Hope Is Hella Underrated: Musing on Youth Social Movements

Black Youth Rising, by Shawn Ginwright is a book that changed my life because it addresses violence, East Oakland, social movements and the need for folks to understand how the crack epidemic’s most profound impact may be the ways in which it underminded Black city residents ability to hope that shit might get better.

Given what has happened in Oakland with Oscar Grant, given the fact of how Shirley Sherrod was treated and given the fact that the New Model Minority book club is reading Nixonland, this book offers a great counter point and broader context of the above issues. Especially for folks who are interested in social movements and? young people.

I will provide quotes with comments below some of them.

Hope + Urban Social Movements

…activism in the post civil rights era has to deal with both dismantling of structural barriers to opportunities and the internal consequences of exposure to years of of intensified urban poverty. More than electoral policies, community organizing and advocating or a better public policy we concluded that the activism in the post- civil rights era should re-build hope and heal communicates from the trauma of urban violence and racial marginalization. We didn’t render electoral polices, community organizing, and civil rights strategies obsolete, but rather, we believed that healing and hope were critical prerequisites for activism and social change.

Here Shawn is saying “How you gone win when you ain’t right within” ~Lauryn Hill.

I had never thought of putting hope and healing first. This was an eye opener and I was only on page 7.

A Community of Care

…care in this sense allows young people to see themselves in a broader context of justice and liberation…

…care is facilitated by building critical consciousness among black youth and providing opportunities and space for political expression and engagement.

I like this idea of political engagement because it feeds into both online and offline activities.


Community, on the other hand, is more than networked relationships, trust and mutual expectations. Community is a consciousness of the interrelatedness that one has with others.

Care as a Political Act

Caring relationships, however can confront s and foster beliefs about justice among young people. These caring relationships are simply not about trust, dependence and mutual expectations. Rather they are political acts that encourage youth to heal from the trauma by confronting injustice and oppression in their lives. Care builds hope, political consciousness , and the willingness to act on behalf of common good…Young people must heal before they can act.

The connection between healing and hope is real.

I am not sure that healing and acting are this linear. Healing is a lifelong process. There certainly has to be a willingness there tho.

Hope and Radical Imagination

Daily survival and the ongoing crises management in young peoples lives make it difficult to see beyond the present. In healing communities, however battle scars are mended, racial wound are healed, and ruptured communities are made whole again. Ultimately hope is restored.

The central argument throughout this book is that intensified oppression in urban communities has threatened the type of community spaces that foster hope.

Hope and radical imagination are important perquisites for activism and social change.

Radical Healing

Radical healing involves building the capacity of young people to act upon their environment in order to create the type of communities in which they want to live.

We don’t create societies for young people. We help them deal with their hearts so they can create the hood that they want to live in. Awesome, no?

On Solving Other Peoples Problems

This means that we ask not so much what we can do for black youth, but more important, how relationships can recalibrate what black youth can do for themselves.

I LOVED this idea.

It isn’t patronizing. It treats young people like the agents of THEIR OWN LIVES. And it allows for everybody in the hood to make a contribution, regardless of status or income.


Young people feel, if you respect me enough to tell me the truth, then I have greater respect for you.

Game for free.

Forgiving Fathers in Prison

In a section of the book on Black masculinity Ginwright explains how a young man, who had not been in contact with his father, decided to go to the county jail to visit his father and confront him on being absent from his life.

Vinces father didn’t respond with excuses blaming his mother, or blaming the system, the way Vince anticipated. What his father told him shook him to the core. …His father looked him directly in the eyes and said in a low sincere voice that he was so very sorry for causing him and his mother pain. “Nothing I can say or do will ever heal that, I did y’alll wrong and I’ll have to live with that for the rest of my life. But you, Vince, can make another choice and not repeat mistakes I made.”

…Vince realized that his encounter with his father was more than his own individual healing; his act of courage also opened the door for his father to heal as well.

I was crying when I read this. How many people WISH they could say this to their parents, but never get the courage nor opportunity?

Lord knows I have worked hard around forgiving my father. I guess this scene spoke to me, to my history with my poppi.

Systemic Change and Young People

…we must consider how structural inequality shapes young peoples lives while at the same time prepare youth to contest, challenge, respond and negotiate the use and misuse of power.

Systemic change focuses on root causes of social problems and makes explicit the ways that various forms of oppression work together. This helps counter the low self esteem that comes from youth being blamed for their own oppression.

I thought this was useful in that it reminded me of Audre Lorde’s quote that we have to teach our children how to Love and Resist at the same time, or they will not survive. #ummhmm.

Black Masculinity

Ginwright has lead a camp, Camp Akili, for groups of 100 youth for 5 days of activities.? One of these activities is the sexism ritual, which teaches young men and women about sexism. In the following excerpt a young man talks about learning about taking women seriously. He says,

” I had a real problem with disrespecting women. Bilal would always call me out and check me when i was thinking about a woman in a disrespectful way. Like if a woman was speaking or something, I wouldn’t give a fuck because I would be looking at her ass or something. I would be sitting hearing her talk, but thinking she got a big ass. But now when a woman speaks, I listen to her opinion, I want to know what she has to say….”

I found this section to be powerful because it shows how young men are socialized to look at a woman’s “ass” rather than listen to what she is saying when she is speaking. I appreciate this for its honesty. It gave me hope.

Power vs. Information

Many of the problems facing Black youth come from a lack of power, not a lack of information. The capacity for youth, for example, to sit on police review boards and participate in hiring teachers and school principals focuses more on shifting power to young people than changing behavior.

I like this because it gets at who has a say in deciding how an institution is run and who doesn’t.

In the end Ginwright makes the argument for community based healing centers, which I think is practical necessary and awesome. This came about in a study funding by Oakland’s Task Force on Youth and Safety and Violence. Ginwright goes on to say that the recommendation outlines how the impact of violence poverty and lack of access to health care have been traumatic to young people in Oakland.? The question is how to do it. #ummhmm.

Care as a political act? What do you think?

Using relationships to help young people make moves in their lives?

What would happen if hope was restored? You think this is possible? Why or why not?

Amadou. Sean. Lovell. Oscar. Aiyana

Photo Courtesy of Thomas Hawk @ Now Public

(Young African American man, hand cuffed in police car, January 2009 after Oscar Grant Murder Protest in Oakland, I wish I knew his name.)

Amadou. Sean. Lovell. Oscar. Aiyana.

Oftentimes, when it comes to personal violence and race and structural violence and race, I turn to other writers, better writers who can capture how I feel.

Baldwin understood? and articulated the purpose of the police, arguably better than anyone else I have read.

This is all I can offer today on the Oscar Grant verdict, protests, looting and subsequent media coverage.

I hope that it helps.

Similarly, the only way to police a ghetto is to be oppressive. None of the Police Comissioner’s men, even the best will in the world, have any way of understanding the lives led by the people they swagger about in twos and threes’ controlling. Their very presence is an insult, and it would be, even if they spent the entire day feeding gumdrops to children. They represent the force of the white world, and what that worlds real intentions are, simply, for that worlds criminal profit and ease, to keep the black man corralled up here, in his place. The badge, the gun, the holster, and the swinging club make vivid what will happen should his rebellion become overt….

…there are few things under heaven, more unnerving than the silent, accumulating contempt and hatred of a people. He moves through Harlem, therefore, like an occupying soldier in a bitterly hostile country; which is precisely what, and where, hie is and is the reason he walks in two’s and three’s. – from Fifth Avenue Uptown

And here is another quote,

The projects in Harlem are hated. They are hated almost as much as policeman, and this is saying a great deal. And they are hated for the same reason: both reveal, unbearably, the real attitude of the white word, no matter how many liberal speeches are made, no matter how many lofty editorials are written, no matter how many civil rights commissions are set up. – from the essay Fifth Avenue Uptown

One one hand a Mehserle verdict was a slap on the wrist. On the other hand, white police, historically, have rarely been charged with? nor found guilty of killing Black people, unarmed or otherwise.

Amadou. Sean. Lovell. Oscar. Aiyana

Baldwin? “They represent the force of the white world.”

Thoughts on the verdict?

*note. it wasn’t until I began to look for photos for this post that I found myself crying inconsolably. It’s a combination of working really hard, lack of sleep and seeing these images of uncut Black rage.? The pictures made it real.? Feelings of survivors guilt. I do my part, and I am grateful for all of the gifts that I have. Looking at these images reminds me that I escaped a real serious East Oakland fate. I am a human being. How could I not feel something. I am from Oakland. How can I not feel something?

How to Survive in East Oakland

I spoke to my momma yesterday and apparently because of the
slate of robberies in Oakland, the police have posted up outside
one of my favorite restaurants, Mommas Royal Cafe.

This place is amazing.
Farm fresh eggs for avacado, tomato
and crab omelette’s, fresh salsa and Peerless coffee.
Living in Oakland
this past year, I have spent many a Saturday there.
When Filthy
came to visit in February, I took him there. When I would
visit from New York, my dad would
pick me up from the airport and
we would go there directly. One of my homies from college is a
waitress there, so when I walk in I greet folks and feel like I am
at home.

The place is an Oakland institution.

The police are posted up outside of Mama’s because there have
been a serious
of take over robberies in Oakland. These aren’t
just regular robberies.
These cats are robbing the employees of
their personal belongings
and robbing the cash registers.
The KTVU news reports,

The latest in a brazen series of takeover-style robberies of Oakland restaurants and businesses had left two employees nursing minor injuries and bruises Monday after they were pistol-whipped in separate Sunday attacks.Over the weekend, the pace of violent takeover-style robberies picked up with four taking place since Friday night. The robberies have followed a similar pattern — two or three hooded bandits target the business around closing time, storm in with at least one gun drawn and then flee with an undisclosed amount of cash.

Welcome to The Town.

Yes, a police presence may work in the short time. But it is
not a long term solution.
Many folks are reacting saying that
people live with violence everyday in less affluent and low income
areas of Oakland, so why do the certain business and affluent
neighborhoods receive protection.

The answer is simply that the police are a tool of the state and
as such are responsible
for protecting the rights of property
When we understand this, we will understand why the
police are sitting in
front of Mama’s and not out in East Oakland
investing x, y or z murder that
occurred last night.

It’s amazing to me how we allow politicians to enact policy
that is reactive, then get mad when we have the same problems on
our hands.

When I read about the robberies I thought of study I came across
earlier this year titled, The Public Returns of Public Educational
Investments in African American Males by Henry Levin
positive fiscal impact of graduating more Black men from high school.

The paper makes the argument that if we graduate more young
Black men from high school, they are more likely to work in the
above ground economy, pay taxes (and implicitly child support),
and less likely to receive public assistance, go to jail and receive
medicare, thus the savings to the state.

To be able to implement such a policy would be a reflection of our will
and our priorities.
If we know that crime is related to education and
and we don’t make politicians create policy that reflects this
then the consequences in our society is our fault.

James Baldwin says to act is to commit and to commit is to be in danger.

I am both haunted and motivated by this statement. Furthermore,
I think we are already in danger if young people are robbing
in restaurants and our only solution is to place police officers in
front of them for protection.

Oakland Got a Whole Lotta’ Sh-t Crackin’.


One of our Freeways Melted.

The Warriors beat the MAVs.

“Silly @ssed class mate gone ask me last night, while we were in the lounge watching the game (me briefly on study break) are you a warriors fan?

I respond, dead up, “Im from Oakland”.

Like. N*gga. Don’t talk to me dude.

Then he said hella smug,

“Oh really, well I went to CAL”.

He offered it in such an off handed, outta pocket and condescending manner.

And I was like, “I went to Mills”. What?

But he was back in his little world by then.

Now see I would have been wrong if I said, “Well sh*t You ARE Chinese”.

And before my Asian and black homies get on me for being racist,

I don’t give a f*ck where he went to school.

He is the Quintessential northern cali Model Minority, No?

He should have just kept eating his Wendy’s and left me the f*ck alone, and let me enjoy my baron davis going hawwwd.


Randy ignat @ss Moss got Traded to New England.

And the Raiders got the number one Pick.

Sho’ll would be nice if they could win half their games this season.

I think I need to do a Blog post on “NFL’s issues” with Black masculinity

File this post under town b’ness.

Feeling like I been bloggin’like my life depended on it.