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Ferguson: A Tidal Wave in the Movement to End Police Violence

 

The uprising in Ferguson has shone a national spotlight on police violence in this country. It is heartbreaking to think that it took the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown for the media to be convinced that Black lives are news worthy and to acknowledge that Black and Brown people being murdered by law enforcement at an alarming rate. It took the outrage of a small suburban Midwest community before the rest of the world caught on to what has been going on since the end of Reconstruction when the emancipation of Black people led to oppressive laws restricting their rights and freedoms.

 

The scale and size of the violence against Black people has not shifted since the emergence of the Black Power Movement. The Panthers organized in cities across the U.S to protect their communities against police violence. A generation later organizations like Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) began training community members in Cop Watch programs that continue today. In a 2012 report, titled Operation Ghetto Storm, MXGM found that a Black person is executed by police in this country every 28 hours. Local organizers have formed collectives and coalitions to address community safety concerns without depending on the police. The point is, that we have known for a long time that police are not here to protect us. The presence of the police does not make us safe, nor does the criminal justice system that they serve.  In 2001, Incite Women of Color Against Violence published a statement illustrating the intersections of police violence and interpersonal violence where they challenge anti-violence movements to consider the consequences of calling the police to our homes to protect us from harm; for women of color this means risking the added trauma of arrest along side their abuser.

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So this is not a new movement. This is a tidal wave in a movement that has swelled and receded for over 30 years but has remained ever present thanks to some dedicated community organizers who understand that movements don’t get built overnight. People on the ground in their communities every day who will tell you that movement building requires more dedication and discipline than a social media trend can provide. The energy and passion is alive right now, so the question is how will we make sure that we don’t turn back? I think there are a few things to keep in mind as we do. First, police violence is sponsored by the state; yes our government supports and funds the actions of law enforcement. As result, police are not held accountable for their actions, in fact the federal government has emboldened and empowered them with military grade weapons so they can instill fear and do damage in the communities they serve. Furthermore, the “War on Drugs” has been used to set legal precedents in the highest courts that make it nearly impossible to prove de facto racism is at the root of policing practices.  Yet even though we know this again and again we call on the very system that legitimizes this violence to adjudicate and administer justice on our behalf. But that did not work for Rodney King, Oscar Grant, or 7-year old Aiyana Stanley Jones or the many other Black and Brown people who have lost their lives at the hands of police. Our movement has to be bigger than a call for justice. The movement to end police violence must demand the complete overall of policing tactics and shame the U.S government for their hand in feeding this ravenous beast killing Black and Brown folks.

 

Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s Mother, wrote a beautiful letter to Michael Brown’s Family. In the letter she challenges us all to galvanize our communities beyond these tragedies. I think her words struck just the right note for this moment, “If they refuse to hear us, we will make them feel us.” It is time we made the U.S Government feel us. Let’s build off the work of organizations like the October 22nd Coalition who have held a National Day of Protest Against Police Brutality for 19 years. One of their offerings is the Stolen Lives Project, which records the stories of people killed by police from 1990 to the Present. It’s time we held a People’s Tribunal in the U.S Capitol and called out the names and stories of every single person that have been killed by police in this country; much the way Melissa Harris-Perry began on her show last weekend. She only called the names that we know, the people who have been written about, sadly there are so many more and we need to call their names for the world to bare witness too. We need to amplify their stories and do it every single year on the day that Ferguson rose up until “they feel us” because not only do Black Lives Matter but the U.S Government needs to be held accountable for protecting those lives.

Ways to Support The Movement in Ferguson Now:

Visit the The Organization for Black Struggle website:

http://obs-onthemove.org/current/ways-to-support-the-fight/#more-3615

 

 

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Going Into Retreat

It seems like my life has always revolved around the school year schedule. Each September feels like the start of a new year and each June the arrival of summer signals two months in which a slower pace, fewer commitments, and an abundance of sunshine and outdoor play reign supreme. The summer time with its optimal hours of daylight and warm weather has always offered me that amazing balance of free time for play, enjoying my favorite parks, and of course travel.

 

This year the month of August is offering me plenty of time to be play, stretch, reflect, and be in my imagination. Tomorrow I head to The Bahamas for a 5-day yoga retreat. I will spend each day deepening my yoga practice, meditating, writing, reflecting, and laying on the beach. I intend to use the time to complete with the past two years, which has been filled with more challenges, change, pain, and growth than I could have ever prepared for. The good news is that I’ve come out on the other side of that transformative quest feeling more empowered, alive, and inspired than ever before. This retreat is a time to celebrate and create a clearing for all the beauty and possibility that has begun to unfold in my life.

 

At the end of the month-Labor Day weekend, just before the school year begins, I will be heading to Omega Institute for a 4-day residency at Juno Cottage, a program of the Omega Women’s Leadership Center that invites women leaders to be in residence in upstate New York to reflect, write, and contribute to the growing global dialogue on women’s leadership. I’m honored to be invited and particularly, grateful to my friend Sharda Sekaran for recommending me. I plan to use the 4-day retreat to play in possibility, do some deep visioning, and set clear, authentic intentions for what I want to create with my life and work in the coming years.

 

Sunset is the perfect reminder to be still and present.

Sunset is the perfect reminder to be still and present.

I’m grateful for the time to sit still, listen deeply, and dream big this month. How are you creating space to stop and listen to your heart this summer? A retreat does not have to be days away, it could simply be an hour quietly sitting on your couch with a cup of tea, a walk in the park, closing your bathroom door and running a bath, but whatever you do turn off the distractions –social media streams, phone, TV and the endless train of thoughts reminding of what needs to be done. Turn it off and listen to your heart even if just for a moment you might be amazing at what you discover in those quiet moments.

 

Don’t surrender your loneliness

so quickly.

Let it cut more deep

 

Let it ferment and season you…

As few human

or even divine ingredients can.

 

Something missing in my heart tonight

Has made my eyes so soft

My voice

so tender

 

My need of God

absolutely clear.

-Shams al-Din Hafiz

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Our Illusive Borders

I’m finding myself thinking a lot about borders these days: Who crosses them, who gets erased by them, what they sacrifice to escape, what they leave behind. One day I’m watching images of young children who have traveled thousands of miles without parents to reach the US border and the next day I listen to news reports of Israel raining down bombs on Palestinian people in Gaza. I witness from a safe distance protected by my borders: my US nationality accessorized by a passport that I use for play and self-discovery. I walk through the world with the illusion of safety, a privilege that often feels like a bullet-proof plexiglass covered window out to the world. The image beyond the glass a dull picture of people and places whose struggles I will never fully know and only understand via the strategically biased POV of US news media.

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Then there are the borders within this country that get redrawn, divided, erased. In Chicago whole communities eliminated, displaced, and resettled in ways that breed quick and acute conflict. In southern states, whiteness floundering and desperately asserting its dominance with reckless gun laws, as it sinks under the rapid browning of America. Everywhere Trans people are killed and often must fear for their safety just walking down the street because they dare to traverse the borders of strict gender binaries that confine us all in roles we are aggressively conditioned to assume. So many different lines drawn around us, borderlands defined by bodily integrity, housing rights, gun violence, and the criminal justice system, which is constantly redrawing its borders to keep black and brown people trapped within its confines.

I want us all to feel safe across borderlands. I don’t want to constantly feel like my right to live must rest on the trampled broken backs of other people. I’d like to know for a fact that somewhere, someone isn’t paying the price for laws meant to appease me and products meant to pacify me. But where do we begin? I’m not quite sure but I have to believe that we can imagine our way into another way of being with each other across borders, with interconnection, and humanity, and maybe even love.

 

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