Submitted to the AFRO by Dr. Kaye Wise Whitehead
I am a Southern girl at heart. I spent my summers in Lexington County, South Carolina on a farm with an outhouse, miles of land, and a lake that set at the bottom of the hill at the edge of my grandmother’s property. She was a farmer and a fisherwoman, with a mane of blazing red hair and a personality that was almost too big to capture. She seemed to always be in motion, even when she was standing still. She used to spend her days sitting beside the water, silent, just waiting for something to happen. She said she could always tell when change was in the wind because she felt a stirring in her soul and an ache in her right hip. Whenever she talked about race relations, White supremacy, or poverty, she would say, `There was a storm a brewing in this here nation and once it settles, things are never going to be the same again.’
For the past three years, ever since the Baltimore Uprising, I have been walking around this city with an ache in my hip and a stirring in my soul. I have had this growing sense that we were right on the edge of a revolution, that critical moment when unstoppable change begins to take place. I have spent many nights with one eye open in order to witness the reality of what happens in a city with unchecked violence and a growing distrust of police and politicians. A city where we talk and complain but we do not move. We hold our pearls and clutch our chests but we do not march every single day. We pray and burn candles but we do not disrupt the status quo. We are being herded but not led. We are being tolerated but not trusted. We are watching mini-cities get built with millionaire tax breaks, but we are not willing to, in the words of one of my former students, “tear some (stuff) down in order to get free.” I believe that we have reached that tipping point and I am waiting for my people to rise up, ban together, and demand the change that we so rightly deserve. There is a storm a brewing in this here city and once it settles, things are never going to be the same again. It is a storm of discontent, a storm of deep frustration, and a storm that bespeaks of a growing sense of resentment and malaise.
I wonder, are you as tired as I am of living in a city that is constantly put under the lens, watching all of faults, missteps, and embarrassing moments get exposed to the world? From the photographs of our children freezing in their classrooms to reports of the criminals in the Gun Trace Task Force; from the crumbling infrastructure in our schools to the rising homicide numbers—we are always subject to America’s gaze, always made to feel like we are the black sheep of Maryland, the wayward child, the crazy uncle who can never seem to get his life together. The winds of change are quietly blowing through this city and it is past time for good folks to rise up and get ready to tear some (stuff) down so that we can save this city.
My grandmother taught me that there is a difference between a riot and a revolution and I am actively calling for the latter and not the former. We know how to bring about change. It is part of our DNA, both as a nation and as a people.
Within our community, the question was (and is) never if we should get involved in the struggle for civil rights and civil liberties; but rather, when, where, and to what extent. We know what it feels like to be free and what it means to save our communities.
It happened in 2015 when the city rose up and demanded justice for Freddie Grey and it happens every Wednesday when the family of Tyrone West stand up and demand justice for him. This ongoing movement for justice and equality has defined who we are. Baltimore, this is our moment, when we have to decide what type of city we want to be and what type of future we want to carve for our children. If we continue to let this city go down its current path, we will have nothing more to leave them but smoke, ashes, and stories of a lost generation that sat back and watched its city burn itself to the ground. There is a storm a brewing in this here city and once it settles, things are never going to be the same again.
Karsonya Wise Whitehead is the #blackmommyactivist and an associate professor of communication and African and African American studies at Loyola University Maryland. She is the host of “Today With Dr. Kaye” on WEAA 88.9 FM and the author of the forthcoming “Dispatches from Baltimore: The Birth of the Black Mommy Activist.” She lives in Baltimore City with her husband and their two sons.
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