Upcoming #BlackLivesMatter events

#BlackLivesMatter, Hands Up Don't Shoot, Standing with FergusonSolid Ground is committed to supporting the ongoing anti-racism struggle to end police violence against communities of color. From Ferguson to New York to Seattle, we support the call that #BlackLivesMatter, and for justice for Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and the many other African Americans who are killed every 28 hours by law enforcement.

This fall, Solid Ground staff formed a Ferguson Solidarity Committee, and we have already raised over $1,000 to support grassroots community organizations fighting police brutality in Ferguson. Our committee decided this week to compile a weekly list of #BlackLivesMatter events in Seattle and distribute it to encourage our staff, volunteers, clients, donors and supporters to get involved in the local movement to end the epidemic of police violence against African Americans. Here are the #BlackLivesMatter events that we have heard about in Seattle this week; please let us know if you hear of any other events that we should add to this list.

Stop Police Brutality: Time to Build a Mass Movement

Date: Wednesday 12/17
Time: 7:30 pm
Location: Africatown Center, 3100 S Alaska St, Seattle, WA 98108
Description: Since Officers Darren Wilson, Daniel Pantaleo and Adley Shepherd were not indicted, protests have erupted against the violence regularly inflicted on black communities by police. The anger, grief and desire for a better world are palpable among young people and communities of color. We need to build these protests into a sustained mass movement strong enough to pressure elected representatives to address the racist police violence and brutal economic inequality experienced by people of color and working-class people every day.

What are the most effective tactics at our protests? What concrete demands should we and City Councilmember Sawant fight for together? How can we uproot the underlying system that breeds police brutality, institutionalized racism and inequality?
Bring friends and add your voice to this important discussion!

Speakers:
– Sheley Seacrest, NAACP Seattle leader
– Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant
– Devan Rogers, Youth Undoing Institutional Racism (YUIR) and Ending the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC)
– Celia Berk, Youth Undoing Institutional Racism (YUIR) and Ending the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC)
– Dr. Will Washington, activist against community violence

Healing Justice for Black Lives Matter Thursday

On Thursday, December 18, radical healers from across North America and beyond will donate funds raised from our services to the Black Lives Matter Ferguson Bail and Support Fund. Together, we will send the movement a huge donation for Winter Solstice, feeding the Black Queer Feminist Movement that is dreaming freedom into being right now. Join the Healing Justice effort to raise funds from healing services for the Black Lives Matter Ferguson Bail and Support Fund on December 18.

Visioning Creative Resistance: A Call & Response to Black & POC Artists Everywhere

Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014 at Velocity Dance Center, 1621 12th Ave, Suite 100, Seattle, WA 98122

Why a healing and visioning event? Healing because the reality we live in is traumatizing. Healing, because we have a right to be whole despite our collective circumstance and the power in our hands to be wholly healthy human beings. Healing, because we need to be wholly healthy human beings to envision the kind of world we want to be responsible for creating. Healing, because the vision of the world we want to be responsible for creating should be born out of our highest selves, not just out of a response to our oppression. Visioning, because we are wholly powerful and creative beings. To imagine and create a world that nurtures us is our birthright.

Call For Black/POC Artists & Community support of #blacklivesmatter #blackfriday & #shutitdown: You are invited to become part of this. Live Art, poetry/spoken word, music, art exhibit/projections, DJ/hiphop, dance, Youth Speakout, Speakers Corner, reiki, video/film/photography & & &. This is a community event, $5 – 25 donation at the door (no one turned away for lack of funds). Funds raised will be donated to Hands Up United. All are welcomed to attend and dialogue.

For more information on the #BlackLivesMatter movement, please check out the BlackLivesMatter website.

Standing with Ferguson

This post was published in print in the Big Picture News insert to Solid Ground’s November 2014 Groundviews newsletter and online on our website.

Gordon McHenry, Jr. with his son Austin in Olympia, WA on MLK Day 2014

Gordon McHenry, Jr. with his son Austin in Olympia, WA on MLK Day 2014

Michael Brown’s death at the hands of a white policeman in Ferguson, MO on August 9, 2014 wasn’t really an unusual event. Black men (and women, adolescents and children) have been subject to violent discriminatory police practices throughout our nation’s history.

Despite the rage and fear felt by participants, the response of the citizens of Ferguson to stand up to this police brutality has been unusual and noteworthy for its display of courage, organizing brilliance, peaceful protests and perseverance.

Solid Ground stands firmly behind the people of Ferguson and those organizing around our country to end police brutality and bring equity to our justice system.

We have a legacy of working in the community and with the Seattle Police Department to deescalate tensions in communities of color. And while we lost funding to continue this work through the JustServe AmeriCorps program a few years ago, we remain focused on the importance of continuing to counter institutional racism playing out in our current policing environment.

For white folks, it might be impossible to imagine how blacks in this country react in the presence of police because of the way we are daily profiled. Even now, as a black man working in a position of leadership and authority – a trained attorney who lives squarely in the privileges of education, class and status – I find myself reacting to the police with a deeply emotional response of apprehension and anxiety. They are a source of conflict or even danger to me and my family, rather than a source of support/resources. This is not a rational response; it wells up from deep inside, buoyed by generational trauma and reinforced by the experience of black people throughout our history.

As a father, I grieve for having to pass this trauma on to my children.

And so, sadly, Michael Brown’s death could almost have been expected. Another day, another black man gunned down. We remember a handful of their names and stories, but just a handful. Remarkably, Michael Brown’s death has outlasted our myopic news cycle and continues to serve as a rallying point for people organizing against police brutality.

It’s important that organizations like Solid Ground continue to shine a light exposing police brutality wherever it occurs.

Ferguson is a place we’re seeing on television, but the reality is Ferguson is a state of mind, and minds can be changed if they’re informed.

October 22 was a National Day of Action Against Police Brutality, which Solid Ground endorsed and participated in. I am hopeful that this kind of public protest can be a catalyst for meaningful change in our community.

Solid Ground stewards a neighborhood of people living in our housing at Sand Point, who are working hard to lift themselves out of homelessness and poverty. The young people there, whether of color or not, are brilliant, compassionate and inspirational. They are the antidote to the prevailing stereotype of black youth and youth of color as “dangerous thugs.”

Solid Ground is committed to understanding and countering racism, because we know that racism is a root cause of poverty.

Undoing racism is a key to unlocking the door to some particular forms and patterns of poverty established during the earliest history of this country when people of specific racial groups were identified as commodities (e.g., African slaves, Chinese railroad workers, Native Americans and others). Our institutions haven’t changed much over the years – and they are still structured in a way that excludes women and people of color.

But equal justice should exclude no one. The people of Ferguson and many other communities are staking their lives on it. People of Seattle: Let us join them!

Join us in national action against police brutality

Ferguson actionSolid Ground stands firmly behind the people of Ferguson, MO and those organizing around our country to end police brutality and bring equity to our justice system. We have a legacy of working in the community and with the Seattle Police Department to deescalate tensions in communities of color. And while we lost funding to continue this work through the JustServe AmeriCorps program a few years ago, we remain focused on the importance of continuing to counter institutional racism playing out in our current policing environment.

Therefore, Solid Ground is endorsing and will have a presence at the National Day of Action Against Police Brutality this Wednesday, October 22. I encourage members of our Solid Ground community to attend the Seattle action, which is being held at 5pm at Seattle Central College (1701 Broadway Ave).

Visit the Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression & the Criminalization of a Generation Facebook page for more information on the protest in Seattle.

Aftermath of Ferguson sheds light on racist bias

Clay Smith

Clay Smith

Editor’s Note: The shooting of an unarmed black teen, Michael Brown, by a white police officer in Ferguson, MO – and the reactions that racist act generated across the county – have been the subject of important conversations among Solid Ground staff and others committed to calling out and undoing institutional racism. Here Clay Smith, Case Manager at our Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney Place, weighs in on how racist perceptions of black youth are barriers to justice. Please post your thoughts in the comments section that follows.

I was awake early this morning and came across this article on the Huffington Post: Grand Jury In Ferguson Shooting Investigated For Misconduct. It started me thinking about the discussions I’ve been having with white friends of mine, and about perceptions of minorities generally. Here’s the tweet that’s causing some real concern that “justice” is once more going to be denied:

Screen shoot of tweets

Screen shoot of tweets

Some people I’ve had some rather heated discussions about this case with seem oblivious to the idea that shooting an unarmed teen should be scrutinized to the highest degree. It’s as if they can’t see every person should be given the benefit of the doubt before deadly force is used. I’d almost term this as a racial “blind spot,” where perfectly reasonable people suspend all logic to excuse terrible policing. This idea that because the police act, that somehow they must have been justified regardless of how ludicrous the situation may be. It started me thinking about how our young men and boys are perceived by some non-blacks: Black Boys Viewed as Older, Less Innocent Than Whites, Research Finds. From the article:

Children in most societies are considered to be in a distinct group with characteristics such as innocence and the need for protection. Our research found that black boys can be seen as responsible for their actions at an age when white boys still benefit from the assumption that children are essentially innocent.” ~Phillip Atiba Goff, PhD, University of California, Los Angeles

I think it’s more than probable that some of the white jurors in this grand jury stand very firmly with Officer Wilson. Also from the article:

Researchers tested 176 police officers, mostly white males, average age 37, in large urban areas, to determine their levels of two distinct types of bias – prejudice and unconscious dehumanization of black people by comparing them to apes. To test for prejudice, researchers had officers complete a widely used psychological questionnaire with statements such as ‘It is likely that blacks will bring violence to neighborhoods when they move in.’ To determine officers’ dehumanization of blacks, the researchers gave them a psychological task in which they paired blacks and whites with large cats, such as lions, or with apes. Researchers reviewed police officers’ personnel records to determine use of force while on duty and found that those who dehumanized blacks were more likely to have used force against a black child in custody than officers who did not dehumanize blacks. The study described use of force as takedown or wrist lock; kicking or punching; striking with a blunt object; using a police dog, restraints or hobbling; or using tear gas, electric shock or killing. Only dehumanization and not police officers’ prejudice against blacks – conscious or not – was linked to violent encounters with black children in custody, according to the study.”

I shudder to think that there are armed officers out there that see blacks as something less than human, therefore react accordingly. But I think we are coming to a point where people can no longer excuse these types of behaviors because they are patently lacking empathy and understanding of the community. The exception: The Story Behind A Shocking Dash Cam Video That Landed An Officer In Jail.

When the decision is made to send a white cop into a neighborhood he or she is not part of with little to no training on the population, incidents like the one in Ferguson will continue to happen. It’s just very bad policing to send people into situations that will put them and the population they serve at risk. But in the end, I don’t think the grand jury will be able to see Michael Brown as a human being; that isn’t a leap some are prepared to make.

Just sayin’….

Clay

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