Black Lives Matter…or at least they should. Today, a gut wrenching tale of how little black lives really matter, an update on the Poor People’s Campaign training Saturday in ABQ, an update on a flawed SFUAD process and info on how you can nominate your favorite non-profit for a Pinon Award.
More on Santa Fe University Art & Design. Yesterday I identified 4 elements that I was looking for in the five designs being presented tomorrow as part of the community input phase of the process. Click here to review those recommendations.
I checked with my ally, Tomás Rivera, founder of Chainbreaker and found that he felt the process was flawed from the start, failing to authentically engage under-served communities. There are clearly identified stakeholders who serve and represent under-served communities: Somos, Earth Care, Chainbreaker, Dreamers to name a few. They should have been invited to participate and they should have been consulted about the process itself.
But they weren’t asked. If you are going to either of the events planned for input today or tomorrow, you will hear about the City’s aggressive outreach to under-served communities. To underscore how effective that outreach has been, here is a fact. Of the over 2300 surveys completed, a total of six people completed the Spanish version of the survey. For those counting, that is less than 1/3 of 1 percent of those who completed the survey.
So I’d add to the four elements I would like to see in the plan, another suggestion: the need for another process, that authentically engages underserved populations and their stakeholders. For months and months we heard Mayoral candidates describe the desperate need for affordable housing. SFUAD represents a once in a generation opportunity to address that need. What sense is there to conducting a community input process that fails to authentically include the people and their representatives who are most in need of affordable housing. If you are participating in today or tomorrow’s input process please make part of your input, to find a way to authentically engage south and west side residents, Spanish speakers, and very low-income residents. Whatever the City did to engage the entire community, they apparently didn’t succeed. With such an invaluable opportunity to get it right, the City is in danger of getting it very wrong. Leadership from Mayor Gonzales administration should have picked up the phone and called Chainbreaker and asked two questions: How should we figure this out? Who should be at the table? That just didn’t happen. Click here to find out how you can provide input.
Apparently Black Lives Don’t Matter Much at All
I am reading When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir. I can’t recall a more powerful book. Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors tells the story of her life with a heavy focus on what it is like to grow up black and poor in Los Angeles (or anywhere in the US). She vividly describes the circumstances under which her father, step-father and beloved brother all wind up incarcerated for things that would never have resulted in jail time for me. Her narrative is told in a very simple and personal way and you grow to understand just how terrifying it can be to be shopping while Black, driving while Black, walking while Black, breathing while Black. Her description of her reaction to the case of Trayvon Martin is telling:
“And Trayvon Martin, a Black boy who was just walking home. Walking with a can of Arizona Ice Tea and a pack of Skittles he had just bought for his little brother. Walking and speaking on his cell to his friend Rachel, a girl who was bullied and a girl he protected. Walking and wearing a hoodie like teenagers everywhere wear hoodies. Walking and at once set upon by a large, white-presenting man who decided that because the boy was Black and because he wore a hoodie, like most teens, he must be a threat. We learn that the man was ordered by a police dispatcher to stop. We learn that the man chased the boy, who was running errands for his little brother, who was talking to his friend, his friend who was bullied. We learn that the man pulled the trigger on this unarmed child who weighted what, 50 75 pounds less than the man with the gun? We learn that the man believed he had a right do what he did. A right to stand ground that wasn’t being challenged by a boy carrying iced tea and Skittles. He believed that his assumed rights superseded this child’s right to walk home to his own home to bring his little brother a treat.” And in America, the white killer of Trayvon Martin was right. He did have the right to murder a defenseless child. As the book describes, the white man had a long history of violence and racism, had been told by both 911 to not pursue the Black child and yet, a jury of his peers exonerated him completely.
Khan-Cullors describes the way her brother is tortured in prison, after being arrested for having a psychotic break. It took weeks for her mother to even find where the police had taken her son and when she finally found the jail and spoke to the psychiatrist he chastised the mother, the mother whose son had been in jail for weeks for being mentally ill, she was chastised for making so many calls to the jail. The psychiatrist called her a nuisance. Our society has long treated blacks in ways it would never treat whites. We hale advances like the Civil Rights Act, but our education, health, housing, economic and political systems continue to marginalize Blacks while our criminal justice system oppresses them. This book, more than anything I’ve read, makes that clear. I am willing to host an evening discussion of the book if enough people write to me indicating that they will read the book. paul@RetakeOurDemocracy.org.
To underscore my excerpt from When They Call You a Terrorist, i share with you an excerpt from a TruthOut report about Decynthia Clements: “When officers first approached her by the side of the highway, it was clear that Decynthia was in distress. They claim they saw a butcher knife and a screwdriver in the car — both common household items, both read as weapons in the hands of a Black woman in crisis. One officer said he saw a white powder on her hand, and assumed it was crack cocaine — as opposed to, say, talcum powder or any number of other substances that might look similar, automatically reading a Black woman as a drug user. The officers retreated and began to negotiate with Decynthia about getting out of the car. During this time, they accessed a report that she had told a therapist that she had been suicidal and experienced hallucinations.
But instead of calling for experienced medical professionals, officers continued to respond to a Black woman who had committed no crime and posed no danger to anyone (other than perhaps herself) with orders to get out of her car, and threats of arrest — again, it is not clear for what. After she moved her car forward a few feet a few times, officers eventually blocked her in with two police vehicles.
After about an hour, Decynthia told police she would get out of her car after she smoked a cigarette. Video footage released by the department shows officers discussing what to do when she did — including using rubber bullets or a TASER if necessary. And then, as she stepped out, gagging from the smoke of a fire that had broken out inside the vehicle, before she had taken more than a step or two, the lead officer on the scene shot her in the head within seconds, killing her, reading her hasty exit from a burning car as a deadly threat.” With plenty of time to call in for mental health support, a Black woman with a history of psychiatric issues doesn’t get mental health support, she gets a bullet in the head. The report goes on to describe the ways in which stereotypes and assumptions guide police thinking and the tragic consequences for the Blacks whose lives do not matter. Click here.
The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, Nonviolent Moral Fusion Direct Action Training will be held in Albuquerque on April 14, 2018, 11am-3pm. I have received many emails about the NM Poor People’s Campaign and frankly really didn’t know what to tell them except that groups are forming around the state, but until now outreach to engage people had been very limited. I am told that much of this has been the result of death threats to Reverend Barber and fears of infiltration into the organization. But now information appears to be emerging and Retake will keep you posted. This initial training will host no more than 60 people. The training will be held from 11:00am until 3:00pm. Childcare will be provided. Please RSVP by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org... notifying them that you will attend. They will have snacks and drinks for everyone, attending. Once you have confirmed through email address above, they will send location in Albuquerque and any other details. This training is for individuals who are seriously considering participating in nonviolent civil disobedience (CD). Taking the training does not require one to engage in CD. Individuals should make a personal decision to participate and it is always possible to opt out. This training is essential so that when persons make an individual decision, they are prepared and knowledgeable about what is involved. For those who cannot participate in this initial training in Albuquerque, other trainings will be scheduled. We will be reaching out to other regions of New Mexico over the next two weeks.
Santa Fe Community Foundation Announces that Nominations are Being Accepted for Pinon Awards. Nominate Your Favorite Non-Profit. Nonprofits provide support and services that the government and other industries do not, or as Vu Le the manager at Ranier Valley Corps in Seattle, WA puts it: “Nonprofits are like fire fighters, putting out the fires of injustice.” For example, take a peek at the important work our 2017 Piñon Award Winners do throughout our community:
- Chainbreaker Collective works to expand affordable transportation and sustainable communities for working people in the Santa Fe region;
- Santa Fe Dreamers Project provides pro bono legal services for New Mexico’s immigrant community;
- Common Cause New Mexico works to create an open, honest, and accountable government in our state;
- Community Against Violence provides services to survivors of domestic and sexual violence in Taos.
Our state is consistently ranked at the bottom of child welfare, education, health, and more. And our nonprofits are working tirelessly to move the bar. We encourage you to recognize those efforts by nominating the nonprofits that have made a difference in your life for the 2018 Piñon Awards. Click here to find the nomination form; nomination deadline is May 4, 2018.
Paul & Roxanne
P.S. Please let me know if you want to get together and discuss When They Call You a Terrorist. The conversation needs to happen.