I think activists are created in moments. Anybody can be an activist. It’s not anything that should be paved in glory. It’s seeing something that’s unbearable and needs to be changed and deciding when they need to act. And it’s long. And it’s a haul. And my life has changed.
I’m a community artist, so I teach a lot in school. Normally, I watch my grandkids on Saturdays, I’m working, or I’m in school. On August 9th, it was clear. Over Twitter, there was talk about Mike Brown and something in me snapped. I call it the Collective Snap of the Last Straw because everybody hurt. “They shot this kid. His body’s still laying there. I’m going out.” A week before, somebody’s studio was closing and they were throwing away a lot of art supplies. I literally had top-quality paper, markers, and sharpies. I just grabbed all of that and went to the Ferguson Police Department. People started arriving and it went from four or five to 100. And in the crowd was a three-year-old — a big three, like what Mike Brown would be if he were a toddler. And he just had this absolutely shocked, stunned look on his face. I got down on my knees and I said, “Baby, are you okay?” And he said, “They shot Mike Mike and I saw him lying dead in the street.” This is one of the realities people have to explain to their children. We made a sign and then I helped his sister spell out the word justice. It had a backwards ‘j.’ We talked about what it meant and then I was out there every day.
I think activists are created in moments. Anybody can be an activist. It’s not anything that should be paved in glory. It’s seeing something that’s unbearable and needs to be changed and deciding when they need to act. And it’s long. And it’s a haul. And my life has changed. We’re exhausted, we’re tired, and we’re financially tapped out. We are in the process of going from daily protesting to movement building. I don’t think anybody has a clue what it looks like. We only know what it’s not. It’s not complacency. It’s not selfish. It’s not greedy. It’s seeing each other’s humanity. It’s not making things more complex than they need to be but recognizing the complexities of dismantling the deep tentacles of systemic racism. It’s not just one person or one leader. I’ve witnessed as many births as I have deaths. I’ve seen grief. But this is anguish. This is why I’m in the movement.
We wouldn’t be this far if people hadn’t been protesting.