“…we need a r/evolution of the mind. we need a r/evolution of the heart. we need a r/evolution of the spirit. the power of the people is stronger than any weapon. a people’s r/evolution can’t be stopped. we need to be weapons of mass construction. weapons of mass love. it’s not enough just to change the system. we need to change ourselves. we have got to make this world user friendly. user friendly.” –Assata Shakur
The Baby BOP Summer Arts Program is designed as a response to the Black Organizing Project’s (larger campaign, Bettering Our School System (BOSS). On a national level free to low cost programs that have historically served working class and poor peoples are facing massive budget cuts. On a local level, we are seeing the direct impacts of these policies as our public services dwindle while funding for policing in our schools increases with a budget that is in the millions. These policies and practices are connected to a larger system of exploitation that destroys our most marginalized communities.
Inside the educational system, our most marginalized youth are criminalized and pushed out of viable options to obtain a meaningful living and have their humanity recognized as children. This process of criminalization and dehumanization begins at an early age for our children. Elementary aged children are charged as criminals for throwing temper tantrums and displaying behaviors that are to be expected of children their age. If they are not given a citation for their “defiance” then they are given medication in the hopes that their energy and spirits will be sedated. Within a white supremacist country, children of color, specifically Black children are feared. They are immediately identified as a problem to those who have been carefully conditioned to indulge their fear and abuse their power. These zero-tolerance policies are meant to prepare our children for a life of unemployment, incarceration, state sanctioned violence and death. Overall, the failure of the government to offer free to low cost services to communities who need them the most and a path out of constant subordination is becoming the accepted norm.
In spite of such a daunting reality, we know that our children deserve dignity and a chance to thrive. We also know that all children deserve to have educational spaces where they are safe, supported and affirmed. Baby Bop is our way of deepening our campaign work and offering an alternative model to the overall push out our youth face. There is much work to be done on the ground while we demand a level of accountability and reform from our policy makers. In the meantime, time is of the essence and it is important we cultivate learning spaces our youth can be pushed into.
Our energy should be invested in gaining autonomy from a system that reproduces inequity. There has to be an alternative beyond giving all our power to policy makers, the state, the police, well meaning allies and the like. It is up to us to create a model that shows what restoration, love and safety can look like as the community most affected defines it.
There are many questions that need to be asked in creating a Black-led grassroots movement in the face of alarming trends that work tirelessly to destroy Black life and consciousness.
To do this work, the most ordinary of us must see each other as leaders who can create structures and habits that do not fail and destroy our children. Such a commitment to this type of development takes a warrior like level of love, radical honesty and analysis of our current situation.
We have to change the norm that says our needs as Black people are an afterthought or secondary to the struggle- it is in fact pivotal to the struggle for the emancipation of all human beings. We cannot afford to push ourselves to the side, we owe that much to the generations coming after us to be militant in our love and commitment to one another. Black people have historically been at the forefront of fighting for liberation, we must make sure we are not left out of the equation.
A dear thinker and sister friend of mine put into words what my grief could not articulate in the wake of the Trayvon Martin verdict and so many countless murders in our communities: “We are hurt because we have not built an infrastructure to house our angst. This Zimmerman case exposes that we in this society have not met the basic needs of our Community.” What is the infrastructure that we hope to build for ourselves, and our children? This question is up to us. We have the right to exist as we are- without the fear of co-optation, betrayal or death. We also have the right to succeed as we define it. No one should wish for our failure.
Baby BOP stands in the footsteps of many peoples and movements who have struggled to imagine the world we wish to see for ourselves and for our children.
By Itoro Udofia
For more information on Baby BOP, contact the BOP Member Center for more information at 510-891-1219 or email email@example.com