In 1969, The Black Panther Party established the Free Breakfast For Children Program. At its peak, the program was feeding 10,000 children daily nationwide. A lot of fuss is made now about the Panthers fighting back against police brutality, carrying firearms in public, walking into the capital. However, one of the most powerful thing the Panthers did was feed the mouths of youth at the start of the day who would go hungry otherwise. The Panthers used love for community as a catalyst for change. See, we’ve been so focused on the fire, that we’ve forgotten to reflect on the love and intention behind why the work existed. In hindsight, love has been the cornerstone of every great social movement. It has been the catalyst for some of the greatest developments in civil protest, and the impetus for pushing the ideas of the people behind them. Love is a form of activism.
Love can serve as a platform, with activism serving as its by-product. Love, when seen and held and given its proper respect, can be revolutionary; it can be an act of civil disobedience and shatter expectations. This sort of love is far from passive; in fact, it is quite combative. When looking at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) role in the non-violence movement as a passive form of protest, we’re missing the focus in their ideology—the mere act of sitting at a lunch counter at that time was not only an act of public, civil disobedience, it was potentially an act that could lead to imprisonment or death. That is active activism. That is love—love for a cause, love of justice, love of human rights.
The sooner we realize that we are all in community with each other, that the act of one affects the well-being of all, is the sooner love becomes not only an option, but the priority. Staying in love—with love as both compass and guide towards healing and change in spite of the sorrow existing in the world today—is indeed an act of resilience, of bravery, and of activism. Showing up for love, for the people and things we say we love, is an intentional practice. It is a deliberate action, one of compassion, of empathy and requires an opening and detaching of what is thought to be known, and an embracing of what could be. When we do this, we defy what the media tells us, what our governments tell us.
Look no further than Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his role in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. With no space for revisionist history, with those in power during apartheid being held accountable for war crimes, with those who were most affected being allowed the freedom to share their stories in earnest, healing was given its proper due. Today healing, unfortunately, is not seen as a tool for progression. However, healing is a mandatory requirement. It is safe to argue that the reason race relations in America are still at a standstill, with former President Trump stoking the flames of race baiting, is due in large part to the United States failing to reconcile the pain and harm caused to the Japanese, to the indigenous peoples, Black and brown peoples of this nation. Love is not the only way out, but it can be the foundation for how we solve what continues to ail us a society and a nation.
So, our call to action is simple: we are to be brave in our work, in our resilience, in our skin. Love lives in this manner—as the center-piece and catalyst—not just for conversation, but for productive action and movement. It is our job to keep telling our stories. Love is where the boring lives and makes a home—the laughter of a child filling a space; the warmth of a hug long forgotten; the sun kissing of clouds—in the absence of a sound, the quiet of time.
This is love. This is activism.