Red Friday Installments: Play Your Position
Last post, I was wagging fingers and flame throwing… reminiscing on a time period I never experienced… I was emotional.
But all of my friends rolled their eyes and made comments:
“Ohhh woop-dee-doo Amma… if we don’t protest then we are doing nothing? OK Amma… Whatever”
“What have protests done for Ghanaians… aside from raise salaries and put us further in debt”
“But I sent emails…”
So I had to have the conversation about the nature of agitation with them. In my mind, protesting is just a visually tangible version of a lot of things that people have been doing in the background for years. There are a number of people and organizations involved in educating people about their rights, forming coalitions to push specific legislation, and funneling important information to media houses for publication and widespread dissemination. There are alternative platforms such as art and social media that are used to stir dialogue with power players. Just recently, on a list serve I am on with some young Ghanaian professionals, there was a whole entire thread about funding a public service announcement on Ebola. I am currently seeking to rent a billboard to spread some key messages about democracy, governance and roles/ responsibilities of citizens in the country (do you know how expensive those things are!? Feel free to donate… KAI! *repeats ‘For Love of God and Country’*… selah.).
These are all protests.
These are all forms of agitation.
These are all ways of unsettling power.
All of this is about building momentum and setting the stage.
In the ‘David and Goliath’ book, they talk about how MLK blasted one of the photographers who, instead of filming, decided to help them in a protest. MLK was adamant about capturing every bit of the struggle (even things that were not struggle at all) in order to paint a story. The photographer, by merely taking photos, was doing his part in the protest. MLK was telling him… play your position.
But there are people who are doing none of the above… and just decrying the entirety of the movement. There is no role on the progress team for people who… just… make noise. Play your position… don’t just say your position.
So if you don’t think the Red Friday campaign is effective because it’s just a bunch of cutesy high school girls showing off their Ruby Woo Red lipstick, then… contact someone and offer a way to up the ante. If you are at a loss, here are a couple of ways:
Take some time to get to know the Constitution of Ghana, understand the history of nation building around the world, see what others have done in places like Myanmar, Black America and Rwanda. Then, read the manifestos and group descriptions of some of the things happening on the ground here.
If you are a writer, musician, painter photographer, or even fashion designers… everyone has a position to play. In my first Red Friday Rant, I mentioned the need to find alternative spaces for protest. If you have a message, why not make it clear in your works. Whether that’s a song or poem or vlog or hashtag conquest… whatever it is, make sure you are adding to the noise. Agitation depends on a critical mass… not necessarily a majority. (If you are not hip to The Black Narrator— please #OccupyTBN on facebook… I am such the stan!)
Look… partisan politics has been the death of our democracy ever since it was ‘instated’ in 1992. We have been spiraling downward into an endless pit of red and blue and green and white, and now the country looks like one big Salvadore Dali rip off painting: we are just dragging along. It’s time to associate ourselves with positive people and things happening, whether that’s volunteering, going to meetings or spearheading local initiatives.
I think what annoyed people most about #OccupyGhana is that there was so much online momentum built up that didn’t turn into people actually showing up on the day of the protest. There were a myriad of reasons for this… but I think there was an important lesson to be gleaned: the threat of a threat can work wonders in and of itself. There was momentum there… and perhaps more work needs to be done to sustain it in a way that is more engaging and has a seemingly transparent strategy, but that’s our responsibility to inquire and to flourish it into something worthwhile
Get creative folks… use what you have and who you know… #playyourposition
What are some other ways to *agitate*?