Right now in Atlanta, communities are uniting the save the South River Forest. The Atlanta city government wants to destroy the forest to build the largest police training facility on turtle island, maybe the world.
Five hundred years ago, the peoples who tended the forests of West and Central Africa were violently wrenched from their homes. The massive population collapse caused by this violence lead to the deaths of the forests across Africa. The people who now tend those forests tell us that the forest is kin, is a living entity that they are in relationship with. They do not own the forest because the forest cannot be owned. Many of those wrenched from those forests of the Congo river, of the Senegambia were taken in the holds of ships to places their captors called Charleston and Savannah. The captors stole people–as if people could be “stolen”–from the savanna to a fiction called Savannah. They’d have us believe people who knew the forest as a spirit had forgotten all they knew in those months in the hold. Did they dream of the forest? Is that why they ran into the forest as soon as they arrived?
People had tended the forests of Welaunee for millennia. They nurtured the sunflower and the corn, and buffalo. Five hundred years ago, the enslavers arrived. They drove the forest stewards from Welaunee–thousands were killed in “Indian” wars. Thousands were forced to march from places the enslavers named Decatur, Macon, Marietta, Atlanta, Covington, Savannah to a place the enslavers called Oklahoma. The Muscogee, still tell us that the forest is kin. They do not own the forest–because neither forest nor people can be owned. They are trying, now, in the place called Atlanta to reconnect to their kin
The enslavers developed an entire technology of property. To steal the land of Indigenous keepers of the forests and turn a living, breathing kin into something that to be bought and sold. Maggie Blackhawk teaches us in On Power & the Law: McGirt v. Oklahoma. The enlsavers developed an entire technology of property, to turn people–taken in ships from Congo river forests, Senegambian forests–into some things that could be bought and sold. K-Sue Park teaches us in The History Wars and Property Law.
The #StopCopCity movement. Now. In Atlanta. Is so much more than a hashtag.
Enslavers turned sections of Welaunee into the Atlanta Prison farm. Ask Black elders from Atlanta if they recall stories of neighbors being sent to the “farm”. Enlsavers, today, use prisons to turn people into some things that can be bought, sold, made invisible. Enslavers today pour billions into police, militaries, and drones to maintain their ability to buy and sell people and land. You don’t have to be white to be an enslaver.
Kyle Mays, writing in What Did Malcolm X Mean By Landback for Black Liberation, asks us to ask ourselves to imagine Malcolm coming to Landback . Who will teach us to love ourselves? Renaldo Walcott asks Black people to remember how we were turned into property in his book On Property. How does capitalism turn a forest–our mother–into a thing to be bought and sold? How does capitalism turn people into some things to be bought and sold?
What is at the very heart of dispossession for Indigenous peoples taken from the forests of Pachamama?
#StopCopCity means that we refuse to turn the forest into thing to be bought and sold; just as stopping the Line 3 pipeline means that the rivers are not a thing to be bought and sold. #StopCopCity is kin to the collective Black and Indigenous struggles in Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru, Guatemala, Belize, Nicaragua, and Mexico. It is an invitation to become, once again, kin with the earth and its people.
Forests are not to be owned. They cannot be bought and sold. People cannot be owned. People are not some things to be bought and sold. Property is the master’s tool. Audre Lorde taught us that we can never dismantle the master’s house with the master’s tools. Did we forget?
Here’s what I want to say. Here’s what the forest tells me this morning. The basis of wealth in the united states is in a technology for the expropriation, management and exchange of property–people and land. It provided a mechanism for turning Black and Indigenous people into property alongside a mechanism for making the mostly common resources of the earth, curated by Indigenous peoples, something which could be owned–a some thing to be bought and sold. The same technology determines the way in which people come to be owned by the state–through carceral regimes–and it dictates the way in which control of the earth is determined.
The dismantling of this system, and the development of some other set of relationships which will allow us all to live full lives must be the core concern of any quest for liberation.