It’s looking like spring has finally arrived after a very chilled start on the east coast this year. In celebration I want to share this excellent rendition of Ooh La La by Faces, which notably does not feature my cousin, the Really Obnoxiously Droning (ROD) Stewart.
It’s hard to make a case for optimism these days. In fact, given the recent incarceration of activists opposing ICE in New England this week, it seems a little obscene to suggest anything but an austere mood.
But that is the contradiction at the heart of the struggle to abolish the police-prison industrial complex. Unless activists and organizers have the pressure release valve that joy and celebration provides, burnout and breakdown becomes a guaranteed destiny.
I recently participated in a multi-week reading group that was a kind of auxiliary of the anti racism group that I do most of my organizing with. A notion that I felt came up often had to do with joy and love. With all respect possible, the fact is that the white secular Left in America has a certain amount of hesitation and confusion about grappling with those topics, something that is entwined with white supremacy’s notions of good manners and propriety. White people are told as children to be seen and not heard, something that ends up being a buttress to systemic oppression and structural racism.
My own personal opinion is that the answer to this is found in what the late Cedric J. Robinson described as the Black radical tradition. African American culture is a grand epic about organizers and activists sustaining their joy and therefore sanity despite being subjected to genocide over the span of centuries. Consider as just one example Paul Robeson’s rendition of Jacob’s Ladder, which is at its core about perseverance in the face of tremendous odds.
If there is any hope, it’s going to come through Black liberation, which is the authentic form of resisting fascism in the United States.