Didi Delgado (Lecture Review)
On following black leadership and healing justice
DiDi Delgado is an award winning poet, author, activist, freelance journalist and is also an organizer with Black Lives Matter Cambridge. Delgado works to bridge the gaps between the intersections of race, class, gender, sexual identity, and orientation. On November 3rd Delgado gave a lecture in Syracuse, New York- a city which has the highest concentrated poverty among Black and Hispanic people in the nation, and a county with some of the most segregated schools in the nation. Delgado began her lecture by getting right to the root of it.
“A lot of white people will say to me, ‘Slavery is ended, what more do you want?’ Well, a lot actually…
“The US has ignored its greatest sins for too long… the country has not taken the steps to dismantle the root causes of oppression.”
To do this dismantling, Delgado says there are three things that we must understand:
- Things have to get worse before they get better. As Frederick Douglas said, “Agitate, agitate, agitate.”
- White people have no idea what they are doing
- This is a long road and we may never live to see the results
Delgado stated that protesting is effective because it is no longer business as usual.
“Black people are dying. The more that we place value of property over value of black peoples’ bodies the more it disgusts me.
“Trump says ‘Make America Great Again,’ and don’t you think that advice from me should be the opposite of a white supremacist? I don’t want reform, the system is not broken. The system is working as perfectly as it is brutal. The systems can’t be reformed. We have to start over. I want things to get worse.”
Following Black Leadership
Delgado states that to start over, we need to learn to follow black leadership. She referenced supposedly liberal organizations like the International Socialist Organization (ISO) who preach inclusion but don’t have much to show for it:
“If you look around the room and there are only white people, you’ve already lost.
“That’s why Bernie lost the primary election- because he wouldn’t say Black Lives Matter. A lot of white people want to do good work, but when they don’t follow black voices they are actually harming marginalized voices.”
But black people are not a monolith, how do white allies know which black leaders to follow? Delgado encouraged the audience to meet everyone where they are at and “if you’re exhausted by that, take a seat.”
Delgado shared a quote from Patrisse Cullor’s partner:
“We treat people like exits instead of entryways.”
Delgado elaborated on this, and said that we are always ready to write someone off because they don’t exist perfectly with our beliefs and where we are at. Instead, Delgado encourages us to meet people where they are at. We must not give up on other people, but it’s perfectly okay to hit the pause button and say that we need a break. We must come back however. Delgado states that these are the people we need to go out and collect, not shun.
“Language is ableist as fuck.
“Do I throw you away because you don’t know the same thing as I know? We need to keep introducing these new words [which we are creating to speak about different identities] and constantly speak the language, but we also need to meet people where they are at… If you say something wrong, take corrections from others in stride because guess what, you’re not dead. I’m not being funny.”
Delgado stated that white allies treat anti racism work like “needing to talk to the manager at whole foods.” Delgado stressed that there are no easy fixes to this work, and white folks need to come to terms with this. White people need to be quiet and learn when in spaces with people of color. When white people are around white people, they need to take more of a leadership role and collect their own folks and educate them. One of the things white people need to educate other white people about are microagressions:
“A lot of white people don’t understand what microagressions are, because they don’t experience them daily. Microagressions are those conversations you’re having about us in your head, and the thing is, we can hear them.”
Delgado ended the evening speaking about healing justice, and learning to find ways of reducing the harm we do to one another as we move throughout the world. Delgado said that she understood white people’s trauma about walking through the world- because white people will hurt people of color just by simply existing.
Delgado stated that Audre Lorde is one of her favorite leaders, but she thinks that Lorde got something wrong when she said one “cannot use the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house.” Delgado thinks we actually can. We should use the systems, but we should “never give our best to the ivory tower.” Your best should be reserved for yourself and your work in conjunction with your communities.
“Racism is systemic and interpersonal. Find spaces to tell the truth and know when it is safe to do so. You can’t help others if you’re asking for a handout too.”
You can support Delgado below:
http://patreon.com/thedididelgado | Booking: DiDi@TheDiDiDelgado.com
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