Lee Daniels film explores a level of conscious pain few are brave enough to bring to screen. It explores as well the necessity of blotting it out when the misery of what we know, what we are forced to endure, becomes unbearable. Andra Day, who plays Billie Holiday as well as Billie might have played herself, breaks our heart as she makes plain: the Daughters will take care of it. Embodying, as she does, the mother, the grandmother, the aunt, the ancestor who could not, was not allowed, to speak, to act, to dream in full glory. Those who died chained to their deathbeds, as Mumia Abu Jamal, this very month in 2021, the month of his birth, was ordered shackled to an operating table during heart surgery, as Billie was chained to her hospital bed as she died.
We have lived, and continue to live, among monsters. Who would commit the lynchings, the “roasting” of human beings, who would cut off human ears and toes and feet and save them for souvenirs or place them in a window of a butcher shop? Who would cut open a pregnant woman, while she is being lynched, and stomp the fetus that falls to the ground? Who would kneel on the neck of a human being for nearly ten minutes as he, dying, begged for breath?
And so. Robots. There is a strong rumor they are coming. What do we say in our defense?
We say: Artists. Rebels and artists. Lee Daniels, Lester Young, Billie Holiday, Andra Day, Chester “bad boy” Himes, DuBois, Fanon, Viet Trahn Nguyen. Mumia Abu Jamal. The list is long. Our showing is not so bad. And, being us, we’ve no plan to stop our praise.
Art and Resistance: our Gratitude for having Human Souls.
Photo: Dennis Banks, Fidel Castro, Alice Walker, Ramsey Clark, in Havana, April 1993. Credit: Gloria La Riva
Liberation News Audio Program & Article Reprint 2021-04
Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General and renowned international human-rights attorney who stood against U.S. military aggression worldwide, died peacefully April 9 at his home in New York City, surrounded by close family. He was 93 years old.
As a pre-teen growing up in Albuquerque, I certainly knew his name and that he was attorney general. I could not imagine then that we would become friends, that I would have the honor of working with him and learning what a great humanitarian Ramsey Clark was.
As Assistant and later U.S. Attorney General, Ramsey Clark helped draft the two historic U.S. Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and was key enforcer of federal desegregation orders. Personally accompanying Martin Luther King Jr. and James Meredith in the face of racist terror from Alabama to Mississippi, Ramsey was a fervent opponent of racism. In the Justice Department, he frequently confronted repressive policies within the government itself, from Congress to the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover…
…Continue to Read the Complete Article:
A Letter To My Grandson
©2020 by Alice Walker, vase by my neighbor, artist Sue Hoya Sellars 1936-2014
December 22, 2020
To harm anyone deliberately
Is to risk being
You are sixteen today, and this is truly a milestone, a marker that you have succeeded to the achievement of a new plateau in life. I was thinking of what to give you and I spent many a conundrum on this! Because of the Virus we are all sitting tight in our own nests, and, though I miss seeing you ambling about Temple Jook, and Wild Trees, I know this is best.
However, I did think of a story I will share with you, from a time I was your age. I was in Jr. High, or the eleventh grade, probably, and at last enrolled in a class, other than English Lit., that meant something special to me. It was Biology. I have always adored the natural world; to see and study it close-up, would be heaven, I thought. The teacher too was very cute. Mr. Roberson. He looked a bit like Obama; thin like that, and boyish even though he was probably in his Forties. We would lose him later to tuberculosis, but that isn’t part of the story here. What is a part of it is that because of Apartheid/Segregation in the South where I lived, schools were rigidly, thoroughly, completely segregated. If that had been all, it would not have mattered. My friends and I, all of color, all black, loved being together. We had so much fun we never wanted to part at the end of the day. Outside of school we were always finding ways to get our parents to let us spend the night, or the week-end, at each other’s houses. Some of my classmates were kin, and in fact, I exchange emails with one of them, D, a cousin, several times a year. She has cancer and has lost everything she says but her sense of humor.
D didn’t care about English Literature, typing, or anything else. She was in love with J, whom she married (after becoming pregnant in the 11th grade), and they ended up living for many years in Germany where he was a soldier in the U.S. military. J and I didn’t hit it off because we had a completely opposite understanding of the meaning of war. You probably laid eyes on these two in Eatonton last year at the Homecoming celebration. I don’t expect you to remember them. J, I believe, was wearing a cap that had something on it about the Vietnam war, a disaster in which he believed he’d emerged a hero.
When the white high school, located in a prominent place in town, received funding for a Biology lab, our school, located so far from town most folks passing through had no idea it existed, received what was being replaced. My Biology class received one broken microscope. Some small part of it functioned – I recall marveling at the beauty of a leaf, up close – but for a class of thirty it was of little use.
This system of segregation, kept in place through political chicanery and violence, was designed to keep black people ignorant and stuck in uneducated labor. And very poor. What did “poor” mean? Never having enough of anything you didn’t grow or raise yourself, and never or rarely seeing a doctor. A dental appointment wasn’t even imagined.
Why am I telling you this? Because of the virus. Covid-19.
Your grandmother was always serious. I see that now. That, even as a child, I wanted to help, to assist, what I thought of as “Creation.” If my school had received a Biology lab I’m sure I would have had my eye glued to the microscope, my mind obsessed with how what I was learning might be of benefit to humans and other creatures. But I was denied this opportunity.
And so today, as arguments abound regarding what the virus is, what its presence means, how many people are likely to sicken and die – people we know and love, included – I feel the harm Segregation, American apartheid – has done to me directly, and by extension to the whole planet.
And that is why, today, on your sixteenth birthday, this story is my gift. Buddha also teaches beautifully about non-harming. Harming others, whether plant, human, other animal, the air, the earth, is always a boomer-rang. You can harm nothing without at the same time harming yourself. It may take years, even generations, to find out where you have shot or stabbed your own self, but the wound is there, forever waiting.
I love you more than you can even imagine. Probably. And thanks to your mother, you are being prepared both to offer a gift to the world, and to be a gift to yourself. Non-harming is also a very personal intention; to save one’s gift in its most full and original flowering as an expression, among other reasons, of one’s gratitude. Gratitude for being helped, and allowed, in this lifetime, to be useful.
If you are young and you have wondered why exactly so many of your elders love this teacher, here is an opportunity to hear Martin Luther King, Jr. at his best. I still marvel at his courage, his love of us, his wisdom. Truth is the light. Love is the shield. We need not remain, without love, in darkness. ~aw
Trevor says most of it. We know what this is.~aw
All attacks on Asian Americans- or on Asians (for being Asian) of any country- are cowardly and disgraceful. For Black people who engage in this racism be aware that it is an insult to Ancestors who recognize only too well what is being attempted: the dehumanization of a people. How can they imagine, given what they lived during enslavement and segregation, such cruel ignorance is possible? Black racism against anyone, like participating in wars of aggression and slaughter against people we do not even know, undermines every teaching of how to be Human our Ancestors labored to leave behind. This descent into the unthinkable is a moral dilemma and crisis for us, as Black people. May we treat it as such.~aw
Meghan and Harry Talking to Oprah
©2021 by Alice Walker
How can you not love this world
Where miracles are happening
all the time.
Indian farmers -thrown off their course by centuries
of British rule – refusing to kill themselves
and rising instead against
by the greed of their head of state;
And Oprah and Diana
rising to the task
that all true mothers
who witnessed her struggle
have longed for;
that of helping to liberate
Diana’s precious son.
The tabloids of England
have harmed and crushed
so many brave and needed (by the world)
Bless Meghan for staying alive;
for standing up to them
by not harming a hair on the head
of her natural self.
Celebrate both melanin and curl!
May we all begin to see
and resolve to recognize
even if it looks like
our own house;
and dare to look through
whatever window appears
and walk through
the open, if sometimes terrifying,
Break My Heart Again
©2017 by Alice Walker
for Aung San Suu Kyi and the Rohingya People
We travelled far
To stand before your door
A door we could not see
Our taxi driver
And all of Myanmar
To whisper your name.
My companion* brought
And though he did not dare
Endanger our driver
By blowing it
Where are you now?
You must be.
Are you now lost
As the world sneers
At your failures?
Where does the “sure heart’s release”
They have unlocked
That was your home
Only to lock you
In the other prison
They have long prepared
The prison of illusory power.
How many have been lost there!
Who locked you away
With whom you would be “friends”
Hold the key.
As so many of our people
are being slaughtered- and are not all
Of them “our people”?-
You are oddly silent, or,
When you speak, you appear
With uncharacteristic subterfuge
To beat around the bush.
What awful thing do they have on you? That you have lost the light?…
(…To Read My Full Poem Break My Heart Again)
Beware of anyone
Who tells you
Not to love.
Deformity of soul
In bad advice. ~aw
Sending “Metta” to Julian Assange
Who faces the possibility of over a hundred years in prison.
@2021 by Alice Walker
Thanks to the teachings of the Buddha, we send “metta” or “loving kindness” to four types of people: someone toward whom we feel neutral, someone we deeply care about, someone who is very difficult for us to bear, and someone we consider a benefactor.
Julian Assange – for alerting us to the nefarious deeds of our government, especially in its wars against women, children, men, animals, water, and Nature – is a benefactor to humanity and I wish to send “metta,” loving kindness, to him today.
Julian Assange, for what you have risked, by your courage and love of us, and for the sake of our planet and all humanity, I offer our collective gratitude and our energetic blessing of you:
May you be happy
May you be at peace
May your soul be at rest
May your body be seen as sacred
By all who imprison you.
May you know we are grateful
For your courage
Rooted obviously in love of us,
And sorrow for our ignorance.
As a brother and as a journalist
We respect, honor, and love you.
The persecution of one truthful person depresses and endangers the world. ~aw
To harm anyone deliberately
Is to risk being
Their help. ~aw
If you kill the messenger
you will never get
the news. ~aw
Ward’s Chapel AME church in rural Georgia
Ward’s Chapel AME church in rural Georgia, where I was baptized in a stream. I was seven. There were frogs! So amazing. And it is true that frogs and I, and everything, are in this Life together. How good to learn this, in sacred community.
New roof and art. And tree! Thank you, hometown Beloveds.~aw
Interviewer: Estela Bravo, for her documentary FIDEL 2001.
Those we starve will be unable to feed us. ~aw
Entrevistadora: Estela Bravo para su documental FIDEL, 2001
Aquellos a quienes matamos de hambre no podrán alimentarnos. AW
Why has President Biden taken so long to act on Cuba? Write to Congress to urge the administration to reverse Trump’s disastrous policy toward our neighbors.
President Biden has been in office for almost a month and yet we’ve seen no tangible improvement in U.S. relations with Cuba. On Day 1, he should have reversed Trump’s disastrous “maximum pressure” campaign against our neighbors, the Cuban people. One executive order could have ended the limit on remittances, the restrictions on travel, and the dozens of other illegal sanctions imposed on Cuba over the past four years.
We’re not alone in noticing his inaction: Congress is about to send a letter to President Biden urging him to “reverse the Trump Administration’s cruel policies against the Cuban people and renew mutually productive dialogue with the Cuban government.”
To show people how beautiful they are, you have to show them how ugly they’ve been acting.~aw
The sound is a whisper.
What the world needs now: collard greens in abundance: common, humble, and powerful, like us. Above bouquet from my garden, photo by Rebecca Walker, with the assistance of Laura Balandran.
Happy Birthday tomorrow, February 1, Langston Hughes. Beloved. Greens remind me you liked to write in green ink.~aw
Victory to the Farmers of India
and throughout the world. ~aw
The Answer Is Yes. Joe Biden and a Different Weather
© 2021 by Alice Walker
When I was a child my parents were determined not to raise racists. The whole of black southern culture was with them. Racism was recognized as a deformity of spirit and soul, as well as a passion that roused in whoever was afflicted the most hideous ugliness. Foaming at the mouth was one of the descriptions of white racists who were sometimes witnessed in this demented state.
We were taught to live in the midst of racists as if they were weather. And then, during the Civil Rights Movement and later, as if we deserved strong houses and good umbrellas.
The child above, so precious, so us, is one we do not wish to lose to racist beliefs, racist thoughts, racist actions. And so we say to him: Yes, beloved little one, the big bad racist white man is gone from the White House – which we must paint rainbow colors someday -; starving children to death in Yemen and keeping some in cages in the US, and attempting to grind Cuban dignity into the dirt as he leaves, but hope has arrived on the horizon. We, just hours ago, have witnessed a changing of the guard in our country, and another white man, Joe Biden, has spoken well of his intentions and his heart. That he has a heart. That he has rainbow friends who respect and love him. That he married someone who trained to be of positive use. That he has suffered and gained the equanimity suffering can sometimes bring. That he believes we can do better in all ways. That he can see us. That we can work together in a time when fear, more than anything else, divides us. That Kamala Harris backs him up and also has her own vision. It is effort we will hope for, determination and resolve. What perfection we achieve will be in the seriousness with which we honor our vows of commitment to those who will follow us.
Above all, beloved little one, we must remove the fear from your eyes, even as the truth of you -after centuries of bad weather – makes us smile.
*** January 20, 2021 ***
There Are Meat People ©2021 by Alice Walker
There are meat people, who seem to be only exactly what you see: a body; and there are others who inhabit a body but that is not nearly the end of it. These beings are often noticeably different and we look on them in wonder. As in: I wonder what made this being do so and so. Usually something that strikes us as weird or impossible. Malcolm X was such a being. Driven by a spirit, ancient, even mythological, that would permit him no rest as he struggled toward its evolution, endlessly occurring.
The Dead Are Arising by Les Payne and his daughter, Tamara Payne, is an essential study into the life of a man who was a puzzle to many during his lifetime, and even more of one after his assassination in 1965. The year I graduated from college. My own involvement in the struggle to free black people at that time was taking place primarily under the auspices of the Civil Rights Movement in the South. (I dedicated my novel of that period, Meridian, partly to John Lewis). A battle so intense and heart rending that I was confused and hurt by Malcolm’s disparagement of our suffering. His actual mockery of it. Nor did I understand how he refused to comprehend why some of us would date and later marry interracially. It was against the law, just as eating in a “white” restaurant was or enrolling in a “white” medical school. How absurd it felt that he and many black people managed to miss that. Or to totally ignore, or disparage, what it took to face the consequences.
Ironically, Malcolm himself dated white girls almost exclusively as a young man in Michigan, and later, Boston, and chose his black wife, Betty Shabazz, she of great character, beauty, and integrity, in a decidedly uninspired way. Showing photos to a friend of two possible black women he might marry, he chose Betty.
This book is a deep study into someone we, black people for the most part, but not only black, admire and love. We love Malcolm’s fierceness as a warrior for black liberation, his determined moral sense of right and wrong, once he ceased being a criminal. Finally, we love the lessons of his journey; one of which is to double down on educating our children to think critically about all doctrines of uplift that depend on one leader to do all the thinking while the followers pay all the bills.
There are endless surprises in this book. Writing it was clearly a labor of love. That Les Payne died shortly before his and his daughter’s offering was presented to us is extremely meaningful to me. This is another example of some of our people’s dogged insistence on comprehending the rules, especially the hidden and hobbling ones, and still giving everything, to the last breath – in service to our children’s future – to finish the race: the race to achieve ultimate fulfillment of the spirit that lives beyond the meat.
For an example of “meat people” see Robert De Niro’s Netflix film The Irishman.
Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Kindred Spirit. January 15th, 1929
Listen to Michael. Long distance Elder, or perhaps in training. ~aw
Morning Poem for Lovers
©2021 by Alice Walker
You are so dark
I can see the inside
Of your night.
I give thanks
For the nappiness
There is a truth
But no truth
Is the very end
Of our journey
in this land
If not a more balanced
Into our sorrows.
What will we know
Inhabiting this love?
We are only us.
The radical beauty of your spirit leaves me wordless. But that won’t stop my witness of your so black and determined resistance, literally unto death. How grand you are; how inspiring. How truly our sister, mother, grandmother, beloved, elder and friend. May the glory that awaits all soldiers of truth, of witness, of never giving up on our right to be loved, surround you in the next phase of your gallant mystery. ~aw
La belleza radical de tu espíritu me deja sin palabras. Pero eso no detendrá mi testimonio de tu resistencia tan negra y decidida, literalmente hasta la muerte. Qué grandioso eres; que inspirador. Cuán verdaderamente nuestra hermana, madre, abuela, amada, anciana y amiga. Que la gloria que aguarda a todos los soldados de la verdad, del testimonio, de no renunciar nunca a nuestro derecho a ser amados, os rodee en la próxima fase de vuestro valiente misterio. ~ aw
Medicine for the doctor and nurse who wronged you: “In cultivating compassion we draw from the wholeness of our experience – our suffering, our empathy, as well as our cruelty and terror. It has to be this way. Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” ~ Pema Chodron
Medicina para el médico y la enfermera que le hicieron daño: “Al cultivar la compasión, nos basamos en la totalidad de nuestra experiencia: nuestro sufrimiento, nuestra empatía, así como nuestra crueldad y terror. Tiene que ser así. La compasión no es una relación entre el sanador y el herido. Es una relación entre iguales. Solo cuando conocemos nuestra propia oscuridad podemos estar presentes con la oscuridad de los demás. La compasión se vuelve real cuando reconocemos nuestra humanidad compartida ”. ~ Pema Chodron
Medicine for the rest of us: When we hear that more black and red and brown people are dying from Covid-19 we may think, instinctively, about their poverty, poor diet, or substandard medical care; of their general and for hundreds of years, lack of decent housing. The crushing of their spirit. We might think of their current, media influenced, lifestyle, or whatever stereotype of it we have been taught. Rarely would we think our people are dying “disproportionately” as news casters like to say, because they have been ignored, often insulted, in hospitals, or sent home in the middle of the night improperly diagnosed, given the wrong medicine, and with no one on hand to look after them. This is what our sister, a physician to the end, wants us to know. Our question to answer: If hospitals are not safe for us, what is?
Medicina para el resto de nosotros: Cuando escuchamos que más personas negras, rojas y morenas están muriendo por Covid-19, podemos pensar, instintivamente, en su pobreza, mala alimentación o atención médica deficiente; de su general y durante cientos de años, falta de vivienda digna. El aplastamiento de su espíritu. Podríamos pensar en su estilo de vida actual, influenciado por los medios, o cualquier estereotipo que nos hayan enseñado. Rara vez pensamos que nuestra gente está muriendo “desproporcionadamente” como les gusta decir a los presentadores de noticias, porque han sido ignorados, a menudo insultados, en hospitales o enviados a casa en medio de la noche diagnosticados incorrectamente, administrados con la medicina equivocada y sin uno a la mano para cuidarlos. Esto es lo que nuestra hermana, médica hasta el final, quiere que sepamos. Nuestra pregunta a responder: si los hospitales no son seguros para nosotros, ¿qué lo son?
Thought for the New Year that sees greed as a primary root of our disaster:
You cannot be richer than happiness. ~aw
No puedes ser más rico que la felicidad. ~ aw