I arrived home early one morning after being at the Justice Center, helmet and gas mask in hand, covered in the stench of tear gas, pepper and gunpowder. Without hardly a thought, I put my protest gear in the designated area, removed my contaminated clothes, and showered with cool water, washing my dreads for the second time in 3 days.
As I started wandering to bed, my wife asked if I was hungry. I was. I’d lost 11 pounds over the past 5 days; CS gas had sapped my ability to taste and left me with no desire to eat, but I was hungry. Knowing I was too tired to prepare anything, she warmed up some dinner for me. And while we waited on the oven to heat, she twisted my dreads. She didn’t tell me that my hair looked a mess, but I already knew.
Fast forward a couple or three weeks, and tear gas is no longer a nightly occurrence. I’ve gained a pound back. Three baby dreads are growing on my hairline, and my hair still looks a mess. Many feds have left. Others stay in their holes. The protests are taking place at police holdouts across the city; marches from nearby parks end at precincts, sheriff’s offices and union halls. We still want to defund them. In response, State and City police take turns targeting and assaulting protesters, press, and legal observers now, at least seemingly in coordination with right-wing attackers who use cars and makeshift bombs to attack the large crowds.
At the same time, the protest has taken on a life outside of these makeshift urban battlefields. Portland’s Black population is galvanizing. Medics have organized free health care for protesters. Gardeners are organizing to increase urban food access. Educators are scrambling to redesign curriculums. Social & equity workers, techs, and soldiers are working together to reimagine public safety and connect resources. Between COVID, the collapsing economy, and this struggle for Black lives, many who came for the protests decided to stay for the revolution.
And I call it a revolution because that’s what it is. As my wise friend, Byrd, often says, “We can’t keep asking for change. We have to do things differently, and then change will come.”
This is my first WOHM entry since the protests began. I’ve been doing things differently. I did a lot of listening. I did a lot of research. I let larger media outlets push my thoughts out because that was what we needed at the moment to control the narrative. Now it’s time for me to speak clearly and directly.
So here we are. Ain’t nothing change but the situation. We out here.