EBONY Magazine Ferguson One Year Later Michael Brown

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Resistance Is Black Tradition

Brittany Packnett of the Ferguson Commission reflects on how the past year has changed her life and her people

by Brittany Packnett, August 8, 2015

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EBONY Magazine Ferguson One Year Later Michael Brown

I was raised to believe that God's grace and the wealth of Black tradition placed in me all the things I will ever need.  This year since August 9th , 2014, has been a lesson in just how deep that well runs.

This year has deepened my understanding of our collective responsibility to resist.  I was raised in a tradition of social justice.  My first protests were as a toddler. Our dinner conversation never shied from politics and religion. My first films were Hampton’s Eyes on the Prize, my first Bible an Afrocentric one.  Still, like so many good Black mothers and fathers meaning to do better for their children, the socio-economic comfort my parents diligently strove could have threatened to lull me into sleepy comfort and willful ignorance.  It's far too easy for those of us living the Black bourgeoisie experience to believe our freedom was granted with our temporary social status. Such illusions can trick us into abandoning the duties of our Blackness in America, convincing us that our resistance, our agitation will indeed threaten our ability to maintain even our most cosmetic privileges.  Sadly, this year, I saw too many of us make that choice.

But resistance is Black tradition.  It’s tradition I was raised never to desert, and August 9th reminded me of precisely why: because nothing can save me from the terror meant for Black bodies except the dismantling of systems of oppression through direct, strategic means.  My title isn’t bulletproof.  My Master’s degree is not made of Kevlar. Mike Brown’s diploma did not save him, and the exasperating reality that any of our sons could be Tamir, and I could one day be Sandra can not be ignored.  Resistance is our responsibility. My career-long efforts to help dismantle educational inequity through formal organizations are nothing if I am not willing to be physically and emotionally proximal to the students I serve and the struggle of Blackness in America. So this year, I learned to resist in ways I once knew, and on August 9, were revived.

In this year of struggle, I have been reminded of the rich paradox of Black tradition, in our unique and unmarred ability to find- and indeed, grow love in the midst of pain.  Love bonds us in our resistance – love for the community that raised us.  Love gives us the strength to stand and defend our dignity in the streets of Ferguson and the halls of power.  Love allows us to proclaim our humanity without qualifiers or apology.  Our protest t-shirts – my generation’s version of the demonstration sign – quote our great heroes and broadcast our love for our Blackness. 

Our ability to stare our destruction in the face and answer with music, laughter, joy, love, beats, hope, and relentless fortitude for our freedom is the very best of our tradition.  In the many faces of this movement, I see those fruits of our triumphant Black spirits coming alive as we shout the call of our elders: Justice. Now.

I will be forever indebted to Michael Brown, Jr. for reviving my spirit and revealing our strength.

We have everything in us we need to win. 

Brittany Packnett is an activist, educator and a member of the Ferguson Commission. Follow her on Twitter: @mspackyetti

 

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