“We hold the mystery of transformation…’

    April 13, 2018

    Richard Rohr, American Franciscan friar and author

    ”Being on the edge of the inside…”

    “Your body is not an isolated, separate entity. We are our truest selves only in community—with our ancestors (carrying their stories and DNA), our natural environment, and our neighbors. We hold the mystery of transformation…”

    Today Barbara Holmes continues reflecting on the Black Lives Matter Movement (BLMM) and their evolving, embodied way of fighting for justice:

    As the millennials will tell you, “This is not your grandmother’s Civil Rights Movement (CRM).

    ”They are right. Although both the CRM and BLMM seek the betterment of life for black people and their communities and both resist oppression with contemplative practices and activism, they use different strategies and leadership models and seek different goals. . . .

    The BLMM is a decentralized network of local organizations. . . . Patrisse Cullors, a founder of the BLMM, says, “We are not leaderless, we are leader-full.” [1] . . . It is difficult to infiltrate, undermine, or disrupt an organic movement that draws its power from regenerating communal cells. . . .

    During the CRM, the blindness of dominant culture to the plight of the African American community meant that the message had to be delivered by one voice in language that white Americans could understand and support. Lives were at stake, and [Martin Luther] King’s biblical and patriotic references combined with his soaring oratory ignited the nation and inspired the movement.

    Now, fifty plus years after the CRM, another approach is needed, and the BLMM like the LGBTQIA justice movements are updating the art of contemplative confrontation and noncompliance with the status quo . . . oppression and violence against black bodies. Today, the most respectable image that young protesters can offer is their authenticity, resolute voices, and pride in community and culture. . . . The BLMM uses disruption for transformation rather than the predictable politeness and political compromises that were part of the ordinary negotiations of social activists. . . .
    They block traffic and refuse to allow “business as usual.” The response is not riot or violence, it is the twenty-first-century version of the sit-in. CRM activists got parade permits and stayed along the side of the road so as not to interfere with traffic. BLM activists “shut it down” with song, putting their bodies on the line. . . .

    BLM activists are not singing “we shall overcome,” they are not saying “I am yet holding on” or “making a way out of no way” like the church mothers and fathers of old. They are saying “we ain’t gonna stop ‘til our people are free” and “I can’t breathe,” as they shut down malls and highways to stop the killing of young black men and women. [Far too often, by the very officers who are supposed to “protect and serve,” I might add.]

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