“Peace, Love and Joy.” These words have become a refrain that I now despise. Although it might seem ridiculous to turn my nose up at words that were forged for good, it’s how I feel.  

My disdain began when the phrase became a weapon used against me to silence my anger, shush my pain, mask my hopelessness. On social media, if I point out how black people are targets of state violence someone replies with “One LOVE.” When I see someone discuss their anger at another black life snuffed out, they are met with refrains of “Be PEACEFUL!” ‘Peace, love and joy’ and its many renditions have become ammunition used to paint black people into corners of respectability and compliance.

When I heard about the nationwide protest to reclaim all the spaces named after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I was ’bout it. The #MLKSitIn is the brainchild of experienced activists and leaders Leslie Mac and Feminista Jones, who boldly placed a call across the nation for those willing to organize a #MLKSitIn in their city, specifically in places named after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Photo: Patience Zalanga

You should know, the good Doctor and I have been on a journey together.

He has always been a figure I looked up to. As a fearful child in a mostly white elementary school, he gave me courage.

Then I grew older and absorbed injustice – his legacy inspired me to get involved.

And when I grew bitter, his Letter from a Birmingham Jail validated my anger and helped me express myself.

So when people started using Dr. King’s own words of peace and love to try to silence me and caution me to wait for my liberation, I was FED UP.

The #MLKSitIn protest gave me an opportunity to reclaim Dr. King’s good name, as a prince of peace, an organizer, an occupier, a radical. To remind people he was #notyourrespectablenegro.  

Once I accepted the call and started co-planning the #MLKSitInLA for Los Angeles, I kept hearing PEACE, LOVE and JOY as the themes of the sit-in. I cringed. I felt the need to separate myself from that phrase and immediately hauled out my baggage.

Thankfully, my co-organizer @msmorgan_hood listened patiently to my ranting.  She became a mirror to my hangups. While talking to her, I remembered why I wanted to participate in the #MLKSitIn in the first place.  

Every day we get up and fight for our liberation. Each life lost cuts to the bone. Every injustice we continue to persevere. We will never get over it. But we manage to heal ourselves and each other. We manage to continue to fight for peace. We manage to love each other despite our hurt. We somehow find joy amidst the world that tells us we are not worthy. And that is resistance.

So yeah, maybe “peace love and joy” isn’t my thing. But I’m doing it anyway.

For all of us who are still here and for those that are gone.

(Please join us on Sunday 7/31 nationwide, Los Angeles, 11AM PST. #MLKSitIn #MLKSitInLA For more info go to www.MLKSitIn.com)

(*#notyourrespectablenegro credited to @akwardduck & @zeynaiman)