Updated: Jan 30, 2020
PUBLISHER: St. Martin's Press
PUBLISHED DATE: January 16, 2018
When They Call You a Terrorist is a soon to be classic in black literary thought and canon. This is a stunning memoir that poignantly captures the vitality of Patrisse and her family's strong spirit and determination struggling against brutal and relentless injustice. bandele's signature writing style is prevalent and gives Khan-Cullors narrative an almost poetic feel. This memoir packs all of the fire, all the receipts and brings down the full weight of harm perpetuated in the black community.
Khan-Cullors tells the story of her hard working mother, often working three jobs to provide for her children. Though she works three jobs, she is barely able to pay rent and put food on the table, and definitely finds it difficult to be present in the lives of her children. At 12 her children, as Khan-Cullors notes, like a lot of black children in poor disenfranchised communities, become the targets of a vicious police state using every tool in their arsenal to incarcerate and perpetuate lifelong servitude, guilt, and worthlessness within the black community. With striking prose, Khan-Cullors articulates how she saw loving members of her family brought down by the drug war, tortured during incarceration, and the object of excessive police presence and brutality. Through all of the inequality and maltreatment, hers is a story of love and acceptance. A story about a queer black woman who through the queer and trans community learned to accept all people and advocate for all people - traits dismally absent in the strict Jehovah's Witness community and respectability politics of her mother's middle class black family.
When Kahn-Cullors speaks of her community...a community where helicopters are abundant, a community where black lives are expendable - only useful as forced labor in privatized prisons...you feel it. You feel the heartbreak of her mother frantically trying to find her 14 year old brother, and not knowing where or how to reach him. You feel how hopeless most people feel about their ability to change the system. You feel the difference in how crime is treated in the white community versus the black community. You feel that something needs to be done, and like her, you have the power to do something.
Anyone seeking to learn more about the Black Lives Matter movement should definitely start here. This is not a movement born out of timidity or of being on the fence about the validity of black lives. It has been Khan-Cullors mentality that ALL Black Lives Matter, her fight is that all people should matter in the eyes in of the law, our society, and in the way we love and service one another. We can't say that black lives matter and then exclude those among us who are trans or queer. We can't say that black lives matter but then exclude people that have been incarcerated or are struggling with drugs. We can not continue to allow respectability politics to alienate our most vulnerable from being among us. This is a powerful declaration, and one, unfortunately, so many people still need to hear.
Recommendation: Required. Before you read anything else claiming to be Black Lives Matter, read this.
Audience: I would definitely encourage all people to read this. Some younger teens may be too young, but 16 and up should definitely read this.
*I received this eGalley from Netgalley.
I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Martin Luther King Day parade in downtown Tampa and I had a glorious time! Here are some of my pictures from the event.
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