on activism; for Ahmaud Arbery
Updated: May 8, 2020
content warning: racial violence, murder, loss
Yesterday, I learned a 25 year old Black man named Ahmaud Arbery, while recently out for a jog in his neighborhood in Georgia, was chased down and murdered by two white men, two white supremacists. These two people have yet to be arrested. To be honest, I can’t bring myself to learn a lot more about what exactly happened or about why these two men haven’t been immediately investigated and brought to justice. Although I have heard they have close connections to the police department. This horrific act has been caught on video and already been widely shared. I can’t bring myself to watch that either. He is one of a countless innocent Black people to be murdered out of racial hate and prejudice.
Before I say any more, let’s be clear. Something like this is a direct indication and symptom of the America we have built. This is America. It is, and always was, broken,
and it needs to be fixed.
I am wondering, instead of about the gruesome specifics of his death, about what Ahmaud’s favorite food was. Who in his group of friends he trusted most with his secrets, how often he jogged, what made him laugh the hardest. What his most precious childhood memory was. What his political views were. Who his first love was. What he considered to be the thing he was most proud of. What he thought happens to us after we die. All of the beautiful and interesting and sacred things that make up a human being.
I walked to the water this morning, aching. Knowing that what I am feeling is microscopic in comparison to what his family and community may be feeling, and what other Black folx watching this play out from afar may be feeling. I stood on the edge of the water in this cloudy blustery day, and closed my eyes. I’m not traditionally religious but I do believe in the unseen power of the universe and the spirit inside of living things, the energy that connects us. I don’t pray, normally. But I found myself saying a small prayer. “God, or Universe, or Mother Nature, or whoever watches over the world: please take care of this person, this young man named Ahmaud. Care for him in that world better than we could care for him in this one.”
As I finished this small prayer, in a moment of pure natural coincidence, or divine communication, the sun came out, warm and reassuring.
I am always unsure of whether or not to call myself an activist. I don’t know if I have earned that title. I care about a lot of things, and I share information and actions on social media. I try to sign petitions or attend events or call/write when it is called for. I make donations as often as my bank account will allow. I try to speak up when I see micro aggressions or acts of injustice, although I need to be louder about it. I care for the people in my life deeply and unconditionally and have steered the work I do toward social justice and awareness and care. I have not yet been in a situation where I can physically protect another from harm, but I would hope my future self is ready to do so. But still, I don’t think I’m an activist. I don’t feel like I do enough. I don’t feel like any of us do. Because innocent people still die at the hands of hate and laws still prevent human beings from getting the basic things they need. Injustice still exists, or more accurately, thrives, in our world.
I think maybe the only way things will eventually shift, is if we are all activists, whether or not that’s what we label it. If we all do not allow ourselves to get used to horrible things happening, no matter how commonplace it is. If we all keep doing what we can each day to do what’s right. And if we don’t say “I’m not doing enough, and therefore what I do doesn’t matter.” Because it won’t be enough until it stops. We have to be okay with the idea that we may always be fighting this fight, and that it will always be worthwhile to do so. And that can take a lot of forms. Making space for other people in conversations, being truly and unapologetically yourself, having really good shameless sex, resting when you're burnt out so you have energy for the next fight, educating yourself and really listening to people about their experiences, correcting when you fuck up, showing up when it comes to calling/emailing/signing petitions/events, making something accessible or universally designed, using someone's accurate pronouns and communicating your own, de-centering whiteness in your work, sending your BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) friends reparation money or rent to the Native people that really own the land you live on, consuming media and art made by people different from you. There are many many ways to act against oppression, and these are only a small sample of them. Joy, truth, and compassion are also actions against hate, just in different ways than anger, battle, and protest are. We need all of it. And to make it sustainable we have to celebrate goodness as we battle the bad. We should be diligent about both our fury and our pleasure.
You are an activist, even if you aren’t always in the streets with a sign and torch.
You have to be. I have to be. There is still so much work to be done.
We cannot wait for someone else to come along. We are all the ones to do it.
Rest in peace, power, and joy, Ahmaud.
Some things you can do in this moment:
+ Participate in Run with Maud
+ Contact the Liberty County District Attorney to demand that Gregory and Travis McMichael be charged for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery (phone: 912 876 4151)
+ Demand that District Attorney Jackie Johnson either resign or right her mistake of failing to arrest the murderers (phone: 912 554-7200, address: Jackie Johnson, District Attorney, Glynn County 701 H Street, Box 301 Brunswick, GA 31250)
+ Donate to Black Lives Matter or other organizations actively systemically battling racial violence and murder
+ Do your homework and find the best places to put your money or voice to fight racial violence, racism, and white supremacy