Up For Air: It Starts With a Reckoning
People join movements because of an understanding, a level of empathy and a sincere desire to seek change, while others are opportunistically riding the socio-political wave. A mere nine months into this movement (officially anyway!), and the split in motivations is evident. Everyone has revealed where they are in their journey, intentionally or not. Wherever you are, welcome. To move forward, however, you must realize our experiences and our perceptions will differ based on race, class, gender, sexuality, religion - "..all the ways the ruling class power elite use identity to define who is human and who is not..." (Tema Okun).
Marblehead's reputation as the idyllic New England town is well known. The natural beauty, stands in stark contrast with the ugliness of its structures, systems and policies designed to sustain inequity, divide us, and/or to assign our relevance in history-making moments. Separating the advertised version from reality requires full-time navigational skills. Pull up your big girl pants, and let's get to work on dismantling fact from rewrites and erasure:
Fact: We are a town with immeasurable potential.
Fact: Our progression forward is impeded by our fear that change will interrupt our personal comforts and privileges.
Fact: #PowerUP01945 contends that if the Community is empowered to call-out for truth and challenge systems that stifle progress, we would reclaim our revolutionary spirit, our power and realize our potential.
We believe in our intersectionality and our humanity. And it starts with a reckoning.
The truth is, we deserve better. The truth laid bare is an uncomfortable prospect. We have accepted all manner of subversive tactics to erase or rewrite truth - anything untoward, anything that centers marginalized groups or is obviously oppressive. For generations, we have ingested an over inflated "history" of the contributions of white males as truth - elevating them to saviors at the expense of others. Three simple examples: 1) Lucretia Brown was arguably one of the first, if not the first, Black Female small business owner in town. She miraculously survived as one of the few "Free" Black community members in a town that built its success on Enslaved Persons; however, she is known for a cookie recipe and 2) Nearly every historic home has the coveted golden cod- house plaque that recognizes the "man of the house". Who's idea was it, after researching hundreds of years of history, to only recognized the man? and 3) romanticizing the sexual exploitation of a teenage Agnes Surriage who is "saved" by some old white man and the rape of an unnamed woman, trafficked from Spain then brutalized in Lovis Cove (she apparently couldn't be saved because only the poor Marblehead women were left in town). Under the guise of honoring history, we have rewritten the untoward and or erased the contributions - one could argue the very existence - of Marblehead Women. We deserve better.
In 2021, there are those who employ this time honored system of rewrite/erasure to maintain the power structures. If successful, it will erase your voices within PowerUp, and rewrite the change we initiated together: a) Removing a racist name from a conservation area and b) challenging the normalization of swastikas.
#PowerUP01945 affirms that we do not accept the rewrite of People's lived experiences. We do not believe in diminishing contributions of the marginalized to elevate the mediocre. We wholeheartedly challenge this "rewrite" system because it is designed to control that which they cannot contain. US. To stifle the imagination of those who do not ask permission. US.
We are #PowerUP01945 and we do NOT ask permission. Our imagination is unstoppable and our commitment to change too powerful. And guess what? We are only getting started.
2021 Town Meeting PowerUP's Citizen Article set out to remove the racist name from a Conservation Area and replace it with one deserving of a veteran, of a human being: Joseph Brown's Conservation Area. The opposition is fierce, angry and threatening. Bumper Stickers read "Save Black Joe". Town Meeting's Racist attendees lined up to spew hate and ignorance. Our Members are heckled by the audience and screamed at by the Moderator. Miraculously it passes despite, the Moderator's insistence on an unnecessary recount. Not a single entity or appointed/elected official stood up for the humanity of Joe Brown nor for the PowerUP members. Not one.
Fact: November 2020 - October 2021 PowerUP members research the requirements and history of the naming, initiate the change via the town's democratic process, endure threats to our safety and violent reactions, then finally months later, celebrate the victory with our Members. #DeafeningSilence from everyone outside of PowerUP - media, leadership, town leadership.
Rewrite: October 2021, one year of silence and the town is now planning a celebration of the name change - As if they were a part of the movement all along. Social Media and Print Media will soon post/print the accolades and the significance behind the name change. They may even tie it into the Brown's School, recently opened. Town documents will acknowledge November 2021 forward, but there will be no reckoning with the harm inflicted. The labor involved in navigating the overly complex change-process will be erased; the fear of retaliation and the generational trauma associated with that racist sign will be rewritten to be sure the town was on the "right side of history". #Performative
For decades, synagogues, neighborhoods and town properties have been infected with swastikas. Throughout 2021, PowerUP vigorously demanded accountability, acknowledgement and change from leaders and MPD. The opposition was fierce, angry and threatening. Online pages spew hate and ignorance. State and local leaders ignore please for assistance. Our Members are targeted and harassed, because inexplicably folks are more angry at our diligence than they are at the prevalence of swastikas. While soliciting collaboration and support, we are told by white people that they fear retaliation by our town leadership. It is surreal. PowerUP is alone challenging the systems, structures and policies. Not one entity or appointed/elected official came forward to insist on follow-through, accountability or change. #PowerUPsPersistance #NoJusticeNoPeace
Fact: For decades there has been a predictable cycle of discovering hate crimes, expressing outrage, spewing denials that this is "not who we are" until ...poof! the next news cycle arrives, and never any accountability assigned. A Google Search of "Marblehead swastika" results in pages and pages of the sickening pattern. When an active duty police officer carves one into a car, finally the town wakes up and demands accountability. PowerUP members are right there. We attend meetings, ask questions, and demand a thorough investigation with substantive answers. No other entity stands with us. Local media is silent, except for one: Jewish Journal. #DeafeningSilence is heard around town. When the investigation ends (after town elections and after the Chief quietly retired), #PowerUP demands change in MPD training, hiring and in policy, while others continue their denial that a swastika is a hate crime and celebrate the two police department nepotism hires. It is surreal. Shortly after the new Chief is celebrated, more swastikas are found...weeks later Black and LGBTQ students are threatened as is the Rabbi. The town's anti-hate group takes the summer off and couldn't respond/prepare. PowerUP steps up as the only one to make a public statement denouncing the hate. We reach out to Rabbi to offer support. To date, no policy change or MPD training requirement has been implemented nor accountability assigned. The system that normalizes swastikas remains and our community members' feeling of security is tenuous at best.
Rewrite. October 2021 - 2.5 years of silence or decades, depending on your starting point - town leadership announces they are hosting an "Anti Hate Forum". As if they were a part of the movement all along. Social Media and Print Media explode with accolades and the significance behind the forum. Town documents will acknowledge October 2021 forward and celebrate the "forum", but again skips over the reckoning. Again, it ignores the harm inflicted - erasing the generational trauma caused by normalizing swastikas, rewriting the fear instilled by challenging leadership's powers, and the threats to personal safety. A decades long unacknowledged swastika history is rewritten - tied up with a neat little bow, as a community wide event to espouse our commitment to social justice, but "forgotten" is the reckoning... along with the invite to the only entity asking questions and demanding substantive change: PowerUP. #Performative
As our Voice becomes louder, our momentum impossible to ignore and our grievances resonate with the wider community, we will see frequent attempts to rewrite our story. That's where we are right now - Those in power are waking up to realize the gravity (and marketing opportunity) in the #PowerUP01945 movement. They want to be seen as the ones on the “right” side of history. This is white co-optation, and if left unchecked, it will silence the marginalized, overshadow those involved in our grassroots effort and push the false narrative that “everyone was part of this movement the whole time”.
#PowerUP01945 will continue to lift voices. We will call-out attempts to rewrite and erase our Voices. All are welcome to join the chorus, but your journey has to start with a reckoning. You have to acknowledge the harm and demand more than a superficial accompaniment of progressive idealism. As we have said, we will meet you where you are, but it must start with the truth laid bare. That's how we move forward. #PowerUP01945 has a plan to #GetsSh!tDone. It starts with you.
Call To Action:
The Reckoning. Acknowledge who benefits from the systems as they are... and who is harmed. Commit to change through civic engagement, voting and volunteering for PowerUP and its allies.
Imagine. Envision our town being a welcoming, inclusive community.
Challenge opportunism. Identify swells of toxic positivity, vilification or dismissal of your voices within our PowerUP Platform.
Scrutinize policies, systems and structures. Read Town By-Laws, governing documents and organizational charts. Attend Board Meetings.
Vote. Vote Policy Change and Resource Allocation at Town Meeting and Vote new Leadership in Town Elections.
Have Faith. Don't lose sight of our humanity. Navigating this journey is what we are called upon to do, as a collective. We believe in you.
Join Us. We need accomplices for our ambitious 2022 Plans!
THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU.
THE SYSTEM WAS NOT DESIGNED TO SUPPORT A SPIRIT LIKE YOURS