On Saturday mornings in the late 80s and 90s I used to plop down on the floor in front of the television and watch cartoons – including superheroes like Captain Planet and the X-Men. On a Saturday morning in June 2015 I woke and saw video (via social media on my phone and tablet) of a hero telling the system “This flag comes down TODAY!” The emotion I felt was beyond that childhood sense of justice when the “good guys” win by the end of the episode.
This future I live and love is a 30-year old Bree Newsome scaling a flag pole in South Carolina to take down the Confederate battle flag of northern Virginia – a flag whose history (representing generations of violent defense of systemic racism) too many have been afraid to see honestly and pull down in the face of that truth. But Bree carried Us with her and “did it for all the fierce black women on the front lines of the movement and for all the little black girls who are watching us. I did it because I am free.” She said, “I am because we are. I am one of many.”
I saw her as a thread in the great tapestry of Black women who have resisted and still resist. I saw Harriet Tubman and Claudette Colvin and Josephine Baker and Fannie Lou Hamer and Diane Nash and Assata Shakur and Millennial Activists United. I saw a heritage and present and future of righteous inconvenience and disruption.
I was overcome with the now familiar sense that heroes really do exist and they can be young Black women who are built of love, challenge and complicate narratives, and aren’t here to take any crap. I Googled Bree, watched her short film Wake, watched a video of her speaking on a panel about art and activism and Black sci-fi/horror, and read her Twitter. I had to begin to get to know more about her.
In learning about her I saw more evidence that real heroes can be witty, creative, funny, stand for their rights and liberation, and stand for rights they already have to be extended to others. In five words: They can be like me!
And... I can be like them.
This the future.
In the title “This the Future” I use an intentional zero copula (meaning no verb) in the fashion of AAVE and other languages/dialects/sociolects. So, no, I did not mean “This is the Future.” I mean This. The. Future.