I have been thinking a lot lately about how power asserts and re-asserts itself, in politics, alumni groups, religion, fraternalism, families, etc.

Frederick Douglass said “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

The inverse of this idea, I think, is that those who seek to transform the systems of power will only rarely, if ever, be chosen/selected/elected by those possessing the power to be the person to transform the institution.

Only those with disingenuous platforms of change will receive power. Those platforms are never about transformation, not even usually on the surface, but for sure when one dives deeply into the philosophy. Their platforms are merely about the transfer of power:

From a straight face to a gay face espousing the same ideals.

From a white face to a Black face committed to the racial status quo.

From a privileged face to a poor face happy to receive crumbs and accolades.

I have spent the better part of my adult life chasing the approval of men removed from me by generations. It is because my father did not love me. I know this. I have known this.

My father is dead. If I can be over his death (I mourned him two decades before he died), then by now, I should be over searching for the validation that he never gave me.

I need to start validating myself.

I am an innovator, a thinker, a philosopher, a person who thrives in the challenges of a start-up environment. I do things differently. I move differently.

For example, I gave up my membership in the National Association of Parliamentarians because I was so sold on the idea that Restorative Practices would be the future. I know enough to run a meeting and to write bylaws. But what use are bylaws if the electorate won’t read them and those in power abuse them? I decided to focus on relationships.

I have never thrived in old institutions. I got average grades at Georgetown. I can’t win an election to save my life or anybody else’s. I am not any old Black man’s favorite person.

I take up space. I’m funny as fuck. I am irreverent. I am here.

I decided that being myself is far less exhausting than trying to be somebody else. That’s why I stand up to homophobes who think I should just disappear, or die, rather than speak honestly about my own experiences in Alpha Phi Alpha–or any other institution to which I belong.

I am not always nice, but I am always kind. Enough to let you walk away when I have the moral high ground to end you, rhetorically speaking.

I have been considering that those with power have the responsibility to mentor those without, but I have also been concerned about such mentoring transferring bad behavior to a new kind of person, rather than looking to how our institutions can be better after we die.

Have you, Quaker, mentored a Black Friend, not in hopes of having a Black version of you, but with the hope that a Black Friend just might do things differently enough to save the faith?

Have you, Alpha, mentored a trans man, not in hopes of furthering your own neo-liberal version of fraternalism, but in hopes that he could join our order and transform it into something better, and far closer to our founders’ intent than what we could do ourselves?

Have you, Georgetown alumni, mentored a teenager in a GED program, and help them get into Georgetown, even if they are 23, even if they have a criminal record, even if they have a child–not to claim that you transformed them, but so that they can have the tools to transform Georgetown?

All of our institutions will become diluted and eventually die if the power just keeps transferring from one version of ourselves to another. It must not transfer.

It must transmute.

It must become something you cannot have imagined because you gave it to something you wouldn’t have ordinarily given a chance.

I no longer ask power to concede. I simply recognize, like Sarah when she beat the Labyrinth, that power itself has no power over ME.