Call to Action in Response to Police Brutality and Uprisings Across the Country - Be A Witness And Then Do Something!
June 04, 2020
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
This past week has opened so many wounds for all of us. I must say it was difficult for me to watch the cruelty and vicious treatment of one man from someone who took an oath to protect and serve. George Floyd’s treatment was cruel and unjust. There is no excuse.
It is one thing to see historical images of a lynching, or dogs and fire hoses directed at protesters in during the 1960 civil unrest, but to know that police atrocities are still occurring today is maddening. I was living in California during the 1992 Rodney King, Los Angeles Riot. I witnessed the burning and looting; it was devastating for the people and those communities are still trying to rebuild after thirty years. Then again I again witnessed a city in chaos as the result of police brutality here in Baltimore after Freddie Gray’s death. If you are counting, it’s like every thirty years we pull the curtain back to witness the ugliness of racism in this country. 400 years of oppression and institutional racism is coming to a head, there’s no way to describe the pain and suffering of losing a loved one to violence. Yet every day we (Black people) are faced with not knowing who will be next. There should be no next time! It has to stop, NOW!
Heritage Areas and our partners are charged with recording our history. We document the past for the future generations. Most of us are doing a great job at documenting and educating, but I have to be honest, eradicating racism and changing the systems that oppress Blacks and other people of color is not scholarly work, it’s emotional and compassionate work. History has recorded over and over again that change is needed, but that hasn’t made a bit of difference. We can document all we want, but until we start doing and acting we will be at this place again!
To my dear White friends, I’d like to share these words which were posted on Facebook. A friend’s 18-year-old daughter was preparing to go to a protest this week. These were the instructions she shared with her White child:
I saw a lot and I learned a lot this weekend. If you are a white person considering joining a protest this week, here are some rules. Friends of color, if I have forgotten anything, please add.
FOLLOW CALLS ONLY. Do not initiate or lead calls. Your job is to follow and add your voice when it is called for.
DO NOT TAKE SELFIES. Ask to take pictures or videos of individuals. You are there to witness only. Film the police as much as possible. Your goal is documentation to ensure that the true narrative is told.
BE HELPFUL. Hand out water and snacks. Make sure protest leaders are hydrated and fed. This is exhausting work, help keep their energy up.
FOLLOW DIRECTIONS. If a black person tells you to do something, you do it immediately without question. You respect the authority and the decisions of the black protesters at all times.
STAY IN THE BACK UNTIL YOU ARE CALLED FORWARD. If you hear “White people to the front” or “Allies to the front” step forward and link arms with other white people to form a human shield.
WHEN YOU ARE AT THE FRONT, YOU ARE SILENT. Your job is to be a body. You are there to support only. The only voices on the police line should be black voices.
REMAIN CALM AT ALL TIMES. This is difficult. You will be emotional, and your system will be flooded with adrenaline. Remember this is life and death for the protesters. Save your emotions for home. DO NOT AGITATE.
This is not a game. Joining a protest is a serious decision. Make sure you are there for the right reason. Support the safety of black protesters at all times.
If you are truly interested in doing the emotional work, I strongly suggest the books and programs at the end of this message for enhancing understanding, changing your views and opening your heart. This is definitely hard work and all won’t have the stomach for it. When you become discouraged, think of all those black bodies from slavery to now that too were discouraged and somehow endured. We will all make it through this with collective effort and action.
Stay safe, be well and Peace!
Shauntee Daniels, Executive Director, BNHA
- How To Be An Antiracist by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi
- Your Silence Will Not Protect You by Audre Lorde
- So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
- White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo, PhD
- Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon
- Code Switch (NPR)
- 1619 (New York Times)
- Pod Save the People (Crooked Media)
- About Race
- Momentum: A Race Forward Podcast
- 13th (Ava DuVernay) — Netflix
- American Son (Kenny Leon) — Netflix
- If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins) — Hulu
- The Hate U Give (George Tillman Jr.) — Hulu with Cinemax
- Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler) — Available to Rent