This past weekend, I joined thousands at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) for the protest against Trump’s most recent inhumane decision, his temporary Muslim ban. As usual, it felt exhilarating to be among so many people with similar views on humanity. And as usual, I felt the familiar sense of deflated adrenaline when our protest came to an end after 2 hours of pre-planned resistance. I must admit that some of it was also guilt, as I started to think about my comrades who were spending evenings resisting in other airports across the globe. Nonetheless, after being told by airport police that our “party is over,” a friend and I held an airport taxi and started to make our way home. I was reenergized for a bit after we were thanked by our taxi driver for our resistance, which followed with his waving of our fees. My conscience started to feel a little bit better, but I still felt incomplete.
Once home, after posting all my videos and photos on social media, I decided to visit a familiar voice for some inspiration. My late mentor, Grace Lee Boggs had issued a message to Occupy Wall Street in 2011. I also decided to watch her video around what it means to be human.
It’s typical for me to visit videos and writings from Grace when I am in deep political reflection. She was always asking, “What time is it on the clock of the world?” It’s a question that took me years to understand and internalize, but one that now motivates my writings and deeds.
After taking in Grace’s words, I decided to revisit an article I wrote after participating in one of Grace’s memorials last year in Oakland. I recalled that I had returned to Detroit with a great deal of clarity and wanted to revisit that moment for inspiration. I wrote in part:
“Grace pushed us to vision when the rest of the world appeared chaotic. She pushed us to study when many in the world would deem that passive. Grace pushed us to connect in love and struggle and to create our paths by walking them. She pushed us to turn to one another when the pain and trauma of the world was tearing us apart. If Grace were sitting here now, she would tell us that we are living in dangerous times, a time of both crises and opportunity. She would tell us that these are the times to grow our souls and that it is not only a time to imagine what the Next American Revolution could be like, but that we should imagine what this country’s revolution could create for the rest of the world.”
Grace believed, like we believe, that Detroit could be the center for the world’s transformation and she pushed and guided us to take leadership in that regard and to nurture others to do the same.
The brief moment of jubilation one feels when they are protest organizing cannot be lingered upon. Although it is imperative that we celebrate the small victories in order to achieve moments of relief, we must challenge ourselves to move past the joyful moments and warm feelings that keep us celebrating for too long and into the moments that challenge us to ask ourselves “What’s next? What time is it on our individual clocks? What time is it on the clocks of our blocks? What time is it in on the clocks of our cities, on the clock of the world, on the clock of our humanity?”
What changes need to take place in each of us in order to challenge the status quo? To challenge the notion that a city must be poisoned in order for us to fight for it’s poor to have clean and affordable water? To challenge the notion that a people who cannot pay their bills are disposable? To challenge the notion that those who are undocumented, or are immigrants to a city are unworthy of clean air and the protection of their language, culture and identity? To challenge the idea that the fratricide we see happening most prominently in Black and Brown communities is disconnected from racism and capitalism?
If Grace were sitting here, she would be telling us to listen to our young people and telling the young people to utilize the marbles of our elders. She would be asking us what we are going to do different, not tomorrow, but today in terms of what it means to be a human being?
So when asked what time it is on the clock of the world, on the clock of our souls and our humanity, let us keep in mind that we hold the hands that move the clock and we have a responsibility to “move the world.”
I share with you these videos of Grace and my personal reflections with the hopes that we will all struggle individually and together to become more humane human beings and to expand our ideas towards resistance to include vision. We must become neighbors to our Muslim sisters and brothers, above and beyond Trump’s executive orders. We must turn toward one another and away from the cultural biases and prejudices that have us sitting silently until media lets us know we should be outraged. We cannot afford to revisit these conditions another 50 years from now.
In the words of another one of my mentors, Barbara Ransby, “Who among us has the luxury not to resist?”