Thanks-no-Thanks reflection from 2011 that may be relevant to you and your family today. Wow, how time flies.
November 24, 2011 (with some dialogue added at the bottom)
Thanksgiving? This is always such a push-and-pull day. I relish any opportunity to pause, feel, and express my gratitude to the Creator, my ancestors, my family, friends, and the thousands of people who have touched me over the years. At the same time, I loathe celebrating the near extinction of a people by white supremacy- domination, and the reminder that we and Africa are on a similar trajectory
The sweet potato pie, the hugs from Aunt Annie Mae, and the love rituals of this day are grounding, they pull us together. At the same time, they usually separate us from the reality (then and now) of the active oppression of native peoples and our OWN people.
In too many instances, what becomes sacred is our praising God and celebrating family IN ISOLATION of challenging the evils of those who dominate us and other indigenous people.
This dichotomy doesn't have to be. We could dedicate this time off “from the plantation” to build family ties for us to become better warriors, healers, and builders. We could ask, as did Harriet Tubman, for God to be the wind at our backs to support our efforts to fight, heal, and build.
I know we need a break. We deserve relief. A break from the racism at work or school, from the put-downs, and the pressure is a breath of fresh air.
When that well-deserved retreat becomes surrender, then our praises and family hugs become a form of escapism. Our apparently nurturing celebration become a way for us to hide from ourselves that we are surrendering succeeding generations to evils worse than those from which are now we are trying to escape.
Surrender is not relief; it is a DELUSION, for as Frederick Douglass reminded us: "The limits of tyrants are prescribed by those they oppress."
We could flip the script. We could use this family time to heal so that we can fight so that we can build. We could be thankful that we have lived to fight, heal and build another day. We could also learn some true stories of the native peoples of this land. Even better we could learn and fill the day telling our own native warrior-healer-builder stories from the inside out, not the outside in.
Here's a snippet from a mythical conversation that may serve as a small example to get us started. Imagine a dinner gathering everybody 'round the table, everybody speaking with and over each other...
Pass the potatoes.
Did granddad, uncle Hervey or anyone in the family ever fight racism at any time?
Little more gravy, please. How did they do it?
Can we celebrate that?
May I have some collard greens. Yes, a little more, please.
Who was the trust-builder in the family?
Would y'all turn that football game down or off?!
Now, tell me again how did grandma 'nem stay clothed in their right (Black) minds during more overt racist times?
Okra? someone told me that we brought that with us from Afrika. Is that true?
Young people, what's the subtle and overt racism you face today?
Don't hog the chow-chow.
Y'all remember having to shell peas?!
Pass the pepper. You know Daddy Chisulu (Cornell) always wanted some hot pepper with his greens. If he were here, I'd ask him: "What do we need to develop and reward among our family to become what we need to be to remove people from power over us?"
Get the picture? That may get you started. Keep going, and keep going deeper.
That’s my personal solution to the push and pull. Flip the script!
Its a request that my family and our family use the time to work through the PAIN of past relationships that SEPARATE us; that we create a safe place to ask for help and to give it; that we use our COLLECTIVE eyes to see the dangers that we face more clearly; that we use the collective minds to plan our family’s counter to the inimical forces that threaten our family and our people; that we use the collective hands to reassure us that we can and will vanquish those who oppress us and other indigenous peoples - in that order!
For that kind of reunion and renewal, I truly do give thanks.
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