Making All Black Lives Matter is an important new book by the brilliant activist/historian Barbara Ransby. In the spirit of the young Howard Zinn’s The New Abolitionists, a small but influential book about SNCC that was written and published during the last great wave of the Black Freedom Movement, Ransby’s book is an attempt to understand and amplify the current upsurge in the centuries-old fight for Black freedom. As with Zinn’s book, you can feel the serious historian at work with the ground firmly beneath her feet, but also the participant eager to record and urgent to make sense of this moment—this history-in-the-making. This intervention is a love letter to today’s activists as well as a healthy push to resist, reimagine, and rebuild a broad social movement against racial capitalism and for a world at peace and in balance, powered by love and justice.
Gertrude Stein famously noted the fact that, returning to her childhood home in Oakland, California after many years away, the place no longer existed, writing, “There is no there there.” The famous phrase has been deployed and repurposed continually ever since by invaders and occupiers, land thieves and urban removal managers, gentrifiers and hipsters to justify thievery and appropriation: “There was no there there.”
Now Tommy Orange, a brilliant young writer and registered member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, reimagines the phrase, resists its many aggressive misinterpretations, and rebuilds its meaning in a powerful new novel, “There There.” Orange creates a dozen entirely compelling, complex, and wildly diverse urban Native Americans drawn together for the Big Oakland Powwow. Along the way each character feels the urgent press of a living history, deep memories of the attempted genocide and untold loss, but also the inheritance of resistance and the redemptive power of community. Tommy Orange reminds us that there always was a there there, and the people who are there are living and loving still.