And those who do not know their history, are bound to repeat it.
– Saul Williams, ,said the shotgun to the head.
In order to move forward, I decide to go back. I bury myself in archives of blogs, reading posts from months ago. Reading posts from years ago. The present always seems urgent.
(a wild Berlant appears,
Berlant: where does the present begin?
Me: Now, now, now, now, now, now, now).
Everything has been urgent. Now, is always moving, always changing.
I find a letter written in 2011 by Kenyan writers against the invasion of Somalia. A part of it reads:
All of us are paying already for this bout of blood-thirst. We will go on paying, for many years to come. We will pay with our taxes, our un-built schools and hospitals, our unpaid teachers, our still-jobless youth, our rapidly deteriorating security situation, our shattered relationship with our neighbours.
The now, from 2011, ties in with the now from last year. How far back does history go?
Talking is an act. This is one of the things that I refuse to be moved on. Speaking out against something is an act. I’m tired of being asked when I will stop writing and start acting. I wonder why I must stop one to do the other. I wonder why one is considered as not being part of the other. I’m tired of the differentiation between “real” and “false” activism.
Talking is an act. The comments section of any mainstream media paper will prove me right. The number of comments there that do work of silencing, reaching and ostracizing. If talking is such a useless thing, I wonder, then why does everyone want me to stop doing it?
“Talking is, perhaps, one of the most profound acts possible,” I tweet. Stories create and change the world. Countries, nationalities and borders are all fictions. Abstract stories that have changed how we view one another, started wars, killed women, children and men, redistributed wealth, ostracized families and deconstructed our identity. The stories we tell. The stories we not tell. These stories are power.
There are no black women in my history books. And, if you go back far enough, the black men disappear as well. I’m reminded that the mythical time when Europe was all white is just that, a myth. The idea that bodies can, and will, be erased bothers me. I leaf through invisible, a collection of stories from queer Kenyans. There are no queer Kenyans in my history books.
A friend receives threats because he talks about being gay. “We don’t care that you’re gay, just shut up about it.”
Talking is, and always will be, an act.
There will be black women in the books they write about my present. There will be queer people in the books they write about my present. There will be trans* people in the books they write about my present. There will be brown people in the books they write about my present. These people will exist because we talk. These people will exist because we won’t stop talking.