Last week the world celebrated and remembered Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s contribution to humanity, democracy, justice, and equality, while at the same time trying to digest the words of our Governor and the acts of police brutality in certain parts of the United States. I have been reflecting these past weeks on this reality as the Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine organized its own commemoration of Dr. King, linking his work to that carried out by Cesar Chavez in the U.S.-Mexican border, and concluding that even though much has been achieved more still needs to be done.
I struggled making sense of the achievements and balancing them with the words of our Governor but it all came together at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast Celebration organized by the Greater Bangor Area NAACP at the University of Maine. There, a powerful and inspirational undergraduate student, Antonia Carroll, summarized what Dr. King’s legacy was all about. In essence we need to continue climbing toward “the mountain top” and even though it gets tougher and tougher to climb as we get closer to the top, all we have as an option is to keep climbing without looking back. As Antonia said that morning, we need to keep “stirring the pot.”
I spoke with Antonia after the event and she allowed me to share her poem with you. Here it is:
“So I am for keeping the thing going while things are stirring; because if we wait till it is still, it will take a
great while to get it going again.” –Sojourner Truth, Equal Rights Convention, 1867
The world mourns,
129 killed in Paris
The week before,
Missouri University President resigns due to campus protests.
And the whole time I remembered this quote,
“Things are stirring”
I could feel
something was moving.
Things are stirring
It’s time to start stirring
And keep stirring harder
And that momentum, those emotions, the tears, they were a driving force
To remember not to stop,
because now, a few weeks later, I’m not crying anymore.
I’m not crying anymore
a small doubt creeps up and says
maybe it’s not such a big deal…
And I have to remind myself
That I’m not crying anymore
and that not having to cry about this every day,
that I can harbor this doubt,
this is my privilege.
Because if things stop stirring,
those of us who are not directly involved will forget,
because time heals all wounds.
for those of us who are wounded
and suffer in silence
as the rest of us heal
and move on.
He messaged me at 1:04AM
What are you doing?
It was Halloween night.
It was also his Birthday.
We split up early on and by the time he texted me I was already home.
I had taken off my costume
and was about to go to bed.
It was a fun night.
He messaged me at 1:04AM
What are you doing?
I can’t go to bed like this
I’m back home
after experiencing racism.
It’s a long messed up story
It’s really sensitive
I took a survey in three classes.
Question 1. Which movement is more important to you?
a) Black Lives Matter: 2 students
b) All Lives Matter : 47 students
Question 4. Do you think racism is a problem on this campus?
Yes: 12 students
No: 39 students
Question 5. Do you think racism is a problem in this country?
Yes: 36 students
No: 7 students
Not Sure: 9 students
Question 6. Have you ever had a serious conversation about racism while at UMaine?
Yes: 13 students
No: 40 students
Why do we have to keep stirring,
I ask myself.
Because this is the status quo,
Because 39 students out of 52 students do not believe that racism is a problem on this campus.
Because 7 students out of 52 students can wake up in the morning, watch TV, go online, go to school, and say with confidence
“racism is not a problem in this country”
Because 40 students out of 53 students have never talked about racism at UMaine.
While my friend is traumatized in the middle of the night.
Why do we have to keep stirring?
Because this is the status quo
And the status quo must change
And because an object at rest stays at rest unless acted upon by an outside force.
But when we start to stir
47 out of 52 students will tell us “All Lives Matter”
So, we will ask,
Why, will 1 in 3 African American men be imprisoned? 
Why, is the poverty rate doubled for black people, for Native Americans, for Hispanic people? 
Why, is your cause of death twice as likely to be police violence if you are born black? 
We will ask them again,
Are all lives really equal?
We have to keep stirring
Because our black classmates,
our Muslim teammates,
our transgender friends,
they are sitting on the bottom of the pot
and they’re burning.
Things are stirring in America
Turn on the television, you’ll see
Things are stirring but it’s not all good,
The status quo is changing but it’s not all for the better,
31 US states close their doors to Syrian refugees – CNN 
Hate Crimes Against Muslims in UK Nearly Triple After Paris Attacks – Washington Times 
This is not the change we need
So we must keep stirring
We must keep stirring
“they kill us before they kill you”
Yes, we have conveniently forgotten that
The number one victims of ISIS are Muslim
And the refugees are running from the same people we are
In eight days 115 Muslim people were assaulted
many of the victims say that no one came to their aid or even consoled them 
Why are we so afraid of victims?
When a radical white Christian man attacks a Planned Parenthood clinic
killing three and injuring nine 
how many states will close their doors to white Christian men?
how many news sources will say “this is a white Christian problem?”
Excuse me, I have a question
Why is terrorism a Muslim problem?
Why is police violence a problem with “black culture?”
What is our problem?
But it’s years later and the status quo hasn’t changed,
we have to keep stirring and we can’t stop
because in 1999 Amadou Diallo was 22 years old – my age
when he was shot
on the doorstep of his apartment
41 times. 
and it kept happening
2010, Aiyana Stanley-Jones,
seven years old,
she was sleeping in her home
when she was shot
by the Detroit SWAT team
accompanied by a TV crew
for a reality show 
The punch-line for a joke?
Are black lives some kind of joke?
And this was before #blacklivesmatter
before anyone gave a shit
and I have to wonder
does anyone care now?
Question 7. What are your concerns about the Black Lives Matter movement?
e) I am tired of hearing about it.
Thirteen out of fifty-two students.
Things are moving now,
Things are stirring,
But we can’t stop, for so many reasons, we can’t stop
And those reasons have names
The name seems to change every day
When I started writing this,
his name was Darius Smith, 18 
When I finished,
his name was Mario Woods, 26 
What will the name be today?
A friend of mine from rural Maine told me that
he’d never met an Asian person until his senior year of high school.
the fact that Maine lacks diversity isn’t necessarily a problem.
It becomes a problem when you only know black people from TV
and they’re all “thugs” and criminals.
It becomes a problem when the only Arabic name you know is
Osama Bin Laden.
It becomes a problem when the only gay person you’ve heard of is
a sex offender.
It becomes a problem when the only Asian face you’ve ever seen was
as a category on a pornography website
and she was,
we assure you,
The fact that Maine isn’t racially or culturally diverse is not the problem.
The problem is
The lack of positive representation.
Because representation matters
not only for little Asian girls with dreams
but for the orientalist men who will exotify and sexualize her.
not only black kids who want role models,
but for the armed white man
who might think twice
when he’s about to shoot.
It’s 149 years after the Equal Rights Convention of 1867, and the United States has made a lot of progress.
We have a black president,
Gay people can get married,
and women have had the right to vote for 95 years,
“so stop complaining,” they will tell us.
“Things are so much better than a hundred years ago,”
And it’s true
And it’s good
Until suddenly people have stopped stirring.
Because here’s the problem:
We have a black president
but last year alone
302 black people were killed by law enforcement
and young black girls are already dying in police custody
Same-Sex marriage is legal across our country
and yet transgender people still can’t go to the bathroom without public outrage.
Women can vote
But we make 78 cents on the white male dollar,
and for a black woman it’s just
63 cents 
At UMaine we are blessed to have international students from Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ghana, Burundi, countries all over the world
But there are people on campus who say things like
“well, 99% of our international students are probably not terrorists”
after hearing our students “speaking in their native tongue”
because Arabic is the language of terrorists,
not 19-year-old pre-med students.
We cannot let the pot get still.
We cannot stop stirring while people are burning
We cannot leave behind those who have stood by us and fought alongside us for decades.
How did a queer like me get this far?
Who got us our rights?
Who galvanized the Stonewall riots?
Lucy Hicks Anderson
Carlett A. Brown
Sir Lady Java
Marsha P. Johnson
And they did not start this effort
To become martyrs
To be forgotten when the rest of us got our rights,
Black transgender women,
the most marginalized people in the world,
we wouldn’t be here today
So we can’t stop stirring
Until they too get justice.
If you call yourself a feminist
You cannot forget your sisters of color,
and you certainly cannot call yourself a feminist
if you forget your transgender sisters.
You cannot be pro LGBT
if you forget the B and the T and the QIA+
(and no, “A” is not for “allies”)
If you really “celebrated diversity”
You would keep stirring
Because progress for one person
Is progress for every person
And I know,
and I know,
you’re so, so tired
but we can’t stop now
and we can’t do it alone
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