Social justice warriors need a love narrative to endure the battle

Hours before he shot himself, his tweet read, "My demons won today." I was stunned, saddened and disheartened to hear the news that MarShawn McCarrel, just 23 years old, a well-known Black Lives Matter activist, shot himself on the steps of the Ohio Supreme Court in February 2016. MarShawn was an artist, an amazing writer and poet, and as Hanif Abdurraqib stated in a Washington post article, “MarShawn was wildly funny,” debunking the “hardened and angry” stereotype of most activists.

Like most people who work tirelessly for social justice, MarShawn undoubtedly had a fire that burned deep within him. It is likely that MarShawn had to find a way to hush the false narrative that played so deeply within the background of his mind, the narrative that his efforts are worthless. Everyone questions whether they are making a difference from time to time. However, those who have lived a life of mayhem run the risk of allowing that narrative to be their reality, by believing that their very life is worthless. They may seem like they are okay on the outside, but deep down, they are going through the motions with a constant “meaningless” feeling, allowing their internal fire to devour them. While I certainly do not condone suicide, I can see why MarShawn took his life. I know a lot about that fire and that false narrative. The fire is necessary and the false narrative is inevitable without the right strategy.

I don't know much about MarShawn's background and past family life except that he struggled in the projects of Columbus. I just know from my own personal experiences why someone entwines themselves into the threads of social justice. It all starts with having a fire deep within. People that work in social justice need to have this fire. Typically, this fire gets started by someone doing something to harm that individual. While others witness a person or a group being harmed and are affected by association. Either way, having a fire that burns deep within is a critical element for having a passion for social change.

The issue is when this fire turns to anger; you cannot hush the false narrative. When anger sits at the base of your behavior, you become hardened, calloused, brass, cynical, self-centered, egotistical, and bloated with fear and anxiety. You become unnerved, imbalanced, and susceptible to defeat under pressure. The anger strategy is not sustainable. Eventually, you burn up from your own fire. Those who wish to affect long-term social change realize they are fighting a war. As such, they need to prepare for battle and conduct some basic training and have a long-term strategy to endure the fight. The first step is to root out the anger narrative and replace it with a love narrative—for themselves and for others. This proven and well-tested love narrative strategy has helped many social justice pioneers to endure.

The second greatest commandment of all is to love your neighbor as yourself. –Jesus Christ

Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that. –Martin Luther King

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. –Mahatma Gandhi

No future without forgiveness. –Bishop Desmund TuTu

We are convinced that non-violence is more powerful than violence. If you use violence, you have to sell part of yourself for that violence. Then you are no longer a master of your own struggle. –Cesar Chavez

Violence will only increase the cycle of violence. –Dalai Llama

I get the pain. Deeply bruised as child, having experienced the wrath of an abusive father and living in constant mayhem, I started out angry. My fire and anger kindled my drive to amass and immerse myself in higher education, lofty corporate positions, and live a life of social justice. Like MarShawn, I had a seemingly pleasant and positive demeanor, and was an overall fun person. Even more like MarShawn, I was crumbling on the inside. My own mental pressure was killing me. I did not like who I had become. My false narrative was relentless and I just about succumbed to its demise when my brother committed suicide. I had to replace my anger with a daily practice of love and respect for myself in order to hush the false narrative, to endure the war, and bring about long-term social change. I take these five steps every single day:

  1. Specific time for daily meditation, prayer, and journaling: This is daily and I pray throughout the day.

  2. Understand and live by my values: My top five values are faith, family, exercise (my body and my mind), discipline, and integrity. I make certain I see evidence of my values in my daily behavior.

  3. Forgive myself of mistakes: Over and over, and over again. Forgiveness never stops for me. It is a daily act of obedience. I try to allow my mistakes or problems to teach me something so I can continue to like myself.

  4. Forgive others for any harm they do to me: Over and over, and over again. This is the root of most anger. I forgive others so that any bitterness I have toward others does not sneakily grow roots in me and choke off my best efforts.

  5. Step away from what does not serve me: This requires a great deal of daily discipline. This relates to food, people, certain habits, and things that may seem right for most people but just are not right for me.

Develop a daily practice that will allow your fire to burn brightly and extinguish the false narrative!

Diana Patton is a speaker, author, advocate and attorney in Toledo, Ohio. Her mission is to help women push past abuse and adversities to find their identity and to train themselves in it - and to use their unique gifts to serve others. Learn more about Diana on Facebook, Instagram,, and read her personal memoir of how she lived out her mission in her book entitled, Inspiration in My Shoes (on Amazon).

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