Let’s think bigger than a month in response to 17-year-old Michael Brown’s death, and the many other recent murders of Black beings in America. In the span of #fergusonoctober happenings, we have delivered quotable speeches, rallied with picket signs and pushed for sentencing; but these things have not (and will not) change the conditions.
Yes, seeking justice for Mike Brown is necessary, but after Darren Wilson is sentenced, what's next protestors? Will you scream until your voice turns into a contrite squeal, and keep your hands up until they become doll-like limp?
Signs with the reoccurring words "Black Lives Matter," allude to a cowardly plea that Black Americans have to prove they are worthy humans. We are depending on other people to validate our livelihood, and not only referring to safety, but also food, clothing and shelter.
Instead of igniting conversation about going to jail, which would only give more money to the opponent, let's begin conversation that renders definite solutions. Through the practice of self-reliance we relieve ourselves of dependency, and move our race to a state of solidarity. WE prevent the next rainstorm of Black casualties.
Self-reliance is granting yourself absolute control over your own sustenance (and that of your family) by adopting sustainable planning, agricultural skills and technology that diminish systematic needs.
Self-reliance has been around for a while. In the past, many leaders have supported the idea of self-reliance including Malcolm X, who was an opponent of desegregation, and Marcus Garvey, who promoted returning to ancestral lands, but in plain sight, their principles were shelved.
There are notable off-the-grid communities; one specifically run by Black Americans is the Gullah/Geechee Nation in South Carolina’s coastal islands. In contemporary years, self-reliance has gotten a hipster makeover often referred to as off-the-grid or homesteading.
Now, some may call it isolation and others may feel we should continue to fight for equality, but at what cost?
Think of self-reliance as life insurance. Nothing is more comforting than knowing if you lost it all you could protect, feed, teach, and shelter yourself. Let’s take the Mike Brown case; it is a prime example of things-that-wouldn't-happen-in-a-self-reliant-community.
Communities for self-reliance take responsibility for everything and everyone within the municipal. That includes endorsing an ethos and mission that cultivates like-minded individuals. The Gullah/Geechee Nation’s mission states,
A community mission would reinforce positive self-imagery, respect for nature, appreciation of ancestors and mutual peace among each other.
Organized communities invest in their own safety by appointing citizens, who are also closely connected to their fellow dwellers, to surveillance the area. In a self-sustaining community Mike Brown would have encountered a familiar face instead of trigger happy Darren Wilson on that fateful day. The guard would have asked about Mike’s anticipation for the first day of college, and instruct the Mike and friend to get out of the street for safety reasons.
Agriculture (farming) is a major thrust in self-reliant communities, and if a crop is in popular demand, then the residents will grow that crop. Living in a self-reliant community, Mike Brown may have never needed to leave his home initially. Based on the story, Mike left home for Swisher Sweets; a packaged cigar. OK. These cigars are made from a fruitful U.S. crop— tobacco—and can be grown at home.
Beyond the Mike Brown case, self-reliant communities have many benefits that can advance Black people.
Off-the-grid models lessen dependency on regulated utilities through sustainable technology. This would include water wells, water irrigation, hydropower, solar energy and wind power. At Dancing Rabbit, an Eco-village just three hours Northwest of Ferguson, solar and wind power is used for electricity. The village is even a net exporter of renewable energy, which means the community makes money from its energy sources!
Increased physical and mental health is inevitable in self-reliant communities. Between assisting with farming, bike shares and physical health programs, residents remain fit. Residents in such communities also have a clear understanding of the ingredients they consume, because the food is grown and made in-house. Residents experience increased mental health by using spaces designated for prayer/meditation and interacting with like-minded fellows and spiritual leaders living onsite.
Most importantly, communities protect and cultivate the minds and bodies of younger generations. Though communal homeschooling students are exposed to purpose-driven curriculum built on alternative teachings such as self-identity, interdependency, multidimensional lessons and environmental exploration. This removes children from the “school-to-prison” systems that only teach children how to take standardized test.
Leslie McSpadden, Mike Brown’s mother even lamented on Black children’s relationship with public school systems. “Do you know how hard it was for me to get him to stay in school and graduate? You know how many black men graduate?,” Leslie aggressively asked. “Not many. Because you bring them down to this type of level, where they feel like they don’t got nothing [sic] to live for anyway.”
As teargas still stings the skin of my kindred in Missouri and smoke of #FergusonOctober clears, there’s is an eerie reminiscence of history repeating itself.
More rallies? More concerts? More deaths? You decide.
Start practicing self-reliance in your community by developing a rapport with your neighbors, assisting at community gardens, joining neighborhood organizations, making responsible purchases and attending workshops on self-reliance and green energy.
Then begin conversations about owning landing, budget for off-the-grid technology, create thoughtful leadership, understand legal needs, participate, implement, fly.