Black Lives Matter.” This is probably neither the time nor the place (nor the magazine) to be painting my face black with engine oil so that my features won’t be picked up by camera, covering my body in jean and leather-torn hoodies and saggy pants (the uniform of the oppressed), and marching down the highway with hand-made signs filled with the names of dead Black kids killed by police officers in the street. This is not the time to speak my rage, pain, and disappointment into song, like some Southern Baptist dirge, but at the moment there is nothing else I want to say. “Black Lives Matter!” These are the only three words that mean anything to me. It is my constrained bitter-lipped refrain, and it’s the only thing that I think this country needs to hear.
I know that this is an HIV and arts magazine and I should be saying something about my T cells and how to stay emotionally and intellectually healthy, but as a Black man living in America in this social climate, everything I do is now tied to the movement. They say that the Black Lives movement is loud, and confrontational, and dangerous. They say that though our children our being slaughtered one by one, and their dead discarded bodies uploaded onto the Internet for all to see…they say that the Black Lives movement should be polite and docile, and willing to share a meal of meat and bread with its enemies. They say that we can get more with honey than with vinegar. They say that in order to bring about systemic change a minority group must work from within the system and with logic, intellect, and “goodness” win the hearts of the majority.
This is why intersectionalty is important.
This is why the struggles of one must become the struggle of everyone.
This is why knowing your shared histories is important.
We must learn from one another.
And this is what I know.
When the government was letting gay men die by the hundreds, when AIDS was a word that the president refused to utter, when the dead bodies of our queer brothers were being thrown in hospital dumpsters and piled upon the steps of the Capitol building, instead of working with their oppressors, these once meek and passive gay men began throwing buckets of infected blood at their enemies! They did not use sugar to help bring about change. They fought back, they spoke out, and they acted up! The ACT UP movement of the eighties was just as scary, just as radical, just as unwilling to play nice with those allowing them to die. And they won. WE WON! It birthed the most comprehensive change in the healthcare and medication pipeline ever! The people changed the system.
We can change the system.
Black Lives Matter just as much as queer bodies matter—just as much as gay white male lives matter, because all lives matter!! And if All Lives Matter then Black Lives Matter too! Thirty years after ACT UP I now have pills of all shapes and sizes to control my HIV. I will not die of a complication from AIDS (knock on wood), but as a Black man living in this country, every time I leave my apartment there is a very real risk that I will not return home. Racism is the deadliest disease that I struggle with today. The power systems of oppression, and white supremacy and rampant ambivalence to the plight of black bodies is the plague now killing my brothers and sisters. And it is all I can think about: Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter! Black Lives Matter!!
There are marches all over the country, police in riot gear are charging into private homes in Louisiana determined to silence the revolution that is on its way, but it is time for the system of racism to stop killing us. And I know that many do not understand the movement; they do not believe that we should be so loud, so aggressive, and so unapologetic. But I hope that even if you do not understand, you do not try to stop us. Because this is not just a racial thing…it is not something that “Black people do.” This is universal! This is about life and death and innocent bodies littering the streets. And like the gays did in the eighties when there were videos of our brothers wasting away and our carcasses being left for the flies in the summer sun, it is now our time to ACT UP!! It’s our time to be radical, and brave, and dangerous.
And this is me reaching out to that little bit of substance that connects us all, that glowing bit of string that weaves all of our souls together. And though this is not the appropriate time, nor place, (nor magazine), I hope that you join me in screaming BLACK LIVES MATTER—because if all lives matter, then certainly Black Lives Matter, too.
Corey Saucier is an artist and writer living in Los Angeles. He is a Lambda Literary Fellow in Fiction and Non-Fiction and is currently penning his first novel. His musings and wanderings on Love, Life, and Nonsense can be found at www.justwords.tumblr.com.