I’ve been struggling with how to begin this blog post.
I want to gush about the magic I experienced last weekend at Atlanta’s ZAMI NOBLA & OLOC’s “Women Sweet on Women II.” But, I also want to describe the war scene I’ve witnessed driving thru downtown Baltimore today. My mind is racing, & I am high & low.
HIGH: Just three days ago, I was surrounded by Black & White lesbian women 60 years old & up who were gathered together to honor the oldest living lesbian couple in Atlanta: 91 & 93 year old Christine & Althea. What a blessing–& I’m not just talking about Christine & Althea–but I am referring to myself. What a blessing to be situated in a room of seasoned lesbian women, who were celebrating their elders, & making room for me to revere them all.
There I was, my 35 year-old-self, hugging on, listening to, & laughing with Black & White lesbian folk who thrived thru Jim Crow, who embody feminist & womanist theories, who led/are leading civil rights movements, who look like women on the loose, & who loosely use the term “dyke.” There I was, staring at their locked hair, eyeing their silver jewelry, & smiling at their smiles–daydreaming & imagining their histories, admiring their resilience.
They are the kissing friends in Zora’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. They are Sula & Nell, Celie & Shug Avery. They are Gloria Naylor’s women of Brewster Place. Correta & Rosa, Angela & Bessie. In each & every one of them, all there is is love–& I got to be inside of it!
LOW: Today I am in Baltimore, & I am witnessing–from the safety of my hotel room–rioting Black folks whose rage prohibit them from being the love that they are. I rode thru Baltimore today, & for the first time in my life, I saw policemen dressed in riot gear, holding billy clubs and plastic shields, standing side-by-side in a line meant to act as a wall. & I am wondering: Why can’t this generation embody the courage that engendered our ancestors’ nonviolent protests? Why aren’t more of us sweet on each other, sweet on ourselves? So sweet that we, like 36 year old Martin, could face billy clubbed policemen w/a love ethic so baffling that it creates a peace that surpasses all understanding? Why can’t we turn our rage into outrageous demonstrations that do not destroy our own neighborhoods, but cripples the American economy?
I am watching Baltimore burn–including a newly constructed facility specifically for the elders–& I think: Shit! Our people were gassed, hosed, dog bitten, & clubbed during peaceful demonstrations, & they–in a most defiant manner–resisted violence, still! Their audacity, courage, & will to “turn the other cheek” absolutely humbles me. Our ancestors & current elders were/are so divine. So beautiful. So sweet.
While I understand, as Fannie Lou Hamer best said it, folks are “sick an tired of being sick an tired,” & while I also understand that rioting & looting are expressions of tethered fury, I know that love is all there is. The most effective civil rights movements were grounded in agape love & non-violent protests.
In other words, non-violent boycotts are an expression of love & protest. Strategic organizing–from churches, schools, & civil rights leaders–is an expression of love & protest. Supporting black businesses is an expression of love & protest. Planting gardens in black neighborhoods is an expression of love & protest. Honoring our elders is an expression of love & protest. & loving ourselves? That is it! That’s the ultimate act of rebellion, of protest, of overthrowing the system.
Love is all there is. BMore love.
Kendra this article is everything to me. As an aging black lesbian I thrived in your description of what it felt like for you to be in community with us. You’re words resonated deeply with me and I will sit and savour them. #intergenerationallove
Thank you for such an insightful report. The contrast between the concert and the events in Baltimore is staggering! I am trying to hold on to the beauty of the event and the lovely audience.