Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

The Stress of Political Consciousness, Holistic Lifestyle and African American Development

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

The Stress of Political Consciousness, Holistic Lifestyle and African American Development

Article excerpt

Introduction

While there are many books and studies on the political and social ramifications of the Civil Rights, Black Power/Liberation movement, and other movements of the past, there are few if any studies that chronicle the effects of the stress that derived from political involvement in those movements. The stress was and is a hidden factor and if constantly acknowledged, would siphon off much of the drive and energy to make social change happen. But it is there, and there is a price to be paid for being politically conscious, radical, and African American. For those of us born in the fifties and earlier, it was understood that political activism, even of a conservative kind like voter registration, could cost one their life. Therefore, the issue of stress or at least, 'lesser stressors,' have not been the burning issue. Staying alive was the burning issue.

But for the ones who have survived, how did the stress of political consciousness and activism impact them? How many lost jobs at different times? Did that cause any stress in the family? How did that affect family member's health? Did people have to move and relocate because of their activities? Did one ever have to go 'underground?' How long? For how many years did one have to "bite their tongue" at work and where did that frustrated anger go? Or if they were of the sort that "didn't bite their tongue," did the resultant conflicts prevent them from advancing?

Were there careers that one would have gone into had they not been politically conscious of certain things and took certain actions? Of course, the larger question of how different our lives would have been had not millions stood up and demanded justice has an obvious answer. And in every struggle there are numerous sacrifices to be made and each generation has to step up to the need of the times. Yet, we seldom discuss the collateral damage of lives lost, years in prison, or sapped potential sucked away by sometimes misguided actions, racist police, courts and criminal justice systems, federally instigated internecine battles, and ideological wars. In many ways, the people making the sacrifices did not know they were making sacrifices at the time and could not foresee the outcomes. And neither could people foresee the lasting effects of stress on their and their family's nervous systems and how that would affect them, years later.

These are hard realities and questions. But ultimately, if we cannot assure an individual that they will be taken care of when they get old, their loved ones cared for if something happens to them or they will be nursed when they are sick, why should they choose to join our struggle? It is now acknowledged that it will take generations to fully usher in any kind of advanced society, and nothing short of catastrophic disasters will make people change instantly, so it comes down to how well an individual can hold up and possibly thrive under an assortment of pressures over a very long period of time. The Communist Party and Progressive Movement of the teens, twenties, and thirties, the Civil Rights movement of the forties and fifties, and the Black Power/Liberation, student and Black Arts Movements of the sixties and seventies were accompanied by support systems that were created within those movements. This helped mitigate and insulate the frontline activists from some of the stressors, particularly financial. The Civil Rights workers also had broad-based support within the African American community. But there is another reality. Many individuals who chose a life of political activism, especially radical African American political activism, lived lonely existences, particularly as they got older. They could not find work. They made a lot of sacrifices personally and professionally while incurring tremendous stress to their nervous systems. Many have poor health. Few offer any regrets as to their choices politically, but many feel the pain of isolation, lack of appreciation, and the toll the movement has taken on their bodies, psyches and spirits. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.