Left, sentiments of former (Louisvil
le, KY) District 1 Councilwoman Denise Bentley.
Here’s the response of the local #BlackLivesMatter Activists. (Not authored by me personally, a collective effort among BLM activists.)
You asked a few questions of the local #BlackLivesMatter movement on Facebook and we were looking forward to answering them for you, but the way your profile is set up, we can only read but not respond to what you wrote to us. A few of us sent you friend requests so that we could comment on your status and answer your queries but it seems you’ve declined our invitations to engage. So now we have a question for you: Do you desire a sincere dialogue among different-minded black people who genuinely care about this community or do you simply seek to posture in the politics of respectability by asking rhetorical, one sided questions on Facebook to an audience of your friends without a response or engagement from those of us in the BLM movement that you’ve called to the carpet? We’d love to explain to you and other black folks who’ve jumped on the #AllLivesMatter bandwagon all about what the BLM movement represents. We are sure that once you all know us better you’ll find that we share many fundamental beliefs and common goals despite any generational or tactical differences.
Our group meets every Sunday at 3pm, usually at the Carl Braden Memorial Center. Our meetings are pretty casual and open to everyone. We usually have free food and our space is kid-friendly. We’ve been happy to host political candidates, elected officials, law enforcement officers, Human Rights Commissioners and other local decision makers over the last year and we’d love to host you and your friends for a dialogue. We hope you all can stop by some Sunday soon.
If in fact you are not interested in a mutual exchange and challenging of ideas like the ones you raised in your Facebook post, well then it feels to us that you just want to further propagate the divisive misinformation that prevents the development of a more broad-based coalition of unified and organized black activists and organizations across lines of difference.
We will give you the benefit of the doubt and take this time to address some of your questions and concerns about the BLM Movement. Rutgers University Professor Dr. Brittney Cooper answers some of the questions you pose in her September 2015 essay “11 Major Misconceptions About the Black Lives Matter Movement” on Cosmopolitian.com. The mostly-white readership of Cosmo Magazine seems to be the perfect audience for such an essay, as the majority of pushback that BLM activists and supporters have received has been from white people who are ill-informed – or who are flat out racist. Do you know that the racist #AllLivesMatter hashtag was created by white people as a direct response and counter-point to the notion that black and brown people deserve a quality of life equal to that of white people? It isn’t uttered as a more diverse or expansive concern for human lives, it’s uttered as a rebuttal of the notion that black lives matter.
As author David Bedrick surmises in his essay Huffington Post essay “What’s the Matter with ‘All Lives Matter,’” ‘asserting that all lives matter in response to black folks declaring that black lives matter, turns our eyes away from acknowledging America’s racist past, functioning as a form of dismissal or denial. Through the constitution, slavery and Jim Crow laws, America stood for the belief that some lives were more human, more worthy — that some live mattered more…America codified in its constitution…the notion that a black life was only considered to be 3/5ths of a white life. If we stop highlighting and focusing on black lives, but instead focus more globally and generally on all lives, then we become complicit in not seeing color as a factor in American life. Putting it simply, if we erase race, we won’t see racism.’
As to your specific assertion that BLM doesn’t care about so-called “black on black crime:” The majority of crime in this nation is, in fact, intraracial, meaning that both the perpetrator and the victim of a crime are within the same racial group. Dr. Cooper reports that 93% of black murder victims are killed by other black people and 84% of white murder victims are killed by other white people. She notes, “the continued focus on black-on-black crime is a diversionary tactic, whose goal is to suggest that black people don’t have the right to be outraged about police violence in vulnerable black communities, because those communities have a crime problem. The Black Lives Matter movement acknowledges the crime problem, but it refuses to locate that crime problem as a problem of black pathology. Black people are not inherently more violent or more prone to crime than other groups. But black people are disproportionately poorer, more likely to be targeted by police and arrested, and more likely to attend poor or failing schools. All of these social indicators place one at greater risk for being either a victim or a perpetrator of violent crime. To reduce violent crime, we must fight to change systems, rather than demonizing people.” Simply put, we refuse to shift the blame of inner city problems squarely and exclusively onto the backs of black folks.
You asked, “BLM, why not stop and block traffic on the killer’s street?”
Our hearts ache and break like anyone else’s when a black life is lost at the hands of another black person. The reason we don’t shut down streets in the hood is because it is apparent to us that the majority of black people in our black neighborhoods understand that there is a problem, both internal and external to black communities. What we seek to do is disrupt business as usual. From our actions in shopping malls (where we chant things like “No Justice, No Profit”) and public festivals, to shutting down streets and occupying offices, we are inserting ourselves and our message of #blacklivesmatter into places where our message is not usually wanted, welcomed or well-received.
It may not make sense to you, but disruptive civil disobedience and direct action have long been a tactic of the movement toward black liberation. According to KET, members of Louisville’s Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church organized Kentucky’s first protests of racial discrimination in 1870 – challenging segregation on streetcars. This protest sparked other actions demanding the right to testify in court against whites, the right to serve on juries (which is exactly what we are fighting for 145 years later), and the right to vote. In 1941, Louisvillians staged sit-ins to protest a segregated library. In, 1959, the Louisville NAACP Youth Council picketed the Brown Theater because its management refused to admit black patrons to see Porgy and Bess. It was 1960 when young folks in Louisville formed a chapter of CORE and held protests at downtown businesses. And many Louisvillians know of the “Nothing New for Easter” boycott in 1961 that targeted segregated businesses in downtown Louisville and sparked other acts of nonviolent resistance around the state. In other words, whether you call it a sit-in, an occupation or a #shutdown, the notion of disrupting business as usual has a long history in this nation and in this state and has always been a crucial and necessary tool in the fight for black equality.
We affirm that all black lives matter. Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression. The BLM movement has some guiding principles that we can all get behind, including: Diversity, Black Villages, Restorative Justice, Collective Value and Intergenerational. You can find more principles at www.blacklivesmatter.com
While thoughtful critique and critical examination of BLM by our fellow activists is always welcome, it is both counterproductive and destructive to our collective work to dismiss our respective work as invaluable or insincere because our tactics differ from yours or because the places we apply pressure are different than the places where you push. Just as black people are not a monolith, we don’t all have to focus on the same issue at the same time. It’s precisely the opposite, in fact. Our collective liberation requires a diversity of ideas, viewpoints and priorities.
Here’s a little more about us and what we do. When we don’t agree with a public official on an issue, we bring them to our table. We’ll also go to their office if they are unwilling to come to ours – and we don’t make appointments. We are consistent in what we do. Stand Up Sunday is held every Sunday and is open to the public. We are present at community events. We attend Metro Council meetings and committee hearings. We have been active in campaigns ranging from No Methane to Raising the Minimum Wage. We are Affordable Housing advocates and we have lobbied JCPS to close the achievement gap.
In 2015, we produced the Louisville Juneteenth Festival, returning such a festival to our city for the first time in many years. We host a monthly “Feed Your Mind” event at the Catholic Enrichment Center in West Louisville to promote literacy, family and community, where we serve free brunch and provide free books for all ages and host a discussion about the current movement for black liberation. We recently sponsored a workshop for Project Warm to give folks free weatherization supplies and teach them how to make their homes warmer and more comfortable this winter.
We nurture strong leaders who work in a variety of fields including healthcare, social services, therapy, media and education. We have a broad network of individuals, businesses and organizations that believe in us and support our work. We believe in the power of new media and we invest our energy into telling our own stories through social media platforms, photographs, community radio and podcasts.
Despite your insinuation, for us it’s not about media attention because much of what we do goes unnoticed and untelevised, as evidenced by your own ignorance to our work. We must all understand that we can’t rely on mainstream media to tell our stories. There have been numerous walks, rallies and candlelight vigils, both for specific victims and for a general end to community violence. One of our partners is the LoUnity Movement. Just because media doesn’t deem it worthy of reporting doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. If you feel that something somewhere is lacking, you should work to fill in the gaps, not criticize those of us who are already working in gaps of our own.
Please consider that we are literally putting our lives and our livelihoods on the line, only to be told by other black folks that we aren’t doing enough. And many of the folks signifying such remarks are folks who’ve literally done nothing themselves. Nonetheless, we will carry on toward our collective liberation, using as a guide these words that we learned from Assata Shakur:
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
Stand Up Sunday – Stand Up Louisville on behalf of Louisville’s #BLM activists
The 502 Crew
Women In Transition (WIT)
Kentucky Health Justice Network
Edjukated Rebel Productions
Louisville Showing Up for Racial Justice (LSURJ)
Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression
Black Queer Louisville
Diversity At The Table (DATT)
Khalilah Veneable Collins