Love and LiberationJune 20, 2016 1 Comment
Tonight there will be a full moon, that time every month when the sun, moon and earth are in complete alignment. It is also the summer solstice when the sun (from the perspective of the earth) is at its highest point in the earth’s northern hemisphere marking the longest number of daylight hours in the year and the official beginning of summer.
According to many this will be the first time that these two astronomical events have coincided since June of 1967, during what was in the United States, the Summer of Love for many, and a summer of continued oppression for African Americans continuing the long struggle for Civil Rights, Justice, and Equality. Yesterday many of us celebrated Juneteenth, when we commemorate the day when the last enslaved Africans in the US finally received news of their freedom.
So today, I am reflecting on alignment, love and liberation, all against the backdrop of the recent massacre of LGBTQ/queer People of Color in Orlando, a presidential election cycle rife with the most vitriolic, hateful rhetoric in decades, and the continued devaluing of black lives. Like many others who believe in and have dedicated their lives to justice, I can’t help but feel that all of the social and political gains we’ve made since the Civil Rights Era have been lost. It’s easy under these circumstances to feel a tremendous amount of confusion and fear. As I go through the phases of grief and shame after the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando I am trying to make sense of these circumstances especially as someone who is struggling with others to develop concrete, practical innovative solutions to the world’s most complex problems.
On my bike ride into work last Wednesday, I wondered, ‘ How can I expect to be balanced in my own life when the world I live in feels so completely out of alignment? What do we do to balance or counter the forces of fear that are currently at play? To put it in Star Wars terms, ‘how can we strengthen the force on the light side to provide at least a counterbalance to the dark side’s cranking up of hatred, homophobia, islamophobia, etc.? Or, to do what the Qur’an itself suggests which is ‘to repel evil with what is better…’
Almost involuntarily I felt the need to crank up my love. So far that has looked like being more vocal about my love for the LGBTQ/queer people in my life. It has looked like making a promise to myself to support, defend, and if need be protect them. It has looked like listening and holding space as I can and centering their experiences at this time. It has also looked like challenging homophobia even when there are no LGBTQ/queer people present.
I want to be clear though, for me this isn’t just about tolerance, or loving my LGBTQ/queer friends and family members in spite of their gender and/or sexuality. Instead, for me, it is about loving them because of their gender and/or sexuality. It is about embracing and loving every single part of who they are and truly believing that queerness is liberatory because it attempts to free all of us from the shackles of heteropatriarchy and removes the restrictions on gender and sexual expression for us all.
That the people killed at Pulse that night were mostly Latinx, Afro-Latinx, and African-American LGBTQ/queer and trans people reminds us that often the people at the margins of the margins are the most vulnerable to the symptoms of the systems of oppression that ultimately harm all of us. Consequently, it is their liberation that frees us all.
So, we slowly continue our struggle. We do our best to not let their deaths be in vain. We work like hell to spread and amplify the love that does justice and to bring this world into balance and alignment, all the while believing that our liberation is tied up in each others’.
Aisha, I see so clearly your brilliance and your love. Thank you.