Chaka Forman @ George Floyd Memorial
First Baptist Church of Venice/ E.L. Holmes Square June 07, 2020
I stand her today on the backs of my ancestors. My African ancestors, my indigenous ancestors, my European ancestors. That means that all of my ancestors are on your backs too, since from the beginning, we all have the same ones.
I am so proud of our youth, I do believe they will be our salvation. They will save us.
I have lived in Venice for 17 years, all three of my children are born and raised here. Myself I grew up in nyc, Detroit. London. and Atlanta, among other places.
I was thinking about what I might say up here in relationship to black liberation, our brother George Floyd, and all the other brothers and sisters who have fallen under the guns, the batons , and the chokeholds, under the foot of the power structure, under the weight and the might of the systems in a country that might not exist as it does without our free labor. When I sat with it, and as I stand up here now looking at the beautiful diaspora of faces gathered, I bounce back and forth between anger, frustration and rage on one side ……. and hope, community, and love on the other side. I will probably land somewhere in the middle, so bear with me, because this morning I woke up angry.
My father was in the SNCC, he left a good job in Chicago to go down south because as he told me, he had no choice. He would always say our people were in a 10,000 year struggle, and I think now as I watch the hundreds of years of our collective trauma unwinding and unraveling these last 10 days, I finally understand what he meant. We have no choice. Freedom is a constant struggle.
I was in college when Rodney king was beaten, and I would have sworn to you that things would be different 30 years later, but perhaps I was young and naive and maybe I didn’t quite yet understand the full arc of our peoples history, but it feels like today we sit glued in the same struggle. You see, when I was a little kid we marched in Georgia and North Carolina while the KKK stood on the streets across from us, in full robes and pointed hoods, rifles peaking out from underneath.
This week I watch members of the NYPD knocking people down while they flash white supremacy gang signs, fully geared, in uniform, i think of the 10000 year struggle my father spoke of. When I was in Santa Monica last week dodging rubber bullets and getting tear gassed, with no warning and unprovoked, kneeling besides the Pacific Ocean her breeze my only respite, with a group of peaceful protestors exercising our constitutional rights, I think of my dads words.
As I stood on third and fairfax with my 16 year old daughter and her friends from Venice High, hemmed in on three sides while we demanded accountability for the murder of one of our own, and the LAPD commanded we disperse, hands on guns, batons drawn, tear gas cocked and loaded, I understand why the fight will be a long one. When I stood at the edge of the federal building staring down the lines of the national guard, I wonder where they were when I was handcuffed in the middle of Hollywood Blvd against the side of my car, pleading my innocence and held against my will because I “fit a description,” and I know our struggle isn’t going anywhere.
As the footage comes in from peaceful protestors across the country being brutalized, and when I watch Donald Trump stand up and tell Americans that he wishes for a return to the days when protestors “left on stretchers”, …”like they used to” I know our fight is 10,000 years young.
I don’t want to go into a history lesson, although it is abundantly clear that a lot of people need one, I would like to recognize that where we are today, in many ways, makes a lot of sense.
Racist roots grow rotten fruit.
Cornel West said on CNN the other day the social experiment of America has failed, but today I actually wonder if it is succeeding. I wonder if the founding fathers are getting exactly what they wanted? Since the ideal of freedom and justice for all had the ominous inscription that branded us 3/5 of a human being, since the land we stand on is stained with blood and broken promises, ripped and stolen in the name of Manifest Destiny from the long, proud, and beautiful histories of the indigenous warriors who for thousands of years lovingly called it home, since the very institution that made America the richest country on the planet, slavery, is the one whose legacy has now created the deepest forms of racism and racist culture – so deep that we have become numb to the almost daily videos we see of death and destruction in our neighborhoods, of the Karen’s running around screaming that my existence threatens her, and of another grown man begging for his life saying …… please.
I Can’t Breathe.
We stand today in the memory of George Floyd, his senseless murder, and in celebration of the resistance that is rising from his last breath.
The resistance is rising from the muffled gasps of his last breath.
Don’t talk to me about why the National Guard should protect the gentrification on the now soul less Abbot Kinney blvd from potential looters without talking about WHY desperation is so deep that people have taken any means necessary to claw and scratch for their little piece of the pie. Not today. Don’t talk to me about slavery ending 150 years ago unless you want to recognize the next 100 years of stain in American history when black people were brutalized and terrorized by legal lynchings, forced segregation, red lining, the GI Bill, mass incarceration, The War on Drugs, poll taxes, and on and on. Don’t talk to me about why I should be satisfied with the right to vote when all the politicians are all beholden to multi national corporations and none of them will hire me anyway if my name is Tyrece or Lakisha, or Chaka.
Don’t talk to me about your small business being looted until your ready to talk about why you look at me like a criminal when I walk into your store, following me and my friends like we don’t belong. Don’t talk to me about Lebron James and Beyoncé making it unless you want to talk about the massive and growing gap between rich and poor and the economic structures that purposefully and intentionally hold black/brown people from accumulating the massive wealth that exists in other communities.
Don’t talk to me about how the American dream can be realized until all our schools are funded equally, and poor children and children and black children and brown children have equal access to pre-school education. Don’t talk to me about pulling myself up by bootstraps because it’s the American Way until we can get access to some fresh fruits and vegetables in inner city communities, food to nourish our minds and bodies in a way that doesn’t leave us depleted more and more each year of our lives. Get me an Erewhon and a Whole Foods in the hood, and slash the prices. Better yet, come down and build some gardens.
Don’t talk to me about Covid only affecting people with pre-existing conditions until you understand that pre – existing conditions exist because poor people and people of color have been intentionally herded into the parts of cities where the smokestacks and the garbage dumps and the landfills and the toxins are, and until you recognize that quality health care in America is currently a privilege of the rich and not a right of the poor.
Don’t talk to me about black politians and latinx legislators until you want to talk about ICE and my brothers and sisters at our border being split from their mothers and fathers and denied their basic human rights just like African slaves were split apart, bought and sold for the price of groceries.
Y’all can see I am on the angry side a little bit right now, so let me take a deep breath and find some love.
I do circles at Mark Twain Middle school, and some at Venice High. We come together and we sit with each other, we talk, and we listen. We don’t always agree with each other, but we agree to hear each other, and to be heard. We talk, we look at each other, and we listen.
We are a resilient people. We have resisted from the beginning. We resisted on the shores of Africa, we resisted at St. Claire and Little Bighorn, we resisted at the Stono river, we resisted with Shaka Zulu and Nat Turner, James Forman, Carlotta Walls and Malcolm X and Ella Baker and Harriet Tubman. We have a history of resilience and make no mistake about it, we will continue to do so.
I said in the beginning that the youth will bring us to a new place, to write a new story that is centered around our oneness and our deep desire to be in healthy relationships, with each other, our environment and the world. As I have walked the streets the last 10 days, I am blown away by the collective strength and love of generation Z. They have taken this tragedy and turned it into an opportunity to speak on everything that sickens our country.
Many of us are very comfortable, but make no mistake about it, our country is sick. It is sick with racism, sexism, classism, gender inequality, homophobia, xenophobia, religious intolerance, and on and on. The gig is over with Generation Z, they are not having it anymore. Let us not forget, It was not their choices that got us to where we are, but it will be their decisions that will get us out and will take us to a kinder, gentler, more compassionate more tolerant and more loving world. The American dream as it was meant to be. The way it was before it was the way it is. These kids are out here talking about revolution, about dismantling the systems that are embedded in the American story and creating our suffering. And the students shall be the leaders.
So I have hope.
I have hope that we will all walk away from here and look each other in the eyes, look me in the eyes when I walk down the street towards you, and we will continue to peel back the layers and layers that are suffocating our humanity, get to the worms and the rotten rinds, and expose the new story. The story of love.
I love you George Floyd. I love you Breonna Taylor. I love you Eric Garner. I love you Trayvon Martin. I love you Pedro Villanueva. I love you Latasha Harlins. I love you Ahmaud Arbery. I love you black people. I love you brown people. I love you red people. I love you white people. I love you poor people. I love you people. I love all of y’all.
Racist riots grow rotten fruit , so I need everyone here to start digging. Go back to where you live, dig it up, and let’s plant some new stuff. Now is the time. After these dudes all get arrested, and after they all convicted, we have to keep digging. The unraveling May take a long time. Love and goodness are everywhere. Let us not stop until we see the new fruits of our digging. Let us not stop until we get it right. We are America, we are America. Lets go and get it right.
One Love. One Love. One love.
Only one kind of love. Love.