Saturday, January 16, 2016

Why Sit At Their Table, When We Can Build Our Own?

Yesterday I made a statement to the Houston Black SGL-LGBT community and the Black community at large:

"Statement: Last night I had some things to say about Houston Unites and how they excluded, ignored, SGL-BT community members and whole communities at large. I spoke angrily in what was supposed to be a safe space and rightfully so. I am moving on from that as of today, we will have HERO 2.0 for sure. What I will continue doing is creating spaces for people who look like me and building tables that we cant be excluded from. These days it takes more than a seat at a table that was not intended for us, It takes our own table in our own community. We can sit at theirs too, but remember we will be mainstreaming and "taking over" while playing by their rules. Lets build a table to have discussions that will mend things at home and strengthen our community, the Black community. So that way, when we demand something, we will get it...

Ashton P. Woods
Strength In Numbers Project

The crux of the message is that we are trying too hard to play by rules intended to subjugate our Black bodies for crumbs. We want a piece of a pie from a system that arose on the sweat and blood of our ancestors through colonization, enslavement, and financial oppression. We clamor for respect, and equality or the acknowledgment of said equality. The truth is, in theory we are equal because we have the tools to build our own table where we make decisions for ourselves without seeking approval from the dominant group. In reality we are not equal, not if we have to avoid calling White folks out on their privilege at the risk of no longer being invited to the party or their table. When will we wake up to that fact that so - call opportunities from people who claim to be allies come with a price, with rules and challenge your very integrity. The moment you stop being the friend that they claim when they are called out on their White privilege by someone unafraid to be shut out; you get shunned too. 

This is not to question one's Blackness, but I have to wonder, ask, and repeatedly go over in my mind why my Black people can't see that if we rise up against the mainstream collectively, from our own lanes that we wouldn't have to worry about "keeping White people happy to get what we want." Today I ran across a post on Facebook linked back to a story published by Diva Magazine in the UK. It was an interview with Phyll Opoku-Gyimah who happens to be the founder of UK Black Pride, Rainbow List judge, Stonewall trustee and why she declined an MBE in the Queen's New Year Honours List. Here is What she had to say:

"As a trade unionist, a working class girl, and an out black African lesbian, I want to stand by my principles and values.

"If you're a member of a minority - or multiple minorities - it's important to be visible as a role model for others [and] for your successes to be seen.

"An honour is a very public statement that the establishment has decided that you, and what you do, are valued by the wider society. You've worked hard, and they've actually noticed. Maybe you've fought for workers' rights, or LGBTQI rights, in defiance of those in power, and yet here they are, offering you an award, letting you in. It may help you raise the profile of future work you do. All of these are good reasons for accepting one, and yet, Member of the British Empire?"

She went on: "I don't believe in empire. I don't believe in, and actively resist, colonialism and its toxic and enduring legacy in the Commonwealth, where - among many other injustices - LGBTQI people are still being persecuted, tortured and even killed because of sodomy laws, including in Ghana, where I am from, that were put in place by British imperialists.

"I'm honoured and grateful, but I have to say no thank you.

After reading her statement I had to include it in this post, because she basically stated the exact sentiments I have. While we are not in the UK, we are under a system with roots in colonialism under the British Empire. Our oppression still exists through structural and institutional racism, not the more over hate of the past. We must take care of ourselves as individuals and collectively as a community in a way that recognizes intersectionality and respects the identities that our community members have. There is little room for error, erasure or foolishness in this movement for Black Lives to Matter. You have to know that we are reaching for more than just an end to the criminalization of our Black bodies and that our words, chants, songs; our inflected voices are not loud without purpose.

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