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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Bullock

We Move. We are Stronger Together. We Dance.

My response to the latest police shooting.

The latest failure of our institutions occurred this week in Philadelphia, my city of brotherly love. This failure was manifest in the shooting death of Walter Wallace Jr., a young black man suffering from emotional instability, in a world that is mentally ill. Wallace lived in West Philly, where the world knows about the MOVE tragedy, chronic poverty, and longtime ineffectual Democratic Party controlled communities. Of course, West Philly is also filled with hard working beautiful people, community spirit, artists and activists working for a better world. Philadelphia, like cities across the country, are reckoning with tenuous economic and healthcare systems, mental health services that are lacking or nonexistent, and political, criminal justice and educational institutions that clearly do not or cannot help. What are we left with? What to do with all the grief?

We rightly continue to protest, demanding immediate reforms in community policing. We pursue expanding inclusive mental health care instead of warfare. I vote for creating revolutionary-evolutionary-transformational responses to our world that is in, and keeps creating, so much pain. Let’s self-organize independently, to humanely and effectively care for and play with one another.

This is what I do with grief and despair: I have proudly spent my entire adult life helping to build independent institutions for social change. Institutions that also forge emotional and community strength. This includes radical therapy, where we are creating our own mental health care, building a political movement outside of the suffocatingly self-serving two party system, and innovating projects, co-created with communities, that invite play, improv and performance. Here is an example.

On Monday October 26th, Wallace was fatally shot. Two days later, I co-facilitated a Teen Space! zoom session with passionately talented collaborators from the US, Nigeria and Costa Rica. Teen Space! is part of a new international movement of educators, improvisors, performance activists, and therapists called The Global Play Brigade. Many youth (and some adults) from Nigeria, Mexico, Brazil, and the US came together to play, talk, cry and dance together. The participants wrote poems in response to political corruption and police brutality around the world. Here is one of the collectively created poems:

Is it true, that bribery and corruption is the only language we share in common?

We do not beg to live

‘Cause we sleep and wake up each day in this tunnel

This long, dark, tunnel, hoping we would one-day see a light

We live in fear

Fear of poverty, fear of death

either ways We die!

Our future has been stolen and tucked into

The pot bellies of soldiers, soldiers of death

We wept our eyes sore, tears have gone dry

We’ve cried our throats out, our throats have urged us to stop

We won’t stop talking, we won’t stop protesting until our voices are heard

Here are some responses to the session:

#endpolicebrutatily. We’re ready. Love you for standing with us. We move. This was amazing. We are stronger together.

Recently, a dear friend who is a life-long activist, immigration attorney and political poet lovingly lamented about the importance of poetry in creating social movements. Let’s create poems together, and build our own institutions for living, healing, and creating.

Play it forward. All Power to the Developing.


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