The Revolution Will Not Be Televised /T͟Hē ˌrevəˈlo͞oSH(ə)n wil nät bē ˈteləˌvīzd/ phrase. – a popular slogan used during the 1960s Black Power movements in the United States. The phrase alludes to activists not being able see the revolution on television, because they would be making the revolution, themselves, in the streets. In 1970, American soul and jazz poet Gil Scott-Heron turned the slogan into a poem and song. The lyrics provide examples of what “the revolution will not” be or do. See also. The Last Poets
Okay, I was raised in Kansas City, Missouri, suburban Kansas City. in Raytown and Lee’s Summit. And I have recently, in the last five years, relocated back to Kansas City. I lived in New York City for over a decade. I’m an artist, I am an educator, I am a community organizer and activist, and I do political campaigns. And so, a lot of different things that people have high passion about are things that I’m very, very interested in. So, I feel like that makes me a passionate person. I have a definite opinion about most things and I think that comes out in the issues that are close to my heart.
I have never met anyone that I don’t think is beautiful and that is something that has been with me for a long time because I try to see the beauty in people and not attach people to a certain type of beauty. And so for me, beauty is people being in their own skin, in their own space, in their own soul…And when that comes out and people are very comfortable with themselves and comfortable with that — and even when they’re not comfortable — I can still see the beauty within them, even if they can’t see it in themselves. And so, I define beauty as uniqueness. I define beauty as that, which makes one oneself. I define beauty differently than I think our society does, it’s really situated within a person.
Things that I’m attracted to in people…a consistent state of beauty for me is…the length of a neck, the arc of a cheekbone or a jawline. I do like eyes. I am attracted to hair, or lack of hair, depending on who the person is. And so I define beauty individually, it’s about individuality and uniqueness.
I think Black beauty is in our spirit. I think Black beauty is in our rhythm. I think Black beauty is in our directness. I think Black beauty is in how we stand out, even if we are all flowers, it’s hard to be a wallflower and be a person that is deep in their Blackness. I think it is about a soul connection. I find beauty in Blackness in our shapes… Rhythm keeps coming back to me, how we move. Sensuality. Our presence. Our Intellect. I think to be Black is to be excellent. And, even when we have been made to feel like we’re not excellent, I think that that is very much there and present.
Our artistry, our creativity. Our lovingness that we share with one another, even when it’s hard sometimes. I think Black beauty is unique. I think Black beauty is individual, as well as it is collective. And I see that so much when I have traveled to different places where Black people reside. I always find that which is us, in us. No matter if it’s in Africa, no matter if it’s in the Caribbean, no matter if it’s in South America, no matter if it’s in Europe, no matter if it’s in America, there’s something about that which is the diaspora that really resides no matter where we are.
I see Blackness in how we could make something out of nothing. I see Blackness in how we put our stamp on things and how we really own spaces, who we are. I see Blackness in the vibrancy of color, of pattern, of fearlessness. I see Blackness in our ability to be, even when people try not to let us be. And I’ve really seen that in people — in children, in our elders — in a way that is significant. In a way that is full of presence, and full of spirit, and full of love, and full of soul.
Adjectives that I think are parallel to Black culture are… spiritual, creative, rhythmic, passionate, direct, Individually as well as collective. Intense — we are not for the faint of heart. And yet, peaceful. Present. Colorful. Rhythmic. Mischievous. Playful. Serious. Sensual. Black Culture is for real. It’s present even as we try to move into other ways of being, it’s still really there.
I think the societal pressure that I have felt is to move towards whiteness, to move towards anything that is not me. I think that is the societal pressure of our time. — to center a norm that is not our norm. So….how that played out in hair, I have the kind of hair that people tend to like, it’s softer, it’s curlier, a little bit slicker… and still, that felt like that wasn’t enough. It should be straight, bone straight. And when I started to really unpack all of those types of things, I recognized that that is society’s pressure of trying to make one more European, more dominant culture, more white. And I had felt that before. I felt that, sometimes, in the way that my brothers and sisters who are of African American culture or Afro-Caribbean culture have talked about my speech, until they got to know me. So those things are ways in which we have things I think to survive and to thrive and to ascend. I have felt that before, and I’m not saying that I don’t feel it sometimes now, I just don’t give into it in the ways that I did before.
On the daily I experienced that. I think that the microaggressions that come with this body that I’m in, Black body, the microaggressions of speech and presence being one of my gifts. And I just was speaking to someone today and speaking in front of a group of people today and it’s amazing to me that folks will still say, Oh my gosh, you’re so articulate, and not recognize that that’s a microaggression. Why would I not be articulate if someone is asking me to come and give you information? Of course I’m articulate. They wouldn’t have someone come that was inarticulate.
And so it’s small things like that, as opposed to big things like me being an assistant principal and folks feeling like natural hair wasn’t professional. It is me being an artist and an actress and my agent in New York sharing with me that I could make a decision to either lose weight and be highly glamorous or to remain at a normal size and be a person that was born to be a domestic. And so it’s those kinds of things that creep in all the time in everyday life of Black people.
I think that there is a difference. I think that there is an ability to be in one self, as a person of color, differently than in the Midwest. I do think that there’s something about the Midwest that really tries to homogenize people towards whiteness. I did not necessarily feel that in New York. I will say that there was not an absence of racism and internalized oppression and colorism, that was present in New York as well. That was there. So, there’s an aspect in New York about, you know, every-day-Black is not the best Black — people like to be Caribbean, people like to be…all of those kinds of things wrapped into who we are. Sometimes that is a real thing.
I think that colorism does not move away from one just because they were raised in the Northeast as opposed to the Midwest. So there’s an aspect of the kind of racial trauma that we’ve experienced as Black people that is everywhere and there is still more space to be oneself in places like New York that’s much more cosmopolitan than, say, Kansas City.
So, to answer your question… yes / both / and. There is a difference and there are still pressures no matter where you are. There are pressures when you’re in Africa. Like, I was shocked the first time I went to the continent and recognized how women bleached their skin to try to look like something that is not what they are. And so the messaging is so strong about dominant culture, about what beauty is, about what will help one be successful, what will help people rise. But I think that’s everywhere, no matter where you are.
The thing I’m most proud of is me. The thing I’m most proud of is having the courage to really dig deep and to find me amongst all of the pressures. To find the me that I think I’m the creator created me to be. And so, I am proud of how that looks in my artistry. I’m proud of how that looks in my high-keen intellect. I am proud of what that looks like in strategy for building power in political campaigns. I’m proud of what that looks like in being a sister and being the best daughter that I know how to be and being the best wife that I know how to be.
And I think that that type of self love and self care is a revolutionary act in our society… For me to be okay with the Cecilia that I am today, even though she’s a little bumped and bruised and a little fuller than I would like… To be able to still love myself, no matter, is an act of high love, divine love, and radical revolutionary spirit.
Mmm, I very much want to continue to create a life in which I am untethered and unanchored to having to be somewhere because of job, because of location. I am a gypsy spirit and so creating work where I don’t have to be tied to an organization or tied to a place is one of my hopes and dreams. And with that, to move deeper into artistry, deeper into working with other women, and specifically women of color about how we tend our gardens within ourselves with love and care so that they blossom and so that they bloom…So that there is a sense of abundance within ourselves and a sense of care. So, I am excited about this next decade and being able to fashion that in a way that is uniquely and individually me.
Institutional and systemic racism. The fact that there is no system in which we enter — whether it’s education, whether it’s workforce, whether it’s housing, whether it’s transportation, it is social, whether it is banking, whether it is financial prosperity, whether it is artistry — that institutional, systemic, and organizational racism does not touch.
As intentionally as the architecture of racism was built, I would like for it to be as intentionally about the business of dismantling it. I was like for us to be able to look at these spaces in which we are in and find the beauty that we even still exist and also find the strength and the power we are born to that our ancestors have given us, to know that we can dismantle this. That we do not have to live in this current creation of society. That we can decide that one should not be judged by the systemic racism that is like perpetually coming against us at all times.
That we are able to find beauty and find joy and find passion and find love and find creativity even as we experienced that on a daily basis is truly a miracle. We experience miracles every day, so how do we go about creating the miracle of dismantling that which oppresses us? I think we can do it.
That we can speak truth to power. When we see things that we know are not right, we can call that in with love — yes, with love. But we can stop pretending that we don’t see the unjustness and the injustice that is around us all the time. We can stop pretending like this made up hierarchy that we have, we can stop pretending like that’s a real thing. We can start looking at every person we meet as if we are looking at God-incarnate because I think that’s what we’re supposed to do. And instead of having the space of judgment, the space of feeling like one is better than, we can recognize that we’re in community together with one another. We are only as good, as strong, as beautiful as that which is the least of these. And so, how do we go about trying to create a world that everyone can live in? There’s truly enough. So, if we can let go of this thought process and feeling of scarcity– that there’s not enough — so that we have to be grabbing and taking and feeling like everybody’s competing for the crumbs from the table of joy… as opposed to that our world is this big banquet space that been created for us to be at. And so that’s one way — intentionally living each day making sure that we are making this place a better place for the next day.
Mmm, the literature that shaped me… The literature of bell hooks, the literature and the poetry of Audre Lorde. The poetry of Sandra Cisneros. The poetry of Nikki Giovanni and Maya Angelo — the fiction of Maya Angelou, as well. The beauty and the poetry of Sonia Sanchez. The power of The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
The hot intellect from A letter from a Birmingham Jail — the Letter from a Birmingham Jail, written by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in 1963, sounds like it was written yesterday, and so if we could go back and look at that and really read that and read what his plea was and hear the hurt that he had around liberal progressive white people…it sounds like yesterday. So that.
The artistry of Lorraine Hansberry and Ntozake Shange — I have had the pleasure of being in the play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf seven times and I had the pleasure of seeing it twice this past fall and no matter how many times I read the words, I find myself in it and I find women in it and I find a universal global presence of women in it. I find that to be amazing. In the words and the plays and the movement of August Wilson, to find Black people in that, amazing.
In our music. In the rhythm of jazz and the rhythm of blues and R&B, and in the power of hip hop — which I’m a hip hop baby, that is my generation. I love hip hop, I don’t care what people say about it, I don’t care what people talk about the things that exist in it — I recognize that that’s there and also recognize that there’s beauty and there’s love there.
So, all of that has shaped me… As well as the pain and the pressure of growing up in suburban, very white, spaces has shaped me. The pressure of that created a diamond, it created a very, very precious thing, and I’m thankful for that.
I think America has a hard time seeing the humanity in women, period. And I think that very much comes out in Black women. I think that when we are just not even a century away from being someone’s property, I think that it is challenging for people to shift that way. And I think that Black women’s unwillingness and resistance to playing white women games…it challenges people. Our directness, our strength, as well as our softness, our sensuality, our upfrontness about our beauty, our desire to be heard and seen, our desire to be present… challenges people. We are not shrinking violets. We are bold, fragrant, potent flowers. And that sometimes can be hard to take. And yet we’re okay. And yet our beauty still stands. Yet our strength still stands. Yet our potency still stands. Our exotic nature is still very present… And I think that that is hard for people.
I think people like Ava DuVernay, who my brother absolutely adores…Issa Rae… Auntie Maxine… reclaiming her time and having the power to say, I’m reclaiming my time, you cannot take it away from me, I will not let you take it away from me. I love that. Powerful women, Black women that we see… It’s wonderful to be in this time because of that. It’s wonderful to be able to be in a time where I can turn on the TV or turn on a podcast or go into a business and I see us represented. Um, it’s also very jolting to recognize that even as that’s happening, there’s still so much work to be done. And that’s why representation matters. It matters because our young people need to be able to see that. We need to be able to understand that while there will be bumps and bruises for being in these bodies that are wrapped in Blackness, that is also not an excuse for us to not be all that we can be. We have all of these examples of how we rise to the top, how we move from the bottom of the ocean to the top of the wave, how we rise like cream. And so, we cannot allow the things that we face, on a daily basis often, to be that which holds us down. And so representation matters because –I think it was Marian Wright Edelman who, um, who was the founder of the children’s defense fund. And one of the foremost educators says — “You can’t be one unless you see one.” And so, you know, we need to have people that are able to be one so that we have this Ubuntu, I am because you are, recognizing we stand on these shoulders so that we can move forward together and so that our children recognize themselves in us. It is so very important, it is so very vital to our growth. It is so very vital to our humanity. And, um, it’s just very important.
My advice is for us to love ourselves. My advice is for us to truly, truly, truly love ourselves. My advice is for us to love ourselves so that when we see ourselves in someone else, that we can recognize it and that we can find love there as opposed to judgment. That when I see my brother or sister, that I don’t avoid their eyes, that I want to look deeply into our lives. And so in order for me to be able to do that, in order for me to want to embrace someone like that, I have to love myself like that. And that’s what I want for us.
My advice is for them de-centered themselves and for them to listen. There’s a quote by a woman by the name of Lilla Watson, who is an Aboriginal person from Australia, and she says,”If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” And I think that that is what I want folks who are not Black to understand — that they have to de-center themselves because we are the ones who are struggling the most out here.
And so, how do we figure out ways in which we’re listening to those who are closest to the pain, because they should be closest to the power? And how are we listening to Black women? How are we listening to Black men, Black children about our plight? Not only in the Americas, everywhere. How are they really moving away from feeling like they have all the answers or that they are saviors, and really listening to what we say that we need and then helping us achieve it?
Interview Date: February 18, 2020
Story posted on July 9, 2020