By Mark Faulk
Here we are, one month into a new decade. A fresh beginning, the dawn of a new era, new leaves to turn over, impossible resolutions to be (and most likely already are) broken.
We lost way too many resonant, important, beautiful voices in Oklahoma in 2019, and they can never be replaced. At Choctaw warrior Ben Carnes’ service the first weekend of 2020, I said that his influence and wisdom reached far beyond his physical reach, that his accomplishments and spirit filled an infinite amount of space, far more than the average person. Ben cannot be replaced, nor can courageous activist Elijah X Mothershed Bey, campaign super-volunteer Michelle Stearnes, Oklahoma City preservationist Lynne Rostochil, or the other dedicated, passionate souls who passed on in 2019. As monumental of a task as it seems to be, the voids left in the activist community, the causes they championed, the space they filled must be occupied collectively by those they touched, influenced, and inspired in their lifetimes.
This was my personal New Year’s resolution: to, as much as possible, fill some of that space. I was personally affected by the loss of no fewer than seven people who influenced me directly over the years, best friends, fellow artists, and fellow activists. In my conversations with other people who I love and care about, I came to understand that for many of us, 2019 was a year of struggle, uncertainty, and loss. So many of them suffered far more loss than I did, and struggled against much greater odds and obstacles.
But it was also a year of change, a year where we shook off adversity and (forcefully, willingly, or sometimes reluctantly) looked ahead to 2020 with both hope and trepidation.
This much is undeniable: We have entered in 2020 what will be, with the possible exception of 1968, the most pivotal year of most of our lifetimes. The world is literally on fire, and our president, instead of allocating the resources to assist in saving the planet, is instead setting even more fires in the name of manifest destiny and the art of deceptive diversion. The upcoming election in November will unalterably change the course of America, for better or worse. Today in Iowa, the first votes of that pivotal election will be cast.
We will all make choices that affect our families and ourselves for decades to come. We will vote, organize, march, protest, and shout from the rooftops about change, about justice, about the end of oppression. The message won’t change, but I sincerely believe that, thanks to our collective efforts and the efforts of both those who come before and after us, our voices will be heard. Speak wisely and speak with moral conviction. Choose your words carefully, but even if you make mistakes, even if you sometimes say the wrong thing, speak out.
Finally, especially for those of us who have loud voices and strong opinions, learn to also listen. Listen to the young new voices, the oppressed who have long been marginalized, and the elders who have the voice of experience within them. Listen to those who are courageously stepping into the space created by those we lost, and putting themselves on the line.
The greatest fear of our wealthy overlords is that the already growing power of the many smaller, but still fragmented groups of activists, will band together and become an army for change, that they….that WE… will storm the castles. That we will continue to recognize and organize, to turn our individual voices into an unstoppable collective power, that we fill the space. When that happens, it’s over. They become obsolete, and we win. In this decade, that’s the only acceptable conclusion.