#FreedomNow: Eyes on the Prize
This week, our movement hits the streets for #FreedomNow, two days of nationally coordinated actions calling for a divestment from the policing strategies that have failed us. Nearly 200,000 people have pledged to stand together in this fight.
The events of the last few weeks have changed the conversation about our Movement and we are called to respond.
Millions of people have found purpose, community and even victories through the Movement for Black Lives. At a time when politicians don’t fight for us, laws don’t protect us and many in the media continue to malign us, our movement is our collective love letter to each other. We are called to defend the collective dignity of our families and those who we may never know. This is love in action.
From the UK to South Africa, the push to demand the human rights of Black people has been inspired by the bravery and tenacity of our movement here.
We are changing the very fabric of this country and the conditions of our world. We are putting our bodies on the line for the safety and wellness of our people. We still have so much left to accomplish.
Still, these are troubling times. The deaths of law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge and Dallas have opened up attacks on our movement.
This movement has never called for the execution of law enforcement officers. Never. Still, many want to place the blame at our feet. As those who stand with, or are ourselves, the victims of police violence, we know all too well the deep sense of loss that a community feels when they lose a loved one.
Our movement is about people working together to bring forth the change we want to see everyday. In every community meeting, every door knocked, every march, every act of civil disobedience and every rally, Black people are taking care of one another in the face of brutal police violence. Across the country we take to the streets for our dignity, only to find that police continue to gas us, beat us, arrest us, and in some cases, kill us. And in this movement, we transform into families who are healing the wounds of those whose names we do not know, but whose survival cannot be separated from our own.
And yet, we see great hypocrisy in the attempts to blame this movement for violence against the police. When police are killed, there is public and national mourning, attempts to strengthen laws to ensure their lives. There are convictions of the people who caused their deaths.
But when our lives are taken, there is no such national mourning. As of yet, there are no stronger laws to protect our lives. Less than .01% of police who kill our family members ever face any consequences. While many of us do not see the criminal justice system as a place where redemption and restoration can occur, the fact still remains that 1 million Black people are currently held behind bars for nonviolent offenses, while the great majority of police officers who kill our people never face a single sanction — — instead they receive the sympathy and empathy of our nation.
It’s worth asking — — who stands to gain if elected officials, law enforcement and those in the media succeed in tying these incidents to the hopes and dreams of millions of Black people in this country? Democracy is at risk and we owe it to ourselves to call this out for what it is: an attempt to keep us from winning the dignity we deserve.
We are fighting for a different kind of world, one in which Black folks stand united, in a deep, abiding love for our people. One where our eyes and our hearts are open, and stay open. A world in which we dare to see the humanity in each other, even when we are encouraged to withhold it from one another.
That work is not always easy. We may never know what truly motivated two young Black men who decided to take unilateral action and shoot law enforcement officers. And we won’t participate in gossip or empty speculation.
We do know that, like many Black people, they were veterans who served in our nation’s military. It bears mentioning that this history is a complicated one. For as long as Black folks have served in our nation’s armed forces, they have often returned to find a country that is unwilling to treat them with dignity and respect — in or out of uniform.
While their actions are not aligned with the stated goals of this movement, many in this country share a deep sense of frustration at watching law enforcement continue to kill and abuse with impunity — -and at a political system that refuses to take bold action to stop it.
We too ask who is responsible for this, but more importantly, what will be done to stop it? Our movement did not train these young men to carry out these killings. We have been clearly and consistently focused on ending violence, specifically violence sanctioned by the state — not fueling a continuation of it. That’s not what this movement is designed for, but it is a role played by our U.S. military.
Indeed, there is a clear failure here. But, it does not belong to those whose feet march toward justice. This is a political failure at every level.
What will be done to ensure the emotional and mental health of Black people forced to confront racism each and every day of our lives? Who will be courageous enough keep hospitals, clinics and schools open? For many of us, the impact of racism is simply too much to bear. We must face a harsh reality: every day that elected officials refuse to act, lives are put at risk. They cannot and must not escape accountability and responsibility.
This is not a time for empty calls for healing and forgiveness, political grandstanding and endless commentary. As we know from South Africa, there is no reconciliation without truth. The problem facing our country isn’t the diverse group of people who are concerned and angry about our people being murdered. The problem is that this kind of violence is agreed upon by our elected officials and our representatives, is condoned by our laws and our government, and we know they condone it because they refuse to take action to stop it.
It’s time that our elected officials stop spending endless amounts on policing, when we know that more police with military grade weapons won’t end violence, won’t lift our communities into true safety and won’t bring about the healing they say they care about.
Politicians can give impassioned speeches, but our budgets tell the truth. Across our country, billions are disproportionately spent on failed policing strategies, while our schools are closed, our neighborhoods decline, our homes crumble, our prisons grow and our earning opportunities disappear. Enough.
It is up to our President and elected officials around the country to act. To keep police unions from blocking meaningful progress toward ending this scourge of violence. To shift resources from broken law enforcement strategies into community needs. We deserve safety beyond policing.
Nearly 200,000 people have taken the pledge to stand with The Movement for Black Lives. A movement that is a container for the dreams of millions of people who hope to build a better world for ourselves and for the generations who will come after us. It is in this movement that so many have committed to a different kind of civic duty: to speak up, to take action and to dissent in the face of oppression. We are doing our part, we will continue to do our part, and we need everyone to join the fight.
We are unbowed in this commitment. And we will not stop until freedom. The lives of too many hang in the balance.
The Movement for Black Lives
Signed by the The Movement for Black Lives, Black Lives Matter, Organization for Black Struggle, St. Louis Action Council, Project South, Black Youth Project 100, Blackout Collective, Million Hoodies for Justice, Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI)