A Dream Deferred: MarShawn McCarrel
Activism is hard work on the body and soul. Fighting in the name of Black Lives Matter ain’t easy. Organizing your community against police violence ain’t easy. And sometimes we lose a dear soul in the fight.
We lost a beautiful soul this week. MarShawn McCarrel. And we mourn him deeply.
I ask that you take care of your soul right now. That you ask for what you need to continue in this life, and that you take the time and space you need. This is a long, hard battle against white supremacy and colonialism, and we must unapologetically love ourselves and each other, in order to survive and thrive in this war.
MarShawn McCarrel, a Black radical activist, shot himself Monday on the steps of the Ohio statehouse. Earlier that day on Facebook he wrote, “My demons won today. I’m sorry.” He was 23 years old.
On Monday, he wrote on Twitter, “Let the record show that I pissed on the state house before I left.”
He also wrote on that day, “If we don’t have to live through hell just to get to heaven. I’ma stay right here with you.”
On the Saturday before his passing, he posted, “I never wanted much. Just peace and to make y’all proud.”
He was the founder of a community organization of mentorship for inner city youth, Pursuing Our Dreams. After living on the streets himself, he had also become the founder of a homeless charity, Feed the Streets.
Last Friday, he attended the NAACP Image Awards, after receiving the Radio One,”Hometown Champion” accolade, in recognition for his work. On the nomination page for the “Hometown Champion,” it read, “He is selfless and will give his last in order to make sure others don’t go without … MarShawn has come so far in life and has inspired so many people to help others.”
This work, this life can break our hearts. We know that some of us in this work are depressed and suicidal. People are hurting, deeply.
Please, ask for what you need. Please, at the moments when it is hardest to feel and invoke that radical self-love, do what you can for yourself and your loved ones.
May we believe in each other and radically love each other.
Finding Global Joy: Carnival! Mardi Gras!
We want to wish everyone a happy Carnival/Mardi Gras/Ash wednesday!
I have deep family roots in Louisiana, especially New Orleans and the Bayou, but right now I am enjoying Carnival in Ecuador. No matter where I am in the world, this is one of my favorite times of the year.
From New Orleans to Brazil, from Trinidad to Venezuela, we are celebrating Carnival and all of the creative brilliance and permutations that comes with it.
Carnival traditions range from street water balloon fights, to glittery parades with people decked out in feathers and colors, from all night parties on Mardi Gras to people crowded into churches in the morning commemorating Ash Wednesday.
This is a time for basking in personal freedom, love for one’s family, and cultural traditions that date back centuries.
It is amazing to observe people walking in public unapologetically representing themselves in festivity, color, costume and delight. This is our time to be carefree, joyful and creative.
I hope that everyone celebrating, has an amazing Carnival, that you have discovered something new and beautiful about yourself and your loved ones, that this time opened you to new possibilities for self-expression and self-love, that you drank, ate and were merry.
#Formation: Beyonce Embodies Black Love
Woah! Beyonce dropped her latest video and the internet collectively gasped. Just in case you missed it, let me explain.
On Thursday, Beyonce let the world know where she stood when it come to Black self-love.
She’s all for it. Black love for herself, her ancestors, and most especially for her daughter.
Beyonce, aka Queen B, for years has had strangers on the internet and in the mainstream media critique how she raises her daughter, and especially how she styles her daughter’s hair. Her baby’s hair is not considered to be ‘respectable’, because it’s afro, kinky, curly Black girl hair. Un-straightened.
But Blue shows up in this video with all the swag and self-confidence that we desire from our daughters, nieces and girl cousins to possess. She shows up as if to ask, ‘What are you going to say?’
This is the self-love that I work daily for my daughter to embody.
It was amazing to see, Blue Ivy, a little Black Southern girl responding to her haters with a simple shoulder shrug and a smirk.
There are so many elements of this song and video that I could analyze, the shout-outs to the Black Lives Matter movement. The flood of Hurricane Katrina drowning a cop car. But what interests me the most is the way that this video, and the song’s lyrics, are in defense of black children.
Especially black girlhood.
Black girlhood is constantly under fire. Under criticism. But Bey refuses that.
Instead Beyonce states in the song, “I like my baby hair, with baby hair and afros/ I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils”
As a mother, I resonate with this compulsion, desire to defend one’s daughter from the anti-Blackness that lurks in random stranger’s comments. I too would rather my daughter have Black girl hair. I too have had people comment on the fact that I refuse to force my daughter to conform to white mainstreams standards of beauty. I too believe that Black is always beautiful.
Then at the Super Bowl, the most popular sporting event of the year, and one of the most popular media events of the year, Beyonce headlined the halftime show. Her dancers sported afros and black berets in reference to the Black panther party, putting their fists in the air, as a Black power salute. This halftime show was a pro-Black re-imaging of the Black power salute by Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games.
…Black Lives Matter, Each One
My daddy was a Black Panther. He is dead now, but when I watched Beyonce during the Super Bowl, I wondered, what he would think of all of this. Would he be proud or critical? I don’t know. What I do know, is that Black radical politics have become more mainstream now than they have been since the 70s.
Nina Simone, my father’s favorite singer, is dead, but her Black power jazz anthems have once again become relevant to many Black activists who never knew about her while she was alive.
President Barack Obama said his favorite song of 2015 was from Kendrick Lamar’s album, To Pimp a Butterfly. It is an album that celebrates, questions and pushes the idea – what does Black masculinity mean in the 21st century.
I don’t know what my father would say, but I do know that he would agree that Black lives not only matter, they are beautiful and sacred.
I am so joyful that I get to celebrate Black love and struggle, whether that celebration is on the coast of Ecuador during Carnival, or while watching half time at the Super Bowl while Beyonce and her dancers shock the nation, by reminding them that Bernie Sanders isn’t the only public persona talking “revolution.”
And sometimes that celebration transforms into mourning when I reflect on what it costs to to be a Black revolutionary, and that sometimes it has meant to end your life.
I have been depressed and suicidal before. My father loved black people and he was so depressed.
To those who feel like ending one’s life is better than continuing it, all I can say is, do what you need to do. But please be willing to imagine that there is a person who believes in your life. Who needs you as much as you need them to. You are beautiful and valuable. And your life matters. Really, really. It does.
Beyonce paid homage to the Black Panther women at this 50th anniversary of the Black Panther movement. Many of the members of that party are still held as political prisoners. Many of the members were killed by the U.S. government. This work can break your heart…repeatedly. This life can break you.
I don’t have a solution to depression or suicide, honestly.
I just know what it feels like to stare into that void and not know how to turn away.
And I know that human life is precious and beautiful. I know that Black Lives Matter.
[Featured Image: A collage of two photos. The photo on the left is of MarShawn McCarrel standing outdoors in a black t-shirt looking ahead smiling. The photo on the right is an image of Beyonce from her Formation video. She is dressed in a long black dress, black hat with an elaborate silver necklace. She is staring ahead.]