By Paige DeLoach, ONE DC Intern, Cornell University
During the last week of my summer internship with ONE DC, I received an email from Dominic Moulden advertising Black August, a BYP100 and BLM-DC month long event. Black August is described as “a month of rest from, reflection on, and recommitment to our decades long struggle.” Rest from the struggle, reflection on the struggle, recommitment to the struggle. An August that is Black like me. A struggle that is mine.
Black August is so necessary. So often, people fighting the essential fights do not recognize their work as continued exposure to trauma. Black people face constant assaults on our personhood and our integrity. We fight for the right to inhabit our bodies, to be in charge of them, to protect and treasure them. This specific kind of fight, against racism and mistreatment, requires us to confront triggering experiences, possibly even share and relive them, so that others see the validity of this plight. But when we must use these experiences as fuel, we are denied the chance to heal.
Black people are familiar with burnout. Black people are familiar with wounds that are cut open every day. Burnout is full of rage, hopelessness, weariness a type of emptiness that is very hard to shake. Through my internship, I hoped to fight for and with those too burnt out to fight alone. I wanted to take part in fighting for the rights of Black people in my community. I wanted to build power, to provide support, to give solidarity. I wanted to give people the chance to heal.
My work at ONE DC taught me how to work for and with others, how to be an active citizen in the creation of public policy, and how a nonprofit organization can help create positive and sustainable change from within a community. I met Angela Davis and Barbara Ransby; I was part of a DC artist’s inner circle for a night; I yelled at city officials; I protested.
As I look back to where I was and all ONE DC accomplished this summer, the one fact I know is that ONE DC gave me the chance to heal, because I was in need of the solidarity I was trying to provide. My rest from the struggle involved joining the struggle of others, and realizing that as I fight for others I fight for myself. We fight for one another to assure ourselves we are not helpless or hopeless, but that within us lies the power to change our world. Spaces like ONE DC and Black
August are essential to our survival, because when we come together, we lift one another up we save each other.
As I return to school, I know that transitioning back to a primarily white institution will be difficult, but I am not afraid. More than anything, I am grateful to every person I met through ONE DC this summer, who helped me heal: you have made all the difference. More than anything, I am eager to come from this period of rest and reflection recommited to the struggle. More than anything, I am ready.
“Who made us forget our past? Who can make us forget that we come from a long legacy of organizers, thinkers, and doers who understood that the fight can be long, it can be hard, but it can be won?”