4thPrecinctShutdown: A Statement on Magic and Resistance
FW Keno Evol
Still there is magic. Throughout the days I’ve spent at the 4th precinct, on that sacred, now spiritual road of Plymouth Avenue, I have seen what I’ve imagined in my mind’s eye for quite some time—a community blockade of resistance. I say sacred intentionally. Throughout black history the shedding of black blood has made things sacred. Consider the way we view voting. Often the argument is that it’s necessary to vote, because there is blood on these ballots. The people who came before us suffered so we can show up to the booth. This is true, though I think the idea distorts and manipulates people’s commitment to figuring out their own consciousness and defining for themselves what activism really is. It creates a sort of guilt complex around the trauma of our elders. I’m thinking of “A Letter to Maria,” when June Jordan writes, “So voting, or the right to vote, was a goal, yes, but not an overriding objective, nor was it a strategy, nor was it a tactic. The overriding objective was freedom from American apartheid.”
I also say spirituality intentionally, though not in terms of organized religion. But in terms of organizing around a common suffering, an approach which lends itself to a certain otherworldliness taking place—in this case within North Minneapolis.
I would go as far as to say the entire nation is in a moment of magic. I say magic within two categories of the word. For white Americans, I mean it in the most exhaustingly literal of terms. A Black boy vanishes and white America has a moment of immediate awe! They can’t believe it! Where did the black boy go? The cop, the magician in this ritual, knows what a person in his trade would know about fooling the audience. Tragically unsurprised, however, black people living in this country know where every mirror, every smoke canister and every trap door is placed. This is what I mean by magic centered in white America.
However, for black America I am talking about an unflinching people who, through remarkable odds, hold fast to their own moral court of law while getting maced to being shot with rubber bullets repeatedly. Enduring the terrorism of white supremacists coming to this sacred place, filming themselves and harassing peaceful community members. Witnessing those same white supremacists shoot bullets into a crowd of forty plus, and still manage to remember their historical vocation to “non-violence”.
When I say magic centered on blackness, I mean an extraordinary joy that can be found, around a bonfire in twenty eight degree weather as young people—sixteen, seventeen year old men and women, who media would articulate as thugs—conversing on the unifying of local gangs against a common foe. Conversing on ancestry and old bartering systems of Africa as it relates to the way we must supply each other to endure this occupation. The media has no coverage of this joy even though they are there—across the street even. The media—vultures who swarm in over a dead black boy’s body waiting for some “real action”.
The world has vouched for capitalism as the way to distribute goods and services. However, living in poverty and having mouths to feed jolts your imagination to consider alternative ways to meet everyone’s needs. So, when I speak on the encampment being a place of magic, even at times otherworldly, I am speaking on a community’s thinking on bartering, receiving unprompted donations, everything from heat lamps to replace bonfires to having knitting classes and free massages for protesters and young ones.
Capitalism is obnoxious and annoying, but more than that it’s the process by which we abandon people. Presently at the encampment you get to witness the antithesis of that abandonment. You see sacrifice. An offering of gloves, the unofficial allowance to skip the line for soup if you’ve been there for eight plus hours. We must allow our imaginations to transport ourselves to future societies where we can further actualize what we’ve seen at the encampment these past days—to imagine if this process of abandonment has to exists for us to have uninterrupted lives. We must not succumb to its weight to say that capitalism is natural; there were slave owners and enslaved people who also said that the barbaric institution of slavery was natural. Capitalism is surely not what’s best of the human being’s imagination. I say we come from a more wiser and creative peoples.
What would it mean to take the lessons we’ve gathered from the encampment on bartering, free education in skill building and community policing to radically illustrate future societies of our own design? Looking into yesteryears of our past, we’re able to recall otherworldly cases of revolutionary autonomous maroon communities. Consisting of men, women and children who liberated themselves from chattel slavery, these visionaries took it upon their imaginations and fortitude to forge societies in the woods, swamps and mountains of Florida, Haiti, the Caribbean, Jamaica, and Brazil. Fascinating to acknowledge the visionaries, who revolted to ignite these communities early on, had military training. Some were previous prisoners of war. They were equipped with otherworldly vision and tactic. Though maroon communities were at their best autonomous, it’s critical to recognize that they were always in negotiation with colonial powers for their survival.
When thinking on the encampment of the #4thPrecinctShutdown, are we willing to negotiate with the powers that be for a soon as possible solution? Do we understand harvesting freedom is a long arch? Is this a fight for freedom in long distance? Are we organized enough to self generate the necessities to hold the encampment for as long as necessary? If the encampment is to be raided, do we move the encampment to another precinct? Do we believe we are that magical?
It’s important to note here that when we speak of magic, it must not be synonymous with something being sexy or fetishized. There is nothing sexy about having your body feel as if it would be more relieved if your toes were simply cut off because of the cold. Contrary to the atmosphere of white American bougie art spaces, there is nothing sexy about black blood, black suffrage, or black pain. Nor is there anything sexy about excessively running noses or witnessing a fluid mixture of milk being poured into a shrieking young woman’s eyes from being pepper sprayed by cops. Where protesters were simply holding up a tarp to prevent being sprayed in the first place. These are not at all sexy images. This occupation is not a sexy scene or is it one for adrenaline junkies. Black Magic, as it relates to black pain, is not at all erotic and should never be revered as such, though the struggle for a free autonomous people can be seen as beautiful. Beautiful not in the sense of the pornographic, but in the sense of a historical grace that is something to be honored and committed to. Not discarded after you have an emotional or physical reaction to it via a photograph or two minute video on social media.
Is a world without police possible? Or does our demand end at police brutality? How far do we extend our trust to the state? Does our individual trust for the system trump the history of systematic violence of any oppression on a mass people? Are we the contemporary maroons of Haiti actualized in the dawning of the 21st century? Oppression has a vision for us all, and so much funding behind it. How far do we stretch our imagination? Are we able to recognize that our creativity is the only military training we will be able to rely on, especially when we have to figure out how to defined us and our loved ones from the tear gas? How magical are we? How magical do we give ourselves permission to be?
All oppression is built on maintaining fear, profit and public image. Legislation and the gains in legal integration will seduce your critical lens to say America as a nation has become less afraid of us. This is a lie. One of the perceptions of magic that exists at the #4thPrecinctShutdown is the sense of a free people.
Exactly what does it mean when we say freedom? Nina Simone described it as how she felt on stage, reaching the highest nirvana, as possessing no fear. Think on this. If you live in a society where you are afraid, how could you possibly be fully free? Racism, while being institutionalized, is still a social relationship of power plus privilege, because fear is still a social relationship. It wasn’t magic that killed Jamar Clark. It wasn’t a trick mirror. It wasn’t a disappearing act. It was fear. In magic, smoke is used as a distraction. In revolution, it’s simply a confirmation, a testimony.
I know in my heart nonviolence is a distorted word. I know I say “Peace” entering and exiting conversations as often as I can. I know peace not to be the norm of this nation, especially for the black people. I know violence is the norm which manipulates the term “non-violence”. When a protester throws a rock or a bottle or their body into a barricade of police officers, they aren’t interrupting peace. They are interrupting violence! I know this and I have seen the prayer circles and are critical of their timing in moments which I feel can be better spent strategizing around the perimeter where the shots could come from. I know all this. I also know the moment I hear a bullet break through the cracked brittle cold air of November that I by hell would’ve wished I took the time to memorize a prayer.
The releasing of a video on November 23rd, where white supremacists fired shots into a crowd, proved they were working with the police. We know tapes of the original November 15th shooting of Jamar Clark have yet to be released. It will be traumatizing to watch when they are. This is nothing new for the American supremacist project, though. We don’t need evidence that reaffirms the trauma and testimony of what black people have been saying for hundreds of years. This is why we assembled here in the first place!
This is a moment of black magic. We have an appointment with a very long winter. The great American project has executed a thousand rebellions; this is the work of any empire. Yes, the people have held out for this long. We have placed a minor inconvenience to the state. I would push us to think on what it is this encampment is in tandem with—connected to on the national than local level. I say that to forewarn terrorism has allies. The day will come when the police of the fourth precinct decide to act, with direct orders from the mayor or governor, to remove those of us who will be labeled as protesters to trespassers, domestic terrorists or whatever feeds the narrative to justify their brutality. When they decide to remove us, they will by any means necessary.
These orders will come. We need to think on how are we preparing for those orders and preparing to either comply or defy. After those orders are given, what will long distance freedom fighting look like? Organizing at another precinct? Because isn’t this fire, this magic around Jamar Clark, also about Terrence Franklin? Sandra Bland? Tamir? Isn’t this fire, this magic, about every precinct? Every police patrol?
America has this vast optimism that thinks the history of suffrage so attached to my people will go away after we die. The universe promises death to our bodies, but not our history. A sort of bargain I suppose. The only thing that goes to the earth are our bones, our memories remain on the surface of the earth screeching at the top of their lungs.
My people, without being able to breathe in this country, are finding ways to sing. How is this not magic? Smoke is either evidence of deception or something burning. My scarves, my clothes, my fear and freedom all smell of smoke. In the crowd of the encampment, there are children of ex slaves who have nothing up their sleeves, except the smell of fire. All the evidence is on the table as to why we need to burn anything that isn’t built for us in this country, which is in a terrifying literal sense of the idea, everything. As far as deciding on the language to convince a mass populous why the burning should occur, well, we have so many great examples to pull from. I think I’ll leave you with the blues. I believe it was Muddy Waters, with his guitar in 1950 with his song “You’re Gonna Need My Help”, who cried out from a swamp in the heat of Mississippi, screaming to an unexpecting America.
Well, you wake up in the morning,
Your face so full of frowns.
Asked you, “What’s wrong?”
You say, “I’m sorry, I’m puttin’ you down!”
Well, you leave home in the morning
And you won’t come back tonight.
You won’t give me no food
You still say you treat me right.
[First published December 22, 2015 in The Organizer.]