What Does an Uprising Mean to You?

Trevon Tellor, Staff Writer

In the days before May 26, the word “uprising” conjured up for me images of enslaved people grabbing whatever weapons available and taking freedom at the price of death: the residents of the Warsaw ghetto waging a short-lived resistance war against the Nazi’s, and the people of Hong Kong fighting the authoritarian nation of China.  

Now, reflecting on the days immediately after May 26 when the people of Minneapolis fought back against the police, outraged by the murder of George Floyd, the word ‘uprising’ means something different to me: images of ragtag guerillas are replaced by scenes of BIPOC youth going toe-to-toe with riot cops while choking on tear gas, scenes of neighborhoods coming together to distribute food brought from the suburbs to feed people who suddenly found themselves in food deserts and scenes of medics rapidly treating brutalized protestors.

The word ‘uprising’ means more than a violent struggle now. Uprising means people resisting the very foundations of capitalism by distributing food and necessities provided in accordance to one’s ability and needs.

During the uprising, stores closed early or entirely, people’s money was already stretched thin by COVID-19, and a few grocery stores in near food deserts were looted. (Note: Looting is a method of resistance to capitalism, but we can talk about that later in another article.) Neighbors, organizations and churches took it upon themselves to set up food distribution sites and folks made the drive to the suburbs to bring back groceries. The people provided medical care for bleeding and burnt protestors free of charge with donated or self-purchased supplies; therapists and clergy were on scene at George Floyd Square ready to help folks process the trauma.

Capitalism is based on the sale of commodities; everything becomes an object whose main function is to be sold, even necessities like food and medical supplies. It only makes sense that resistance to capitalism in our city started with the refusal to participate in the ransom of necessities.

This of course for many people was not a consciously political action. However, a surprising part of uprisings and revolution is that many find themselves a part of them on the basis of necessity and empathy only to figure out the politics as events unfold, because uprising also means education. Not just any education, but anti-capitalist education based on action rather than theory.

Anti-capitalist theory speaks of a post-capitalist world free of commodities, but rarely do writers and theorists ever give us a guide or an illustration. How could we know what our future should look like when our only examples were decades old or never occurred in the imperialist core? 

Now, after the uprising, no longer do many of us have doubts that we the people are capable of protecting and providing for each other without the state’s unjust hierarchies because we witnessed our comrades doing just that.

Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in his last speech said, “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter to me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop…and I’ve seen the promised land…But I want you to know tonight, that we as a people, will get to the promised land.” And while my comrades and I may not have seen the divine vision of our dreams, we saw a vision of what our world can look like in the brief week of the uprising. Like MLK Jr., we are not worried anymore, because we have seen the glory of the people and the promised land of post-capitalism.

What does uprising mean to you? Send in your reflections to echo@augsburg.edu.