“Liberation Theology” from my sketchpad…graphite on paper. “Everything that touches YOUR life, must be an instrument of YOUR liberation or tossed into the trash cans of HISTORY.” +Dr. John Henrik Clarke
I remember sitting in the auditorium of the VBC auditorium with well over a thousand teachers and school administrators watching the blockbuster documentary “Waiting For Superman.” The documentary was an exegesis on how certain developments over time have made it difficult to improve public schools. The opening scene seared into my consciousness and the metaphor went well beyond the scope of standardized public education. In the well-worn clip form an old Superman film, a group of children sat screaming inside of a school bus as it rolled backward down an embankment to a sure travesty. At the last minute, in swoops Superman to save the day. The scene ends with our trusty hero smiling, dusting his hands, flexing his pecks, girls swooning, and every boy looking on in admiration and an underlying wish that he was Superman.
On the rare occasion that I do watch mainstream news or read an article about our present state of affairs, I still hear the screaming, blood curdling shrieks in the form of complaints, protests, marches, political organizing and the list goes on. Not that any of these things are counterproductive in themselves. I am however, compelled to believe that much of that energy can be used in a more proactive and productive manner. These voices of discontent surpass the sounds of the children on that bus in that black and white film. In these moments, my heart races as I realize that all too many of us, in good faith, are still holding our seats on the bus and screaming, lifting our voices, while waiting for Superman.
Years ago, my best friend’s family moved into a neighborhood behind mine. This was a dream come true. The only negative was that a large patch of woods and a creek separated us. At night it was so dark you could barely see your feet touch the ground. On one particular day I was at his house with other friends from his side of the neighborhood. We were having the time of our lives. At some point, I realized that it was growing a little dimmer and I needed to get home before darkness fell. Grasping for a little more time, I asked my buddies if they would walk me home if I stayed longer. Of course they all agreed. Time wore on and the sun sank lower. Concerned, I mentioned it again and they quickly assured me that they would accompany me but no one made an effort to walk my way. Eventually it became obvious that they were stalling and indeed would probably not take the trip with me as a group. I even entertained the idea that his mother would take me home or that by some miraculous decision my parents car would appear in front of the area where we played. At some point I had to suspend my wishes and make an executive decision. I grabbed a handful of rocks and headed into the darkness. Needless to say, since I’m here at this moment, I made it to my destination.
That incident, though unpleasant, taught me a valuable lesson. The sooner we realize that no one is coming, the less collateral damage we will be forced to bear witness to in the wake of our waiting. NO One Can Save Us But Us. When we reach that conclusion, a Divine force is resurrected within us. An indomitable resolve takes root. Moratoriums don’t last forever and suspended animation only takes place in films and the imagination. Every moment waiting generally is a moment wasted while we drift further from a point of power to act.
We do better by getting out of our way and walking into what we desire rather than sitting back asking, or worse yet, hoping for someone else to give it to us. Even if it’s owed to you, they’re probably not going relinquish it without a fight. As the Reverend Jesse Jackson shared with me, “make sure your fight is worth the fight.” Whether it’s the elusive 40 acres and a mule, better neighborhoods and housing, the dream job (careers), fair treatment, or better economic conditions, the ensuing darkness is a familiar reminder that we are going have to do it for ourselves if we want it done at all. There is no flash of light in the sky on the way, no prince charming charging in on his lusty steed, no politician on the throne positioned to save the day. NO ONE CAN SAVE US BUT US.