In my home city of Portland, Oregon, most big box retailers are still boarded up in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. Many wooden boards that either hide broken glass or act as a precautionary measure are decorated with slogans borrowed from the current movement. In the heart of Portland’s downtown something different has materialized. Art.
Remember Spike Lee’s 1989 film, Do The Right Thing?The film explores racial tensions in a Brooklyn neighborhood. The film ends with a violent fight between neighbors and a police intervention where a Black man is put in a deadly chokehold in the middle of the street. A riot ensues, Black and white cultural markers are destroyed. From there, the community is forced to enter a space of reconstruction and reconciliation.
Through destruction, change can be actualized, and reconciliation and beauty can be born.
At Pioneer Place, Portland’s upscale mall, storefronts like Louis Vuitton, Apple and Gucci were destroyed and are subsequently boarded up to cover damage. Local artists painted those wooden boards black and started murals as memorials to George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and Black Lives Matter movement. Brand names that signify wealth and affluence now give homage to lives lost.
When I visited, last week, I saw artists adding to the memorial, supporters holding “Black Lives Matter” signs, parents shepherding their young children to admire the art and to discuss its significance, and many people of all colors and backgrounds kneeling in prayer.
The scene was a utopic, it felt the end of all of our favorite movies and stories, there was proper mourning, celebration and gathering of community. When we consider classic definitions of a utopia in science fiction, they are symbols that nothing is perfect, that there is always something more complex beneath the surface.
Similarly, today beyond the protests, beyond the uproar on social media and cable news reel there is deep societal inequality. In 2019, there were only 27 days where police did not kill any Americans, and out of those deaths 24% of them Black Americans, a disproportionately high number considering that Blacks represent 13% of U.S. population. Out of those police killings of Black people, Black women and trans persons remain in after thought or on the margins of the dialogue. It requires all hands-on deck to flip the script. If you are wondering where to begin, here are 10 ways we can all continue to take action beyond the moment.
Call the Louisville Commonwealth’s Attorney, Tom Wine’s office: (502) 595-2300
Call Louisville Mayor’s office: (503) 574-2003
Call Kentucky Governor Beshear’s office: (502) 696-5300
Call Kentucky Senator Rand Paul office: (202) 224-4343 & (270) 782-8303
Call Kentucky Representative John Yarmuth office: (202) 225-5401
To demand that Breonna Taylor’s killers are fired, charged and brought to justice. Breonna Taylor was an EMT with aspirations to be a nurse. In March, Louisville, Ky., police officers killed her after they served a no-knock warrant in plain clothes after midnight. They were met with gunfire by her boyfriend, who was startled by the intruders. Investigations are ongoing, but no charges have been brought against the officers. Last week Louisville police released a nearly blank incident report. It is clear justice won’t be served from an internal investigation or review.
Watch Jane Elliott’s Brown Eye Blue Eye experiment. Jane Elliott is an anti-racist educator and civil rights activist. Her work started while teaching in her third-grade class in Iowa in response the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The exercise labels participants as inferior or superior based solely upon the color of their eyes and exposes them to the experience of being a person of color.
13th documentary by director Ava DuVernay on Netflix. The film explores race, justice and mass incarceration in the United States. DuVernay’s thesis is that U.S. Constitution’s Thirteenth Amendment did not fully abolish slavery and involuntary servitude. Instead the practice has continued through suppressive legal codes like Jim Crow and War on Drugs.
Donate to the National Bail Out Fund, a Black-led and Black-centered collective of abolitionist organizers, lawyers, and activist building a community-based movement to support people and end systems of mass incarceration, or civil rights organizations like NAACP, Southern Poverty Law Center.
Why not the ACLU? The ACLU provides legal services and support for a broad range of people with civil rights complaints. Yet still, the organization has a responsibility to represent all political affiliations including alt-right and other white supremacists organization which work against the Black Lives Matter movement.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
The Color of Money Black Banks and The Racial Wealth Gap by Mehrsa Baradaran
Me and White Supremacy Layla F. Saad
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Protests are an effective means of civil disobedience and are a fundamental to the health of democratic society. More often than not, protests represent legitimate frustration. Protest, especially those related to decades long failure and human rights deserve our respect.
Here’s how to protest safely:
- Wear nondescript clothing
- For community health, wear a face mask and gloves. Be socially distant if possible.
- Tie your hair up.
- Bring water, snacks, ear plugs, hand sanitizer, ID card and protest signs.
- Don’t bring contact lenses and jewelry.
Make a conscious effort to support, buy from and sponsor Black businesses. Revisit the Times of Entrepreneurship piece, Now Is The Time To Buy Black.
Raise children from a young age to be socially aware and politically conscious. Teach them to embrace conversations on race, gender, ability and LGBTQIA+ issues.
Resources like the following are a good place to star for conversations on race:
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison (for young children)
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (for high school)
Sulwe by Lupito Nyong’o (for young children)
Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X by Ilyasah Shabazz (for young children)
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (for middle and high school)
Sesame Street Town Hall on Racism (for young children)
Be sure to purchase from your local bookstore or a Black-owned bookstore. Times of Entrepreneurship recently shared a few based in Washington, D.C. here.
As President Barack Obama’s June 1st statement read, “aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices – and in a democracy that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands.” Our race, gender, education, income, geography, religion and abilities, all shape how people interact with the world. For elected officials, these explicit and implicit biases impact how politicians interpret the law and their influences policy. Our elected officials matter.
Initiate an uncomfortable conversation with someone in your network – if the conversation is difficulty it is likely the one worth having. This point is perhaps the most important. It is the people we chose to be around who have the most influence on how we think and act. Lasting change, which impacts the heart and mind rarely takes place in the public sphere, it happens in the home, in our networks. It is up to each of us to keep the conversation going beyond the moment.