Solitude and community, love and outrage, joy and fear, inspiration and despair, nature and culture, music and writing, resistance and acceptance, anarchist freedom and social commitment, funk and grace; these are the polarities that have defined my life since my barrio childhood in Southern California during the civil rights movement and anti-Vietnam War years, forming a continuous loop, a circuit pumped by my heart. Through years of personal and political struggled, I have learned the best way to keep these polarities from degenerating into paralyzing contradiction is to keep the faith by staying engaged in the movement for socio-economic justice through activism, organizing, dialogue and study, social services employment, performance art. This has become my life’s work both strategic and improvisational much in the way jazz musicians think, compose, and perform.
I am first and foremost down with the poor and working-class of all colors, backgrounds. We are not a burden on the world nor an enigma as the political servants of the ruling class often portray us. We are the world, her hands and heart, soul and spirit, the first responders, sung and unsung, the caregivers, cleaners, cooks, stewards, teachers, builders, farmers and farm workers, healers, intellects, poets, musicians, and artists. We keep the world functioning and turning.
But I am also moved by love for all people and life forms. Love as respect for our diverse yet entwined humanity. Everyone is beautiful when we communicate heart to heart. The hardest yet best struggle is reaching that level of shared, brave vulnerability when we see ourselves in others.
As others have noted and researched, the cruel optimism of the American dream is we end up pursuing the things that are the very obstacles to our flourishing, pursue money instead of knowledge to help us navigate the vicissitudes of life, pursue feeling good instead of doing good, privilege rather than empowerment. I had my awakening about all this 25 years ago and re-committed to justice work and social services more consciously, with intention, joining others in fighting anti-gay hate campaigns, anti-union campaigns, anti-racist movements in California and throughout the Pacific Northwest. We have reached a tipping point in America where more and more people are realizing, as Snoop Dog recently said he did, it is not enough to talk about it, we’ve got to BE about it. This is my aspiration, to help others in that transformative shift to better work together in creating, midwifing, a just and equitable world that also stays faithful to the earth. A world where the poor and working-class and, by extension, everyone else, no longer deny themselves a life in order to survive but can move forward on an obstacle-free path to flourish and live life to their fullest, personal, potential.