In 2011 and 2012 I was engaged in helping lead some radical and dangerous housing justice work. I was getting peppered sprayed and getting in fist fights helping protect people’s houses when the big secret I held was that during that time, I myself didn’t have a place to stay. In the course of abandoning my long time work within the finance industry (trying to play the double role finally caught up with me), I was in between any real job and having never faced that reality before, I didn’t know how to deal with it. How to ask for help. So, for about 14 months, this piece of metal served as my living quarters. Southeast Portland, Oregon, U.S. will forever serve as a sentimental place for me because it was throughout that neighborhood that I slept in my vehicle all those nights. I’ll always remember the night before a huge action and the well intentioned European organizer/accomplices were concerned about the police trying to locate and pick me up to try and derail the event. I calmly and consistently reassured them. There was no way the police would know how to find me that night. I didn’t even know where I would be myself.
I used my political work as cover. I could serve as security for the houseless vigil at city hall, parked in front, sitting in my vehicle. No one else needed to know that I would have had no where else to go anyway. I enjoy the thoughts of it because even if I had a place to live during those days, I know that I would have still been where I was. Where the danger was, because work needed to be done. I’ll always remember all those nights having no gas money and worried like hell that I’d run out of gas or worse, that SUV would break down. Somehow that I’ll never fully understand beyond crediting the ancestors, I never ran out of gas and that SUV never stopped working, even when by all rights it should have because of how much I was unable to maintenance it during that period.
Many dangerous missions were carried out in that vehicle. Shots were fired at it by intolerant elements. Lonely roads were traveled many times late at night. Sometimes with people of ill intent in pursuit. By my latest recollection, between California, Washington, and Oregon, I was pulled over in this vehicle at least 20 times.
Then there are the times I needed it to drive through intense snow. I lived for a time in a place in Oregon where heavy snow happens nine months a year.
I’m the least materialistic person you will ever know. I don’t care about houses, cars, etc. As long as the house is comfortable and I can maintain it. As long as the car looks decent and drives fine, I’m good. This SUV was special though because it was there for long trips. Organizing trips. It was there for every facet of political work I engaged in from 2004 through today, August 17, 2021 (the birthday of Marcus Mosiah Garvey). It served as a reliable resource in every way I needed, at times when I needed it the most.
If you can read between the lines here, then you should pick up that this really isn’t a tribute to a vehicle. Its an acknowledgement of the struggle that takes place everyday. The ancestors who always guide me through and a reminder of the struggles I myself have come through. The good times and the bad. The comrades, rolling from here to there. The loading of people and equipment for events. Dang, that was my vehicle when my daughter graduated from high school. The night I went to jail for defending myself against a domestic abuser who made the mistake of thinking they could abuse me, the police tried to impound my SUV until I challenged them. The number of events that vehicle played a crucial role in helping organize from sound equipment for African Liberation Days to carrying a vehicle full of folks to the American Indian Movement’s Un-thanksgiving at the crack of dawn. I can go on and on, but the point is not the black 2005 Tahoe vehicle. It’s the memories and people. I traded in the vehicle today, but writing this has helped me recognize that all of those memories are mine forever.