Updated: Sep 17, 2020
I’ve seen red before, ignited by misplaced anger, hung delicately over my eyes by the hands of my own internalized emotions; but this red I see in the sky is not fabricated by my own reality but by the construction of human negligence.
The smoke from the wildfires is so thick it looked like fog but when I walked outside this morning but when I tasted the burnt cedar I realized my hopes had not been met. Most of us Oregonians are hoping for rain; even those that don’t pray are praying to the Rain Gods. As the sun burns red in the dark grey skies, I thank mother earth for the last 28 years she has given me and acknowledge that her time may be up. Thanks to the fires and city pollution, Portland currently has the worst air quality in the world; Mother Earth has had it with human kind and I don’t blame her one bit.
The Saturday before last was our 100th day of protesting day and night here in Portland. Our ceremony was welcomed by riot vans, paddy wagons and hundreds of police in riot gear; before we even left the park for our march. They did not hesitate but a moment to start using impact ammunition, CS tear gas, flash grenades and pepper balls after a molotov cocktail lit the street aflame and caught one of our protesters on fire. Later that eve a pipe bomb was thrown into the crowd, the police conducted mass arrests, hit and runs were on the scene, cops beating protesters in the streets; slashing their tires. While armed white civilian men pushed our protesters towards the police; seemingly in collusion with the PPB. The sight before our eyes painted a battlefield of American revolution. This is quickly becoming a regular Saturday night for us comrades....
But as dark as the shadows have casted over most of our spirits, I began to see some light that night as fellow comrades and myself extracted injured people to the side lines and aided to their needs. Our acts of kindness are bred by pure empathy and I'm not so sure I've ever seen so much empathy in solidarity. It is a light that shines bright in this darkness.
This is the same empathy you see from the very same activists volunteering their time to disaster relief as thousands of people flee their homes from southern and central east Oregon, seeking refuge from the blistering fires that are flattening towns and causing mass destruction. Many of these displaced people are finding refuge in forgotten mall parking lots; a sketched scene of every apocalypse dream. As I knocked on these people's car and trailer doors asking what their needs were and if I could help, I began to recognize the pattern of rural America consolidated to this one patch of concrete. Many of these people are the very same people that fear our protests, that fear the uprising of Black Lives Matter, that fear the color of my comrades' skin.
Nevertheless we tend to their aid without judgement but I can’t help to think to myself; If these fires were to grow so rampant and vast and herd (some of) these people all the way to the border of Canada where the border is closed and they were denied entry even though there was certain death if they turned back; maybe then, and only then, they would find the struggle of our neighbors and fellow Latinx community comprehensible. Maybe it would take such drastic measures to open most of their eyes to understand the oppression this country casts on our black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) of this country. This is of course not fact, just a thought in my head that has been strung out for weeks by the constant fluctuation between fight or flight. My eyes have been opened wider than ever before and I can’t close them, not now not ever; I suppose I will sleep in the next life.
Meanwhile, the helicopters that could be fighting these fires are overseas fighting a rich man's war for oil and blood, taking more lives than saving. Who will suffer the consequence as the earth is raped of all its resources? It is not those who are committing such heinous crimes. Never mind that we are 6 months into a pandemic and the United States Government has done nothing but give a portion of its people a measly $1,200 check, mandated a mask rule to some complying communities and shut down thousands of small businesses, some to never open their doors again.
Almost every television screen you come across will bear witness of the oppressor giving the people excuses of why it was okay for them to abandon our elders so they can continue to orchestrate a wage slave economy on the skin and backs of our oppressed people. Local governments hosting what is essentially a lottery; until the money runs out. News coverage of fear mongering stories talking about how grocery stores remain with supplies aisles empty and how almost every army surplus store is out of supply as most gear up for what they believe in the footings of civil war. The world has gone mad and I am doing my best to not go mad with it.
Taking a walk in Portland has a distinctively different essence than it did when I was a young, tearing through these same streets; what a wild time to return after years of being gone. The wildfire smoke will fill your lungs if you dare leave your home and your paranoia doesn’t have you paralyzed to your couch. I’ll take the taste of this smoke over CS gas any day; my own human lungs are as well as the earths.
Here in Portland the streets are lined with the houseless's tents, the downtown metro has entire city blocks boarded up with graffiti and street art painted on the plywood walls face, depicting historic and contemporary events of murder and genocide. Amongst the same streets that are scarred from where the CS gas canisters, flash grenades and impact ammunition hit when marches flooded the streets demanding for social justice. But today, the city is quiet and eerie, I can’t embody this feeling into words.
This police brutality and trauma appears to be new to the eyes of most people of my generation but this police brutality is not new to our BIPOC community and the older generations. This brutality is not new to our immigrant sisters, brothers and everyone in between. Most of you are terrified because never have you seen before a society that has public lynchings being streamed straight to the tips of our fingers. Meanwhile a large portion of white Americans are choosing to make these public lynchings a political matter, when it is indeed, a very basic human rights matter with a very straight forward, comprehensible objective. We will continue to demand that; Black lives Matter, because all lives can't matter, until black lives do.
I write to you, urging you to adjust and pivot to a more objective approach because this is not the first apocalypse that humankind has seen and this won’t be the last. All of our resources are being stripped from us, our land is being confiscated (by mother earth), sickness is dominating our people, our people are being murdered in cold blood, publicly and everything familiar is being stripped away from our realities.
Does this series of events sound familiar to you or were your public school history books as deceiving as mine were? This series of events all underwent by our indigenous people not that long ago. This series of events were suffered by our jewish people, in recent memory. This series of events are happening all around us, as a result of our own government crimes, today. So wipe that surprise off of your face, wake up and join the revolution party. We have just enough empathy to feel the weight of the world and just enough strength to carry it, for now. But our time is now, we’ve been waiting for you.
Photo Credentials- Wookess Williams
Photo Edit- Samm Bones Writer- Samm Bones