Driving down Martin Luther King Way on my way to downtown Oakland today I passed a mile of fresh graffiti under the highway. One pillar had “All cops are bastards,” sprayed on it. Windows on two businesses were boarded up, their fronts painted with “Forgive yourself,” and I still cannot tell who wrote those words, the shop owners or the people wrecking it. I showed my support by walking into an all-local shop downtown and buying a hoodie with the city’s namesake scribed across it.
Yoga Tree Telegraph is at the intersection of the #Blacklivesmatter protests that turned violent in downtown Berkeley last night and the entrance to Highway 24 in Oakland, where, just a couple minutes ago, I drove past a horde of Highway Patrol officers in full riot gear, lights flashing on their SUV’s, ears bent toward shoulders with fingers cupping headsets. Protests over the Ferguson verdict have taken the form of mass highway blockades, and at this moment here in the studio I can hear the heavy bellow of a semi-truck’s horn—like a dying animal—undoubtedly stuck on the highway, and I’m overcome with emotion.
My teacher Pete begins class. “There’s no way we can ignore the helicopters,” he says, “so we might as well bring them in,” and we close our eyes.
“Revolution,” my teacher says, “starts with tenderness.”
We act out when we don’t feel heard, when our community, our loved ones, and our lives feel threatened. What the verdict regarding Mike Brown and these protests here at home have brought to the forefront of our attention is that we as a culture must work on our abilities to speak truth and, most importantly, to make space for listening.
At this very moment, my chest is ablaze, my stomach is churning, and my eyes are streaming. I was born and raised in Berkeley and Oakland. This is my home and I care deeply about my community. I am both proud of a country that can take to the streets, and saddened to my core at the form this protest has taken here. We are meeting violence with violence, and I can feel our collective fear and anxiety as potently as the helicopters who’ve been circling our neighborhoods for the last two weeks.
I respect and honor the men and women who put their lives on the line to be our first responders, who brave the alarm page to extricate an accident victim from a car, to go after the bad guys if something happens to us, to uphold a system of right and wrong. With the verdict in Ferguson, I understand—I see—the hypocrisy of putting my trust in such a statement, but I also believe in our people’s ability to bring change through peaceful protest, and I believe in our justice system to make change. And I believe in protest.
I also cannot pretend to be a black person. I am a relatively privileged white woman living in a white man’s corporate society. I feel stifled, repressed, and locked in by a system I don’t agree with on a daily basis. My student loan debt could feed a small country. My community, my yoga and my writing practices are how I get through. On #BlackLivesMatter, the organizers ask people not to dilute their message by changing the message to #AllLivesMatter. And so I won’t. I’ll talk about what I know
In yoga training, we are learning to lead through non-violence and compassion, to push our bodies into poses where we can see the situation clearly, and to take action, to activate our bodies, when necessary, but only then. We learn how to listen to all that is inside us, how to release what we don’t need, how to voice what we do. We are doing the work of becoming healers, and part of my work is here on the page, the rest is out there in the world. And so I say to you, whoever you are, wherever you are, speak up in solidarity and listen to the voices around you. Open yourself and let your voice be seen and heard. Share your story so that others can share theirs.
From Eckhart Tolle:
” No one chooses dysfunction, conflict, pain. Nobody chooses insanity. They happen because there is not enough light to dispel the darkness.”
Be the light.