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Stop talking and start acting against police violence

How many more Black lives can we watch destroyed without justice? How many more guilty cops can we watch run free? In the candid words of Geneva Reed-Veal, mother of Sandra Bland, the 28-year-old black woman who died while in police custody last year:

“It is time to wake up, get up, step up, or shut up.” ‪

Now is the time for us to mobilize against unjust police practices that are destroying our communities. We need a concrete mechanism to make the police accountable to the people they have failed to serve and protect.

Currently in New York City, victims of police misconduct are directed to the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), an executive body of individuals appointed by the Police Commissioner, the Mayor, and City Council. Given its relationship with the city establishment, the CCRB is notoriously known for being biased and ineffective. Despite the guise of a fair hearing, the Commissioner has ultimate control over what punishment, if any, gets enacted by the CCRB and the board’s rulings cannot be challenged by the public without new evidence or new witnesses. Thus, victims who file grievances with the CCRB, quickly realize it is a dead end.

The system, as it stands, is not designed to protect us, but we can fight for a new one that will. An Elected Civilian Review Board (ECRB) is an elected body made up of everyday people who represent communities most affected by police violence: people of color, young people, LGBT people, people in public housing, etc. When paired with an elected Special Prosecutor, the ECRB has the power to investigate, discipline, and prosecute police misconduct, holding the department en masse accountable for the abuse. We need organizations and concerned community members (like you!) to make the ECRB reality.

JOIN THE CAMPAIGN TO STOP POLICE VIOLENCE IN NYC! 

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Photo by niXerKG /CC 2.0 

 

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Are we witnessing the genocide of Black America?

“Historically, the most terrible things – war, genocide, and slavery – have resulted not from disobedience, but from obedience.” — Howard Zinn

Today, I watched another Black man murdered in cold blood by the morally bankrupt and, quite frankly, moronic street gang we call American law enforcement. Like most Americans, I watched it on national television with some bemused cable news anchor giving a play-by-play of the events as if he were analyzing some ritual sports game. It has certainly come to feel that way. Ritual. The government-sanctioned murder of black people in this country is nothing new – I know that very well – but over the last few years, I have come to realize that it is not something one simply reads about in history books. It is a living breathing thing, an unfortunate reality of being Black in America and having the audacity to be free. The anchor’s tone was dull and distant, signifying precisely how emotionally detached American values are from the war on Black lives. I thought back to the empathy in this same anchor’s voice just a few weeks ago while reporting the death of an endangered gorilla and I marveled at his seeming inability to have the same compassion for another human being. I watched him wrap up his account of the Black man’s murder and interview a panel of correspondents to debate the ethics of criminal homicide. After a few minutes of bickering, the anchor thanked his guests for their comments and moved on to more “ pressing” matters: the presidential election and the circus that is Donald Trump. And so it was. Alton B. Sterling had joined the countless Black Americans whose lives would be remembered in hashtags and T-shirts, but never on America’s mainstage.

Although deeply moved and infuriated by the news of Sterling’s death, I can’t say that I was at all surprised. I have come to associate Blackness in America with living under the threat of one’s mental, spiritual, or physical death at all times. I expect to see breaking news headlines recounting the murder of a Black person. I expect for that Black person to have been murdered by a police officer. I expect that Black person’s name inserted into an endless stream of hashtags and think pieces — for about a week. And then, I expect for that same name to drift into obscurity. I expect it to be buried deep in the graves of history; a sacred place where I suppose all those of the lost tribe of Africa go when slain in the name of white supremacy. Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Rekia Boyd, Alton B. Sterling and as of hours ago, Philando Castile. These are names we evoke in our moments of mourning to somehow commemorate their stolen lives. And yet, no matter how nimble our Twitter fingers, they can’t seem to stop the steady accumulation of names on that list. America’s war against Black lives is arguably at its peak and Black folks have found themselves on the losing end of an age-old battle. We are witnessing the genocide of Black America and it seems there’s is nothing we can do about it.

Race has and continues to be the central organizing concept of American society. So much so, that to be “American” is as synonymous with being white as Beyonce is with perfection. More seriously, whiteness is, and arguably always was, the lens through which American social, political, and economic policy is formed. White supremacy is real, y’all. It is at the heart of every American system. Our education, our history, our freedom, and our lives lay in the hands of these systems. And so long as we allow these systems to exist, Black people will continue to die.

That is, so long as we allow it.

Systems cannot function alone. They do so with the compliance of the people. The people must conform to very specific patterns of behavior in order for a system to sustain itself. There must be some level of obedience, some buying into a system in order for it to persist. And yet, questions of how to dismantle these systems have been overshadowed by a collective fear of what comes after they are gone. No one is quite sure what this utopic future looks like but it is clear: our present system will continue to inflict a wave of terror on Black lives until the last Black breath is drawn.

That is, so long as we allow it.

Photo by torbakhopper / CC 2.0 

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The New Year’s Resolution Every Black Woman Should Make

resizeimageBeing Black in America is no easy feat, but to be Black and a woman is a unique dilemma.

African American women bear the double disadvantage of racism and sexism, making them prime targets for both racial terrorism and gender-based violence

According to a report by The Black Women’s Roundtable, no woman is more likely to be raped, beaten or murdered in America today than a Black woman, a point proven sadly accurate in the legion of tragic headlines in 2015. Whether it was Sandra Bland on a Texas highway or Dajerria Becton at a Texas pool, we were bombarded with images of Black Women as victims of senseless violence this year. And with each reported incident, we experienced the trauma anew, persistently picking at our blistering wounds.

As race and gender bias intersect to threaten the lives (and sanity) of Black women in America, it is more important than ever that we prioritize both our physical and psychological well-being. In 2016, there is one resolution Black Women should definitely make: Self-care.

Here are 5 simple ways to treat yo’self in the new year — as told by Beyonce ;).

MAKE YOUR BODY YOUR TEMPLE

Whether you make a choice to eat right, exercise regularly or prioritize sleep in your schedule, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is crucial to becoming your best self. Your body is your temple. Treat it accordingly.

WORK HARD, PLAY HARDER

Don’t be so consumed with your responsibilities that you forget build a life of your own. Be sure to set aside time to turn up and celebrate your accomplishments regularly. If you’re more of an introvert you might prefer to visit an exhibit you’ve been meaning to see or simply set aside time to read a chapter in a new book. When it comes to self-care, it’s the small things count.

GET CREATIVE

Creative arts can be a mindful way to express yourself and, more importantly, DESTRESS. Start a journal or invest in an adult coloring book, but whatever you do, quit consuming and start creating.  

STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES

It is easy to get distracted with the everyday mayhem of bad news, but it’s important not to let it overwhelm you. Take care to find moments to relax and center yourself. Try meditating or signing up for a community yoga class. And, if you’re feeling really fancy, book an impromptu massage or spa date.

STAY CONNECTED

While self-care is primarily about your personal well-being, you don’t have to go at it alone.   It is essential to maintain connections with the outside world in order to foster a sense of support and belonging. Spend some quality time with your friends and family in the new year. You wont regret it. 

How do you practice self-care in your life? Share your routine in the comments below.

Photo by chandlerchristian /CC BY 2.0

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2015: The Year of Black Erasure

From Maryland to Missouri, Black rage came to a boil in 2015. Reported riots in Baltimore and Ferguson summed up the country’s frustration with the government-sanctioned violence against Black Americans over the course of the year. The cry for justice was loud and boisterous, yet it would do little to stop the assault on Black bodies, Black history, and Black pride.

As if they’d been written in pencil, African Americans watched their lives and legacies scraped at and scratched out this year – our ability to live, to learn, and to love ourselves constantly under siege. 

There’s no doubt about it: Black erasure was REAL in 2015.

Although they represent only 6% of the U.S. population, a Washington Post report found that Black men made up 40% of those shot and killed py police while unarmed this year. One by one we watched the stories of these men unfold in the national media. Names like Walter Scott and Sam Dubose became a part of our dinner table discussions. It seemed like every day were  inundated with images of Black men being hunted and killed and we wondered if our brothers, our fathers or our sons would be next.

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Black women and girls weren’t exempt from the violence. Sandra Bland’s alleged suicide death after a routine traffic stop gone rogue left us with more questions than answers and the viral footage of an officer manhandling a teenage girl at Spring Valley High School left us feeling like there was nowhere safe.

Perhaps we were right.

On June 17, 2015, Dylan Roof opened fire at a historically Black church in South Carolina committing one of the most devastating acts of domestic terrorism to date. 9 people were murdered in their place of worship, simply because the color of their skin.

Perhaps more devastating than the loss of so many Black lives  in 2015, was the realization that the murderers would not be punished. In some cases, they might even be rewarded.

Dylan Roof was treated to a meal at Burger King shortly after his arrest this summer and the NYPD officer who shot Ramarley Graham four years ago received the latest in nearly $25,000 in raises.

It’s obvious: the color of justice was not Black in 2015 and the tumultuous year draws to a close with news that the officer who shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland will not be charged with his murder. While Tamir’s young life was snubbed out before it even started, his killer’s life will continue unscathed.

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Not only were Black lives under attack this year, so was the legacy of slavery. Texas mom Roni Dean-Burren called national attention to the distortion of Black history after her teenage son sent a photo of a textbook referring to enslaved Africans as “workers.” Interpreting the slave trade within the context of immigration, the McGraw Hill text deludes its readers into believing in a false history – one where slavery and, consequently, racism does not exist. As Dean-Burren eloquently put it, “THIS is what erasure looks like.”

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Finally, and perhaps most ridiculously, we witnessed countless attempt to obliterate Black pride in 2015. For merely advocating to protect the lives of African Americans under the law, organizations like Black Lives Matter found themselves under intense scrutiny by conservatives conservatives, often referred to as a “hate group.” 

(It’s worth noting that those same conservatives had very little to say when a group of masked vigilantes, unquestionably motivated by hate, opened fire on PEACEFUL Black Lives Matter protestors in Minnesota.)

Even the most harmless displays of Black pride were policed disproportionately this year with African American families facing criminal charges for cheering on their loved ones at a high school graduation ceremony and  a group of Black teenagers, including a 14-year-old in a bikini, assaulted by police at pool party in McKinney, Texas .

With our newsfeeds overwhelmed with the blues this year, we faced the unfortunate reality that the fight for Black equity and justice is far from over. Sadly, we will carry these moments of defeat with us into 2016, but we cannot afford to abandon the will to overcome them. In the words of a  Black soldier who has seen far more battles in this ceaseless war, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”  

Happy New Year.

Photo by Vox Efx/CC BY 2.0