“It is during or darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.”
We live in a world of limitless possibilities and boundless opportunities and because of that we have free will to choose where we direct our attention. Each choice that we make manifests itself in our lives and unleashes a chain of reactions. Some of the reactions are anticipated and some, while unanticipated, provide us with a necessary emotional upheaval.
Personally, I’ve landed at a spiritual crossroads. In the last couple of weeks that have followed the public’s knowledge of the Laquan McDonald murder I have become deeply concerned and, if I am to be honest, enraged. I am enraged by the cover up that involved the mayor, the state’s attorney, the superintendent of police and police officers at the crime scene. Had there been no video there would have been no arrest or prosecution of the officer that executed Laquan. Still, the finger pointing and dancing to avoid blame, by those that held the public’s trust, has been egregious.
I believe everything happens for a reason and this incident has forced me to make some decisions and to redefine who I am in the midst of this heart-breaking environment. I am also forced to consider how I make a contribution to the justice seeking efforts of my community. This is something I hadn’t anticipated at this stage of my life. Like many I wonder how this could be happening in 2015.
In the 1970’s the Chicago Police Department and the FBI routinely infiltrated gangs and Black Nationalist organizations that appeared to be trying to coalesce and focus their energy on serving the legitimate interests of the African American community. Those days, some reported gang members died under mysterious circumstances. Although officially the deaths were blamed on gang rivalry, there was suspicion in my community that their demise was due to ‘hits’ carried out by special police units. Then, there was no cell phone or dashcam video to bear witness.
As young activists, my former husband and I considered joining a number of activist groups, the Black Panther Party, the Nation of Islam, and he joined the Institute of Positive Education. Finally in 1978 we joined the African Hebrew Israelite Community and in 1979 we relocated with the Hebrews to Liberia, West Africa.
Fast forward, after eleven years in Africa, we returned in 1990, hoping that the racial climate in the United States was better than when we departed. That has not been the case. It is difficult to wrap my brain around the fact that an African American teen can be shot down while moving away, his back turned, by a police officer. I am further horrified by the reality that, as other abuse of power cases and videotapes surface, it turns out this is a pattern. Now, I realize that Chicago law enforcement has much in common with the way citizens are policed in so-called “third world” countries, including gross human rights abuses.
Since 1979 there has been a fairly diverse succession of eight different Chiefs of police in Chicago, and yet changing superintendents has not yielded behavioral change in the Chicago Police Department. In a recent online report it was stated that, “Defending cops against litigation has cost Chicago more than $82.5 million since 2003, and “Jon Burge cases have cost local taxpayers more than $53 million since 1998.”*
But back to the matter of choice. I’m choosing not to drown myself in the opiate of holiday cheer. I am choosing to avoid its accompanying frenzy of consumerism and choosing to focus on spending my dollars on commodities that are either created or sold by African Americans. I am also choosing not to have my emotions redirected from the current pain in the African American community in Chicago by a revolving news cycle constantly allows me to visit someone else’s horror. While I am sympathetic to injustice everywhere, I am choosing to stay focused on Chicago to hopefully finding a way to be part of a solution. We have to choose ourselves and our own psychic and economic wholeness first. It is my conscious choice to stay focused upon positive actions I can take and not submerge myself in the discomfort I feel when every-single-day there is a need to restate, and reaffirm my race’s humanity to the world.
– Susan D. Peters
Susan D. Peters, aka, Ahnydah (ah-NIE-dah) Rahm, brings a wealth of experience gained as an expatriate living in West Africa. Her memoir Sweet Liberia, Lessons from the Coal Pot, received the Black Excellence Award for Non-Fiction from the African American Alliance of Chicago and the Mate E. Palmer award for Non-Fiction from the Illinois Press Women’s Association. Broken Dolls, Susan’s second book, represents her foray into the mystery market and is the first of a series featuring Detective Joi Sommers as its heroine. Her work is featured in three anthologies, Baring It All, the Ins and Outs of Publishing, Signed, Sealed, Delivered … I’m Yours, a contemporary romance anthology, and The Anthology of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association. Buy her books online and at www.SusanDPeters.com.