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Post-Trayvon: In Oakland, Healing and the New Radicalism Take Root
A little over a week ago I sat in shock as text messages flooded my phone. Everyone from the NAACP to friends all around the country were sharing the news that George Zimmerman was acquitted on all charges in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. I managed to hold back the flood of tears and an angry "WTF??" outburst just long enough to get myself across town to meet friends for another racially heated event—a Saturday night screening of Fruitvale Station, a film which covers the final few days of Oscar Grant, an unarmed 22-year-old black father who was shot and killed by a Bay Area Transit Authority police officer at the Fruitvale Station train platform on New Years Day 2009.
These two events—Trayvon's and Oscar's murders—have resurfaced the deep wounds of racism, classism, and discrimination that many in the black community know too well. In response, we in this country have historically—and rightly so—boycotted, protested, and organized resistance campaigns as our main calls to action to protect our children's future from further ignorance.
One thing is clear: What we have been doing is not entirely working. Young black and brown mothers continue to see too many of their sons during visitation hours in prisons or putting them in the ground at funerals. Equally tragic, is the "otherizing"—the fear that is present in the laws and the hearts and minds of communities around the country. To transform this, we all need healing and so does the soul of this country. At the same time many "activists" have thought those calling for "spiritual" solutions shallow and not radical enough to respond to injustice.
How can we heal this divide?
At SOS Juice, a solar-powered, revenue-generating nonprofit I help run, we've been putting on events to start answering this question. We sell organic juice, smoothies, tonics, and elixirs at farmers markets, bio-fueled food/juice trucks, and via deliveries and pick-up locations. But on Thursday, July 25, 2013, we're hosting one of our monthly live juice, urban healing, and nutrition education community events at Oakland's United Roots Youth Center. "Trayvon, Trauma, and Reconciliation," which is the second session in our Trauma and Ancestral Healing Series. It's our attempt to provide holistic solutions and tools for our community.
At these events, we're bringing together the community and providing a forum to help people figure out what does progressive activism look like in 2013 in the United States, while also helping people remove physical and emotional trauma as well as negative subconscious thought patterns. Our holistic approach is born out of everything from the MOVE organization and the Black Panther Party to indigenous wisdom and healing practices.
Bridging these movements allows for a deeper healing and a new radicalism. In fact, the Dalai Lama has even stated, "Compassion is the radicalism of our time." For our communities, going to sleep every night with the sounds of gun shots, losing close family members to drugs or violence, and the constant threat and message that your black life has no value via police brutality, etc., it is truly radical to love ourselves enough to heal the post traumatic stress that has affected our bodies and souls since—and actually before—the incarnation of this nation.
In doing so, the past can authentically be memorialized—and thus kept in the past—versus repeating itself in the hardships of our futures. In other words, from a healed place, we can empower ourselves and our communities beyond the cycles of fear, violence, and oppression that we have endured and reacted to in order to survive in this country.
Indeed, the blood of the slave and the slave owner still saturates the soil of the United States and continues to produce "strange fruit." Trayvon Martin's gift to us is the reclarification of the need for a U.S Truth and Reconciliation Commission similar to that which was proposed by Tupac's father and co-founder and co-director of the Black Acupuncture Advisory Association of North America and the Harlem Institute of Acupuncture, Dr. Mutulu Shakur:
The task here in the United States as we prepare to pursue a process that distinguishes our situation juxtaposed to South Africa’s, is that our present younger generation is still suffering paramount abuse and transgenerational trauma based on race and class while lacking engagement and dare we say suffers political amnesia while being emotionally and spiritually disconnected. We demand a political process that heals the pain or at least acknowledges the psychological and emotional damage done to past generations that fought a U.S. style of apartheid system which now demands some aspect of resolution and expressing of the specific details of how the abuse was carried out so as to be warned of such tactics for the safety of their future.