When The Revolution Has Stage Fright

Inasmuch as we’re the masters of our fate, we’re sometimes the slaves to our anxieties. And mine are never ending. So here I go again. It seems I have no choice but to write them here; it seems the words won’t let me be. It seems the time is now.

It’s been a crazy, riveting, scary last few weeks. Murders at the state’s hands and the police’s violent reaction to a demand for public reckoning has fueled a flame that had been held to low embers for a while, spread a restlessness that’s been aided by Covid quarantine and now everyone is mask out, and fists up. Protestors have sown seeds of disruption; buildings can burn, and windows can smash and if it all falls down, then so be it — because we the people are tired. Statues are falling, and here in Philadelphia, Frank Rizzo is being painted over, and taken down. The shift is happening. And it’s happening live. The revolution is publicized, televised, and retweeted at alarming speed — and we’re all watching. I’m definitely watching. But sometimes my fear makes me shaky about what I’m doing.

I have a strong belief in fairness, and justice. I want murdering cops off our streets and an end to over-policing in black spaces. But I wouldn’t say I was an activist if you ever asked me. And I wonder sometimes (more frequently these days) if my activism should be bigger, bolder, louder. If I should be saying more, doing more. And social media’s immediate answer would be yes. As much as there is wall to wall information, suggestions, and help, there are just as many edicts from people who deem themselves the authority of… whatever. And maybe they are. I wouldn’t venture to speculate. But it all feels so aggressive. Like there’s a level you need to reach, like there’s something to prove. Like if you’re not doing everything on their bullet pointed lists then you might as well pack it up. People who are quick to remind you at any other moment that their knowledge isn’t free, are simultaneously finger wagging and delivering soapbox speeches at any given moment and demanding that you hear every word. But I didn’t put a quarter in that jukebox. And I don’t want to prove anything. Except maybe, to myself. I look at the protests, and I see the police and I know I’m far too afraid to pound the street most of the time. There’s just too much emotion spilling over in one place and it makes me shake thinking about it. But it doesn’t mean I’m not angry. I am. And not being in the streets means that the next best thing you can do is give resources. But this (still) jobless girl with her dinged up car that may not pass inspection at the end of the month doesn’t really have resources. Well, not the kind I can give away. So it would seem that I’m failing there too. I amplify as many voices as I can, and point people towards folks that I trust for good info, but the best thing to do is listen to folks on the ground, and I’m not one of them. So is that a useless pursuit? I sign every petition I can, and hashtag and tag and I… I don’t know.

From an emotional standpoint, I worry I’m not strong enough for this. I’m barely surviving unemployment; am I destined to crumble for the revolution? And what does that say about me? About this skin I’ve been blessed with? About this sacred and magical gang I was born into? I may have been deemed a member by virtue of my birth, but I’ve watched enough of us look like fools over the last couple of weeks that I’m compelled to show that I’m kinfolk, not just skinfolk. But I still worry. I stare at pictures of women standing off with police, staring back into a face they know could be their murderer and I’m pretty sure I could never do it. But what can I do? No that’s not the question. The question is what can I do that makes me feel like I’m making enough noise. MLK said that riots are the language of the unheard. I’m scared to riot, to make a riot. I’m so sick of things going wrong, all I want is quiet. But revolutions aren’t quiet.

I woke up a few mornings ago, and decided to write a letter to my governor. I wanted to demand that he put an end to our participation in the 1033 program, a government initiative that gives states excess military weapons for only the cost of shipping. I think that the violence police are escalating at the protests is exacerbated by them carrying military grade weapons and equipment, especially since it’s been shown that they don’t have the training or discipline. I think it’s a worthy cause. I think defunding the police also means demilitarizing the police, which means getting that equipment out of their hands. I wrote my letter. I said what I needed to say. I decided to send the same letter to our state representatives. I felt good about it. Am I making enough noise? Maybe not. But I am coming from behind the curtain, I suppose.

Every day we demand justice, people remind us we’re just getting started. Who knows? Maybe I am too.

Writer. Fat Girl. Whiskey Lover. Hip-Hop Head. Creator. Magical Being.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Shameka Erby

Writer. Fat Girl. Whiskey Lover. Hip-Hop Head. Creator. Magical Being.