I marched today with the Malcolm X Day rally that travelled from 125th Street to the Audubon Theater where he was assassinated almost exactly 50 years ago to this day. It was a small but powerful march that took the streets unpermitted behind a large Black Lives Matter banner. Present were those who had lost loved ones to police brutality and many from communities affected by police violence who had been organizing for a long time. What I saw was the revolutionary cutting edge of the current movement, picking up where the revolutionaries of 40 and 50 years ago had left off, and merging that legacy with the hard learned lessons of subsequent generations.
We stopped in from of Al Sharpton's so-called "House of Justice" office and called him out for repeatedly selling out police brutality victims and collaborating with the state. Folks declared that the movement didn't need leaders, that we are all leaders. This movement understands that waiting for messiahs only makes it weak, vulnerable, and prone to misdirection.
We kept moving, and marchers asked all children present to come to the front. This movement understands that this struggle is about ensuring survival and liberation for future generations, and teaching them NOW about what it will take to achieve that.
When we arrived at the Audubon Theater, a few people spoke and addressed the crowd. Ancestors from struggles past were invoked, and the fact that this small march was part of something far larger was made clear. One person said, "Some people might only see 50 or 60 people here, but I see fifty or sixty thousand." Speakers mentioned uprisings in the Middle East, Europe and Latin America. This movement understands historical continuity and the global nature of oppression and revolution.
Female victims of police brutality were emphasized, and someone likened the state's increasing repression of protest to an abuser using intimidation tactics out of fear of losing control of a relationship. Women took a strong role in the march. This movement understands patriarchy and gender oppression.
A Black female cop was sent to try to shut us down as the rally continued. She was quickly dismissed. Sellout "selected officials" of color were denounced and folks mentioned that white people also helped with the Underground Railroad. This movement understands that the roots of oppression are not within individuals of varying colors and genders, but in structures and institutions of power.
A couple of speakers talked about the importance of continuing to flex power by shutting down the infrastructure of the city and applying pressure economically. The importance of involving large numbers of people was emphasized. This movement understands that we must take power, not ask for it.
More songs were sung, updated versions of freedom songs from the Civil Rights movement. Folks talked about this importance of reclaiming co-opted culture and also creating new forms. This movement understands the importance of the arts for communication and imagination.
It was announced that this February would be declared Black Love Month. People were encouraged to patronize Black businesses and to generally support and celebrate those who had long been told they had little to no value. This movement understands the fundamental importance of love, community, and solidarity.
It may not look like much right now to see a small band of people marching uptown on a cold Sunday afternoon, but people everywhere need to recognize that a revolutionary movement is brewing right here in our city, armed with vision, clarity, and relentless courage. Those working in all areas of social justice need to continue thinking about how they will be interfacing with and supporting this fierce cutting edge, preparing for it to bloom in countless places this Spring.