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Thursday, November 27, 2014

It's An Act of Kindness. It's An Act of Justice. Shut It Down!

#ThisistheMovement #61

I now believe I spent a lifetime with a man, my father, running scared from police violence.  

Since I first became conscious of racism (1st grade, St. Bernard's, first day of school) I have worried about what white men would do to my people, to me. It's a low-level anxiety, one that I can box up and hold at bay.  But less so lately.  Especially in regards to law enforcement.  I drive the speed limit these days and drive slowly by any time I see that the Ohio Highway Patrol has pulled someone over.  Just to make sure they aren't black, and if they are, to ascertain if they are safe.

And while I understand the choice, I find it unfortunate when Black and Brown people choose to wear the uniforms of the institutions that enforce systematic structural racism in this country.  I'm very near 60 and I don't want to see any of the young people from this past summer's youth employment project or my younger relations or any random black girl or boy spend as many years worried, scared or afraid.  I don't want to see another person killed by those who wear the uniform that supports structural inequity (even if you don't think that is what you are doing). So it's time to call a stop.  

I'm not that different from the sometimes bitter middle-aged man who was my father.  I, like him, am afraid of big demonstrations.  I'm a stay-in-the-background kind of activist.  I prefer the hard work of creating viable organizations and building individual and community capacity for social change to standing on a street corner with a megaphone.  I hate to be arrested.  But I agree with the brave, young, BOLD Black Lovers -- It's time to shut it down.

I'm going to Walmart first thing Friday morning to urge Black folk to stay away, for at least this one day.  For John Crawford, who was shot in a Walmart for carrying a pellet gun that he picked up in that Walmart, and was being sold in that Walmart just outside Cincinnati. I'm going for Tamir Rice, a 12 year old boy, playing with the modern equivalent of a dart gun, shot by Cleveland cops within seconds of their arrival at the playground where Tamir was hanging out. I'm going for the scores of others who weren't at their family's Thanksgiving table because of institutionalized, state-sanctioned murder.  I hope you will join in wherever you are.  It's time to disrupt the system that allows these events and so many other instances of structural racism to damage the lives of our relations, friends, family, community members.

 Disrupt, before it's too late for another black boy or girl, man or woman. 
Consider it an act of loving-kindness. 
Before it's too late for all of us. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

No Indictment: A Letter from the Organizers in Ferguson

The Results Are In
An Open Letter from Protestors On The Grand Jury Decision (11.24.14)

In Ferguson, a wound bleeds.

For 108 days, we have been in a state of prolonged and protracted grief.  In that time, we have found community with one another, bonding together as family around the simple notion that our love for our community compels us to fight for our community.  We have had no choice but to cling together in hope, faith, love, and indomitable determination to capture that ever-escaping reality of justice.

After 108 days, that bleeding wound has been reopened, salt poured in, insult added to the deepest of injury.  On August 9th, we found ourselves pushed into unknown territory, learning day by day, minute by minute, to lead and support a movement bigger than ourselves, the most important of our lifetime.  We were indeed unprepared to begin with, and even in our maturation through these 108 days, we find ourselves reinjured, continually heartbroken, and robbed of even the remote possibility of judicial resolution.  A life has been violently taken before it could barely begin.  In this moment, we know, beyond any doubt, that no one will be held accountable within the confines of a system to which we were taught to pledge allegiance.  The very hands with which we pledged that allegiance were not enough to save Mike in surrender. 

Once again, in our community, in our country, that pledge has returned to us void.

For 108 days, we have continuously been admonished that we should “let the system work,” and wait to see what the results are.  

The results are in.

And we still don’t have justice.

This fight for the dignity of our people, for the importance of our lives, for the protection of our children, is one that did not begin Michael’s murder and will not end with this announcement.  The ‘system’ you have told us to rely on has kept us on the margins of society.  This system has housed us in her worst homes, educated our children in her worst schools, locked up our men at disproportionate rates and shamed our women for receiving the support they need to be our mothers. This system you have admonished us to believe in has consistently, unfailingly, and unabashedly let us down and kicked us out, time and time again.

This same system in which you’ve told us to trust--this same system meant to serve and protect citizens-- has once again killed two more of our unarmed brothers:  Walking up a staircase and shot down in cold blood, we fight for Akai Gurley; Playing with a toy after police had been warned that he held a bb gun and not a real gun at only twelve years old, we fight for Tamir Rice. 

So you will likely ask yourself, now that the announcement has been made, why we will still take to the streets?  Why we will still raise our voices to protect our community? Why will still cry tears of heartbreak and sing songs of determination?

We will continue to struggle because without struggle, there is no progress.

We will continue to disrupt life, because without disruption we fear for our lives.

We will continue because Assata reminds us daily that “it is our duty to fight for freedom.  It is our duty to win.  We must love and support one another.  We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

Those chains have bound us-all of us- up for too long.  And do not be mistaken- if one of us is bound, we all are.  We are, altogether, bound up in a system that continues to treat some men better than others.  A system that preserves some and disregards others.  A system that protects the rights of some and does not guard the rights of all.

And until this system is dismantled, until the status quo that deems us less valuable than others is no longer acceptable or profitable, we will struggle.  We will fight.  We will protest.

Grief, even in its most righteous state, cannot last forever.  No community can sustain itself this way. 

So we still continue to stand for progress, and stand alongside anyone who will make a personal investment in ending our grief and will take a personal stake in achieving justice.

We march on with purpose. The work continues.  This is not a moment but a movement. The movement lives.

This letter was written and signed by numerous protestors and supporters, too many to list. Permission is granted in advance for reproduction by all outlets.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Ebola and Us

(I'm taking a minute from the Black Urban Growers Conference #BUGS2014 #Detroit for this post.  Then it's back to edible landscapes and food sovereignty!)

Ebola Virus
I've been thinking about this since August, but now that my home town, Akron, OH, has hit the spotlight with the identification of U. S. Ebola patient #3, I think it's time.

Americans are spoiled.  We inflict war and carnage, exploit resources and generally mindlessly pursue our self-interest without recognizing that we are not Fortress America, reaching out and pillaging, and then dashing back, arms full of other people's resources, to our titanium castle on a big island in the middle of a big ocean.

We were never that, and we aren't that now.  Globalization brought Christopher Columbus and deadly diseases to the naive immunes systems of the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean and North America.  The results were 80-95% of populations dying.  Disease and pestilence have been introduced to every continent from some other place because of "journeys of discovery" to find the raw materials of the emerging and consolidating capitalist economies. 

There was a point in this country when people realized that it was unsustainable to continue to pollute our water supplies with our trash and feces.  That gave rise, in part, to the public health movement in the early 20th century (they had other, less honorable intentions of course).  Public health brought sanitation, vaccines, access to clinics and infectious disease control.  In the last 20 years this commitment to public health, that eventually gave us the CDC, the surgeon general and state, county and local public health offices, has been deprived of funding and government support.  The CDC has had it's budget cut by billions over the last 20 years.  

In addition, thanks to the Reagan era health care reform, privatization has resulted in for-profit hospitals with little focus on their public health responsibilities.  And then there are states like Texas.

States like Texas, Louisiana, and West Virginia have inefficient, poorly funded or practically non-existent public health infrastructures.  They pander to extractive industries -- oil, coal, fracked gas -- that need environmental
Houston.  Thanks Juan Parras of TEJAS
and public health regulations to be held at bay so they can make their enormous profits.

So, don't show up in a Texas for-profit hospital and expect them to know where Liberia is or that Ebola is epidemic there.  And if you don't have insurance (because there is no Medicaid expansion Texas) you will be lucky to be handed a bottle of antibiotics but you will definitely be sent away.  But the nurses will try to do their best, cobbling together the protective gear inappropriately so that they will be guaranteed to be the next Ebola victims.

Disease spreads, Ebola will be here.  If you are really worried about your personal health insist your local and state governments reinvigorate the systems that guarantee our public health.