When my husband Percy died, it was the first real loss of my life. My mother said, “You love hard, and you grieve hard.” She was/is right. So the death of Prince, coupled with the death of the dream the Sanders campaign ignited in my soul has spun me into thinking about the outsiders today.
It’s no surprise that Audre Lorde, the lesbian, womanist, mother, teacher, poet, essayist, writer and profound dropper of science is my favorite philosopher. Her book, Sister Outsider, is one I take out and read for strength when I get tired of the world. But on a deeper level, I began to think about outsiders as I have experienced them in my life, and revelation came. The most effective outsiders have been offered all the benefits the insiders can offer, and have made the intentional choice to reject those pseudo benefits for life in the margins. They don’t try to play the middle. They don’t shilly-shally from side to side. They are accused, by pragmatists and small thinkers, of refusing to compromise. They understand that everybody ain’t ready for their jelly, and guess what? They do not give a damn.
And while life in the margins may seem dicey to the casual observer, the rewards of living ethically and with integrity far outweigh what the world can provide. Take the artist formerly and commonly known as Prince, who could have been a mogul; who could have built an empire on the backs of other artists, as some of our more celebrated cultural icons do. Instead, Prince decided not to be a slave. He decided to speak up and speak out on behalf of artists who often wished he would just keep his mouth shut. He rejected the pseudo benefits, and did it his way.
Take Senator Sanders. He chose to be a Democratic Socialist. He had to know that would never be cool. Yet, he persevered, and now he has proven to anyone who is willing to see it that money in politics can be dealt with whether Citizens United is overturned or not. Senator Sanders made the uncompromising choice to give the people the wheel. He rejected the PACS, SuperPACS, super donors and the strings that accompany them. He could have joined the party (literally and figuratively), but he chose, with intentional integrity, not to be tainted. In doing so, Bernie Sanders has laid down the gauntlet for politicians. Forevermore, every time a politician elects to accept money from corporate donors whose interests are in conflict with those of the people, we will know they chose the corporate interest over that of the rank and file.
Outsiders are rare, but they exist. Take Kathleen Hicks, Maryellen Hicks, Raedorah Stewart or Carmen Saenz, David Allen, or even yours truly. In every instance, these women and men were celebrated by the institutions they chose, and yet there was a quickening moment, in which they decided, “No.” Their justice bones hurt, and not for themselves, but for others. Saying “yes” is great, but sometimes, you just have to say “No.” And when you do, the world is better for it