Acceptance Talk

Acceptance Talk

Picture the Homeless “Dancegiving” Gala Event: October 6, 2016

We are living in a time of change. We see it all around us: people rising up to question inequality, institutional racism, and self-righteous, self-sustaining privilege. We see the potential for social progress, but we also see the potential for social regression. We should all be thankful to Donald Trump for exposing the latent, racist evil that still plagues this country. Yes, we are living in a time of change. The only choice we have is whether we will be a part of making that change; whether we will work together to make history, or whether we will stand idle while history makes us.

In such times, there will be hypocrites who will say one thing, but do another. We will encounter many who will have a lot to say, but their words will be little more than empty rhetoric meant for self-gratification. There will be those who will act without thought, engaging in a kind of hollow activism that can only destroy, but never build anything of lasting value.

We are living in a time when responsible, progressive people must work together to create and exercise power. Whether we follow the guidance of those such as Paolo Freire or Hannah Arendt, we know that power only manifests when word and deed do not part company. We know that power is realized only when we come together, create public space, and share our collective talents and resources to accomplish some greater good through thoughtful, deliberative action. But with power also comes responsibility and risk.

It was John Dewey who said simply, but powerfully, that all action is an invasion of the future, of the unknown. But when the present is defined by inhumanity, we are all called upon to act to secure a better future, even in the face of risk. Standing idle, and professing no responsibility on the grounds of not having personally contributed, is in and of itself inhumane. Complacent inhumanity is complicit inhumanity.

Of course, this begs the question: What does responsible, deliberative action entail?

First, and foremost, it requires an ethic, an ethic that stands for the proposition that we are all connected, all bound together in a way that requires us to work for inclusion, fairness, and opportunity for all.

Beyond that, we need to identify, expose and name all sources of injustice and oppression. With that, we will be armed with the means to burst the bubble of complacency and expose the long, growth-inhibiting and disabling shadow of hypocrisy wherever it exists.

Guided by ethics, and informed by knowledge, all subsequent actions must be guided by long term objectives to transform our political systems from within. To paraphrase Ortega y Gassett, we must have an appreciation that history has a logic, its own logic, and if this logic is not absorbed into whatever social transformation we seek to create, then history will merely repeat itself, but with a different face.

So, let us continue our collective work towards a more just, more equitable, and more humane society, where all members are valued and provided with the opportunities for self-realization and mutual progress. I am happy to accept this recognition on behalf of all those who refuse to feign comfort in the face of misery, but especially for all those who overcome personal calamity and crisis each and every day to give voice, human substance and relevance to those who are homeless. Thanks to all members of Picture the Homeless for their work and dedication. I am proud, Banana Kelly is proud, CATCH and all our affiliates are proud, to be your partners in this.

Harry DeRienzo
Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association, Inc.

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