My heart goes out to your city. I can only imagine the tears that have been shed since the senseless murder of Freddie Gray. Some of us see ourselves in his story. Baltimore Police Department has yet to release a statement about why their encounter with Freddie Gray escalated to his murder. They’ve yet to give us answers beyond “he made eye contact”. Some of us relate to being stopped by law enforcement for no other reason beyond the fact that we have melanin. Some of us see our brothers, our uncles, our fathers, and our grandfathers when we think of Freddie Gray. Some of us are horrified at the inhumanity it takes to intentionally severe 80% of a man’s spine. Some of us are simply exhausted. I know I am. We are so tired of hashtags. We are so tired of mourning and then being hit with another life to mourn within hours. But regardless of why you cry, regardless of what motivates your rage, please know that millions, including myself, are mourning and outraged with you. From the depths of my heart, I feel your pain, I haven’t set foot in your city but my heart feels EVERY single emotion. From pain, to fear, to outrage, to hopelessness, I feel all of that in the atmosphere. I feel that here in Saint Louis.
I understand the broken windows. I understand the destroyed cars. I understand the stolen toiletry items. I understand your outrage. I understand your method of self defense, that some would mislabel as “senseless violence”. At some point the people who mislabel will need to explain how the destruction of inanimate objects like buildings, or cars are considered “violent”, but I digress. Some people have taken to your streets because they are infuriated to a place of hopelessness. Some people have taken the streets to be opportunistic. Some people have taken to your streets because the only place they can find refuge is within the chaos (I can honestly say that I was this person too). But regardless of the reason, it was provoked by the black consensus of feeling unsafe in America just because we are black.
I wanted to write this to express empathy, and I also wanted to give you guys a few pointers. This post is not designed to be a “critique”, so I hope it is not received that way. It’s intended to help and prepare you. But I wanted to take time out to list some things for you all as you resist. These were things we learned in Ferguson and I hope they will be valuable to you.
- Media is not your friend. It’s so tempting to hop in front of a camera to be seen as the voice or the face of the movement in your city. Fox, CNN, and other MSM outlets will use your face for their propaganda. If you don’t mind this, flourish. Just be warned, they will take an image of you and slap it on a headline that doesn’t relate to what you had to say or what you stand for. Do your best to control your narrative. Get livestreamers, start twitters, facebooks, tumblrs, and whatever else you can think of. Tell YOUR story, don’t let mainstream media do it for you. #WeAreOurOwnMedia
- “thug”, “rioter”, “looter”, is the new “nigger”, and these words will be used to justify denying you your constitutional rights.
- The political leaders, the police chief, and mainstream media will contradict themselves about Freddie Gray and about you over the next few months. Keep your own record of every lie you are told, or as the Internet would say “keep the receipts”.
- Wear gloves. Fresh tear gas canisters are hot. Ideally, you don’t want to touch them at all. However, I know for a fact when you cannot breathe, when kids are crying and scared, survival mode will kick in and you will throw the canisters back.
- Purchase a gas mask. If you don’t have money for one please see the diagram below to make one. Palestinians sent diagrams to us Ferguson folks and it has truly been helpful. In fact, there was a time when our kids were making these as “art projects” in August/September -__-. If neither option is possible for you, cover your mouth with a wet shirt to help you breathe. A couple of us had to use shirts drenched in water in August.
- Pepper spray SUCKS! Your first reaction will be to rub your eyes. Don’t it’ll make it worse. Hopefully, the organizers in your city will ensure that there’s a medic on standby to treat pepper spray (hint hint). also, DON’T WEAR CONTACTS to protest. You may be pepper sprayed or tear gassed, and wearing eye contacts will cause more irritation. They will also be a pain trying to take out after such an impact.
- Wash your clothes at least once WITHOUT detergent if you’ve been hit with tear gas. A military friend shared this advice with me and it has been beneficial.
- Raise funds to purchase or collect donations of maloox. Tear gas really sucks. Some people also use milk to treat their tear gas injuries. But these were those “we didn’t have anything else” situations.
- Look to your left, now look to your right…. The people standing next to you will be essential to your survival. They will be essential to you not being arrested for absolutely nothing. They will be essential to you not being physically attacked by the white vigilantes that hate you and your cause. They will be essential to you eating during protests. They will be essential to you being hydrated. They will be essential to you having safe shelter. Lowkey, over time, you’ll consider them family. Some of them you probably won’t get along with because well #Family.
- Wear boots. There is absolutely, positively, NO fundamental reason I’m suggesting this beyond the fact that it both feels and looks militant.
- Speaking of clothing, there will be something in you to subconsciously have a “protest uniform”. It might be all black, it might be a certain hoodie, or t shirt. It might be camouflage. I’m not sure, everybody is different. This is just a heads up that you’ll be tempted to wear something that reflects this resistance, and you’ll want to wear it at every action and protest. Go ahead and embrace that.
- Keep your phone charged. Maybe purchase a portable charger.
- Keep snacks on you. Peanuts, granola bars, etc. I had a “protest bag” that I’ve grown extremely attached to, some days I don’t feel safe or comforted without it. In it I kept:
- extra battery and/or charge stick,
- snacks (as mentioned above),
- homemade gas mask,
- my ID only (I never left with an entire wallet or credit/debit cards),
- a small amount of cash (food, gas, etc money), because these cops steal, this was on national television, they will steal cash right out of your wallet
- Self care! VALUE IT NOW! In the midst of your rage, everything the police has done to you has been damaging to your psyche. The truth is it hits your subconscious so you won’t readily notice. But certain things will trigger you and then you’ll know. The tear gas, the areas that you’re protesting, the problematic press releases from the police and politicians, all of it will be triggering. Value self-care and mental health now. In fact, I hope that RIGHT now there are organizers that will ensure to have mental health professionals on site. This resistance, while necessary and powerful, will be traumatizing. And don’t let anyone shame you for needing a break. If you need to unplug, go on sabbatical, or whatever please do. You’re human.
- If arrested, check on the people you’re arrested with. Make sure everyone is ok. Check if they have medical conditions (diabetes, asthma, etc.).
- Make sure that AT LEAST one person (preferably more), know who you are, your first and last name and birthdate. This will be important in the event of an arrest.
- Write the jail support number ON YOUR BODY or commit it to your memory. In fact, be able to chant it in unison. It has been beneficial, trust me on this.
- Don’t think that the only threat to your safety is the police. No, media and white vigilantes are truly a problem. Be warned, they will try you. Beyond words, they will PHYSICALLY try you. They will interrupt your protest. They will take things from you that BELONG to you. In fact, I’ve already seen the story of the white woman stealing a bag from a black man. Yes, they’re bold. Just a heads up. and media will intentionally follow you, press cameras into your back, invade your space and harass you just to make you react for their “riot porn” propaganda.
- There are some white vigilantes that have guns and are not afraid to wave them or threaten you with them. Just a heads up. This happens. This is a thing. Not making any recommendations, just want to mentally prepare you. The first time I witnessed this, I was in shock. You would think as much as they “fear” black bodies, they would stay in the house but no. Heads up.
- Livestreamers are important to your safety. And it benefits you when the entire WORLD can see that the cops are lying when they’re trying to justify their violence towards you. I’ll never forget in Ferguson when they lied and said we threw rocks, but the livestream was rolling which debunked that within minutes. It’s nice when we don’t have to sit on the internet and defend ourselves or tell our side to thousands of people, separate times, when those thousands can just watch.
- Internet trolls… they suck… for twitter there’s a site called BLOCKTOGETHER.ORG. it blocks ALL suspicious twitter profiles on your behalf.
- Speaking of the Internet…. This is my favorite part… you’re about to learn who all the underlying racists are that have been your “friend”, or coworker, or classmate. You’re about to see so prepare that “unfriend”/”block”.
- And of course, I have to address the black people in your city who are scared, and just want it to be over. Guess what, while I don’t agree with this mentality, I do understand it. So desperately, we just want to live our lives without this situation, without this inconvenience. We literally just want things to “go back to normal”. I get that, that’s what you want. Listen, I can’t say for certain how long the outward expression of rage will last in your city, but what I will say is this too shall pass. See right now, everyone is upset and it’s visible. But what isn’t visible are the activists that are “staying low and building”. I look forward to the beautiful creations of protest they will implement. What now feels “chaotic and random”, will soon be intentional and direct action. I’m confident that they are organizing as I write this blog. So be encouraged, this part will not last long. Even history shows that this part last 2-3 days. It’s always the hardest part, but it’s the shortest. The months to come will be beautiful.
- Many of you will have different ideas about obtaining freedom. Guess what… YOU ARE ALL RIGHT. Embrace each other’s ideas and work. For some, it will be documenting, for others it will be economical, or political, or direct action, or education, or media, etc. the list goes on. There is work for everybody with this. Embrace each other, don’t miss the vision. The bottomline goal is we want the words “black” and “alive” to no longer be mutually exclusive. there are multiple necessary avenues to get to that place. We need all of you.
I hope this information is useful to you. I hope this information saves you time. I really just wanted to share what has helped us. I know Baltimore is completely different from Saint Louis, so I don’t anticipate EVERYTHING here being ideal for your city. With all of that being said, Baltimore I thank you. I thank you for not letting people shame you out of your anger. I thank you for inspiring me. I love you <3.
Angel aka the Queen
Oh and P.S. thank you for loaning us the gem that is Deray LOL 🙂
Written and edited by Angel Carter, April 28th. All rights reserved. No reproduction of this work permitted without authorization. Contact email@example.com for more information. © 2015 Angel Carter
Enjoyed my work? All support is appreciated. Send support via paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org 🙂