Black Liberation and White Anti-Racism in the Time of Ferguson

Catalyst Project presents:

Black Liberation and White Anti-Racism in the Time of Ferguson

For those who can’t make it in person, we’ll be livestreaming here. We will also post video on our website as soon as it’s ready. This event will focus on white people taking anti-racist action, but all are welcom

**We will only be live transcribing the panel, and not the breakout groups.**

Speakers on the panel:

Live captioning below.

Key:

I– Isaac Lev Szmonko, Moderator

P–Phil Hutchings

A-Alicia Garza

K-Kamau Walton

R-Robbie Clark

5:20

I: today black led movements are once again capturing the minds of millions of americans and we must respond.

We are here today as one small part of that response. Thank you for joining us. we are ecited to be here with you and all of you who are watching online. nOW WE will go to the panel.

All: Goodevening. Introductions.

i think we should switch off by person. then the other computer edits

I: so phil we’d like to start with you this evening. you’ve been involved in many decades of the civil rights movement. can you speak to some of your involvement with SNCC

P: I’m looking out into the audience and i want to say that this is awesome. so there are many differences and similarities between today and the 1960s. but a lot of the similarities are not well known. we had to learn them through time….

the terminology was not there. three main things I wanted to say during this presentation. 1. SNCC came up quickly. mostly students, black students, some white students. tremendous amounts of non-stop activity. we got together in 1960 and decided we needed a coordinating org. thats the coordinating part of our name. But our firstname was the Temporary Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. eventually we dropped the temporary part. there was a point around 61 and 62 where we had to pause and say what are we doing./ there was a debate between institutions about voting rights and other issues. what was the criteria for making that decision? what was our goal? to end jim crow segregation in the south. second question: who are we responsible to? for SNCC we decided it was grassroots black people in North Carolina, Mississippi. in mississippi people said we want the power to vote, to elect officials. as someone who was supportive of occupy oakland. I’m not sure occupy oakland made those decisions they didn’t have a sense of who they were accountable to. i use the example of sncc because its not that what we have is the be all end all. but those are two key questions that every movement has to confront in someway to have accountability and build a base.

The second point is there has been a passing of the guard in the Black Liberation Movement. and even though we have those old dinosaurs like naacp and al sharpton, the basis of a new leadership is being formed. I personally became more aware of this a few months ago at soul size and alicia gave a report on her trip out to Ferguson. How were they going to show solidarity, how they were going to build, how were they going to put local leaders in the spotlight–but also how to make this other Fergusons around the country and how to take this to scale. We’re looking at the future leadership of the black movement. This is it.

Because in some ways they are the ones in the streets they are the ones getting shot at. They are the ones making history, that’s where real leadership comes from. The last point I want to say is really a challenge. SNCC people, people like me. The generation of today, the ones seated in the room, today right now. You’re going to have to do better than we did. The challenges are much greater today, Fascism is possibly on the agenda. The war on black america has been underreported.

You’re going to have challenges that we never had. and like our Native American brothers say, you’re going to have to have a long reach. not only are you standing on our shoulders. you’re going to have to look generations down. whose shoulders are they standing on? they are going to be yours.

Alicia:

I’m really excited to be here. It was overwhelming to see a line down the block. Thank you for taking the time. My name is Alicia Garza, I’m one of the cofounders of black lives matter. I’m also the special projects director for the Domestic Worker’s Alliance. I wanted to start talking about the context and history of black lives matter. Many of you may have seen it in recent months all over the world now. Black Lives Matter was a project started in 2013 after George Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder of Trayvon Martin. What we were seeing was one of the newest instances of how policing operates in black communities and we were also seeing a real manifestation of how black lives do not matter in this country. We started it as a call to black folks because what we were seeing after George Zimmerman was a lot of resignation. We were seeing people say things like, “we knew a white person was never going to be convicted of the murder of a black child. why were we surprised?” we said that’s not pok. any time a life is taken, we should be anguished and not stand by and say its ok. It was a way for us to rehumanize black people in a world that has targeted us for destruction. we also want to include more people in the conversation. Boys and men of color are also who we’re talking about. But we know that men and boy of color are NOT the only people targeted by state violence. the struggle we are in right now is bigger than police brutality. Its about state violence. We BLM as a tactic. For people to come together to conspire and strategize about how all of us will get free. But to do that we need to understand the root of the problem. The roots of the problem is anti black racism. We are not just talking about black boys. Black women and girls. Black trans folks, black gender queer, black incarcerated people, black formerly incarcerated, poor black lives. All black lives. It must be in the image of who black people are. Complex diverse, brilliant, resilient. And its time for us to lead.

I also want to say that I’ve seen a lot of dialogue about the impact of social media. I want to say that its a vehicle but its not the only thing that we use. It’s a way to connect us but we believe very deeply in REAL TIME relationships. An article recently described us as internet activists and I beg to differ. We are organizers. And organizing is all about relationships. The work that we do is not just online. Patrice is doing incredible organizing in LA. OT’s work is visualizing black immigrants in a country that keeps us in the shadows. When you are black and immigrant in this country you are still black. For myself my work is organizing black families in the diaspora. And we do all this for a world in which black lives matter.

Often times in the media we hear all this data about police violence. But what’s also state violence is black women and children being used as negotiating tools in times of war. There are have been dozens of murders of black trans people and they haven’t made the news. So we are challenging you and ourselves to broaden our understanding of state violence. This project was done on the heels of the black freedom movement that started here in this country. a project that is not over.

There has been a lot of talk about why we don’t say all lives matter. We are buildling towards that world but we are not there. the easiest way for me to say it is if we really believe that all lives matter, then you will fight like hell right now for black lives. As I close I want to say more about why this has taken off across the world. It’s powerful. I’ve gotten photos from Syria, Alaska, Hawaii, from Palestine, from South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, all of the world. BLM is resonating because black lives have been forgotten, have been pushed to the side, have been conveniently absorbed into this question of social justice without paying attention to the particular conditions that black communities face. When we do that, what we do is erase black people from our visions of liberation. It’s ok that we don’t all have the same experiences, it doesn’t devalue yours but it doesn’t devalue mine. But when we don’t acknowledge that there are differences, we don’t do each other any favors. What we have to do is really understand. Why is that? what’s behind that. Who do we take the complexity of who we are and build a strategy from that complexity, not from our sameness.

So yes it is our job to advance what our ancestors and elders so graciously and courageously and boldly fought for in our name. Our next step, and the challenge for you, is to continue to defect from a system that does not value our lives. So yes indeed we are looking to recruit you for a movement because that is what time it is. People want to ask what’s next. No no no. What’s now. People are risking their lives all around the country. There are chapters all around the country that are self organizing that are fighting back. It’s our job and your job to build support for a liberation movement that is growing in this country. Our job and your job to make sure we don’t have narrow conversations about tactics and approach. There is room for everything. What we need to make sure is that we have a level of accountability to each other. That we are being strategic. And that honestly we are following the leadership of black communities that are putting their lives on the line to fight for our collective liberation. So I think that’s it I’ll close there, thank you.

R: My name is Robbie Clarke and I work with Causa Justa (Just Cause). (applause.) Telling by the applause you all know what we do. We do a lot of work fighting against gentrification/more recently I’ve been working with Blackout Collective and we were involved in the shut down of the West Oakland Bart station. And I wanted to talk about the significance of that action and talk about the significance of and expanding on the idea of state violence and getting into systemically the ways that state violence, the ways that those policies are against the survival of black people. its really about strategic direct action to interrupt business as usual. The way that business as usual happen across the nation is GENTRIFICATION. That word encapsulated that. The signifigance of talking about that in this moment as it relates to Ferguson. As you know we are in the Bay Area and the Bay Area and Oakland specifically are some of the highest ranked cities for gentrification. And st louis is 16th. In 1990 in Ferguson specifically you have 25% black population. The population was 74% white. In 2010 that flipped. So you’re seeing twenty years later that change in Ferguson. At that same time you saw the reverse in St. Louis you saw the white population doubling there–similar to here. It really begs the question what is it that is happening and cause that type of drop to happen. How did we get to that point that created that condition and those conditions here in Oakland as well. And so one thing that is really disheartening in a lot of ways is that looking at gentrification and looking at policies there is a similar formula that is exercised in every city guided by neoliberal ideology increase on state relying on private sector for basic needs. 93 billion cut from WIC recently. Thats state violence. When you have an economy where wages have been stagnant and decreasing and you set up safety net’ for those who don’t have economic access and then you cut that off you are basically saying I don’t want you to survive. If you survive on public housing, the government stops putting money into that in 1979, they don’t want you to survive. We really have to look at systemically where racism is embedded. Where is that being exercised and how do we push back. We have an opportunity to do that right now. That’s right now. Let’s really get comfortable with the fact that racism exists. Make people comfortable with it. You cannot grow up here and NOT be shaped by racism since its at the very core of being in this country. Every institution has been set up with that in mind. Capitalism is inherently racist. And in some ways i feel like I’m stating the obvious but we need people to BE talking about about that. It doesn’t matter that Obama is the president. Class ascendency doesn’t mean that racism doesn’t exist and is an intrinsic part of this society. How have you internalized that in yourself. And also getting comfortable with that. Its not easy to be there and work through your internalized oppressions. But we need to get comfortable with what’s uncomfortable RIGHT NOW.

So one of the biggest things about the BART shut down that i take away from it. someone wrote this fabulous letter about being inconvenienced. JUSTICE IS GOING TO BE INCONVENIENT.

Racism has not been convenient for black folks especially in this country. Justice is going to be inconvenient. we are in inconveniency folks who aren’t used to being inconvenienced. We all need to be uncomfortable. Change is hard and change is coming right now. We need to be comfortable with that change. With that movement that is led by black folks for black liberation. But once that happens, it will be a liberation of all people.

To bring it back to gentrification. One of the things that we look at in looking at gentrification is looking at where is public money going. If you look at Oakland, we have a budget where ⅔ of that budget goes to police spending. Alameda county sherriff was told you can’t buy drones with public money, he went into his discretionary funding to buy drones. Why do you need drones? When we see politicians and see the people in office supposed to represent us, we have to stand up and let them know that it is not ok. The same way we make complaints about illegal dumping or a pothole, instead call the city 50 times to tell them to stop spending so much money on the police. Because we have to hold each other accountable and we really need to hold the politicians in power as policy makers accountable, because we can have them be accountable, but we have to hold them to it. Right now is the time to make those demands on the system. Right now is the time to do that. I’m probably at the end of my time. What I really wanted to say was there is a rapper out of St. Louis named Tef Poe and he wrote a song called war cry. Downlaod it! It’s named to the governor james nixon. In it, he says ferguson is obama’s katrina. Let’s sit on that as we come up on 10 years on katrina. How does the state respond to black people in emergency. Let’s think about how we can shift what that response looks like? Chew on that for a minute. End here and thank you all for being here. much love.

K:So yes again my name is Kamau Walton. In my paperwork I do job training for high school students. The political work that I do I’ve been throwing down with Critical Resistence for about 4.5 years I‘ve been a part of prisoner hunger strike solidarity, and recent months been throwing down with a wide variety of black folks here in Oakland. I’m up here to talk a little bit extra about the PIC (Prison Industrial Complex). We have had conversations with folks that we share community with about the alternatives that come out of these incidents are community policing. More cops that looks like us. Stronger relationships with police-people. Some of the issues to these approaches, is that the PIC, which include imprisonment, policing, all those different names. It’s not something broken. It cannot be tweaked, renamed. It was built on the backs of black people. The police state, as well as the PIC, is being held up as a result of the social, economic problems. Instead of investing in community and the young black people on the corner, is to propose gang injunctions, loitering prohibitions. This is because the state is not meant to serve and protect people, but rather the people in power who have been in power for centuries and centuries. The actual task of the police is to eliminate political dissent who make moves for rearrangement of power. This is a great opportunity to expand the conversations when we talk about black lives matter: how many ways does the state devalue black lives? Weather is through the education or prison system, we are talking about a physical life or death basis. There are so many black people who have been tortured for decades. Black queer and trans women are some of the most devalued individuals in the country. That is an important reason to expand the scope of black life. Everyone that is impacted even more so by the PIC, based on the fact that they are living within a black body.

And so, it has been a very long and intense and powerful last few weeks. I am carrying all of that with me in this moment. There have also been lots of conversations with black folks and others POC (people of color) trying to weigh out types of resources and privileges we do and do not have access to. And lots of conversations with white folks about: what can I do? I have also been a part of an action called Black Brunch. As the security person taking up the back, I was usually the last person white folks saw: saying things like “Thank you, what can I do, where can I donate. And like what is my story?” (Actually I don’t owe you my story). Where did these slogans come from? Silence is violence. (Which is definitely true) White people need to continue to have conversations about where their privilege comes from in the larger scheme of things. In order to leverage the work of POC and black folks in particular. It needs to be pushed from conversation into action. Complacency is consent. How to go beyond our comfort zones and get uncomfortable. Organizing is not one particular way it requires what skills privileges, and resources are held that can help propel this movement. You need to listen to the people in the communities where you are. Acknowledge that you are in the bay. There are certainly white folks having these conversations already, but think about how to push it more to action. I don’t have that answer. but I think that mean that we all have to be thinking more creatively about it: Who we should be going to? That doesn’t just mean going to your one black friend and asking them what you should do. Educate yourself on what work is aleady going on in Oakland to support black communities. in addition to black out collective doing direct action where we live, that is also a very new group. Black Organization Project has been here for a minute, and there are a lot more orgs that require people to self-educate. It is important that black people are training their folks, so it’s important that white people challenge and educate themselves and this is a great example of that. I have more to say but i’m feeling really ranty, so i’ll wrap up there and come back with more composed thoughts.

Molly: Lets hear more love for our speakers (APPLAUSE)

Who heard one thing that will change you–

GET UNCOMFORTABLE

DIVERSITY OF TACTICS

SILENCE IS VIOLENCE

DEFUND THE POLICE

COMPLACENCY IS CONSENT

I want to take this moment to give some LOVE TO FERGUSON. THERE ARE 600 PEOPLE IN THIS ROOM TONIGHT and hundreds of people watching.

So we want to give some love to Ferguson. Monetarily. so if everyone could give 5-15 to ferguson (????) fund. that would be a lot of money for Ferguson. (some people in the room are from ferguson…. MASSIVE APPLAUSE AND STANDING OVATION)

FERGUSON LEGAL FUND. LINK LISTED IN THE NOTES ABOVE. turning things back over to issage. lets fill up the box WITH MONEY!!!

Q/A

If you are able to do it physically without climbing over people, I’m gunna ask that you come forward to the microphone. Please come up the mic or else project A LOT.

Q: I’M CURIOUS if you can speak to your experiences with racism and gender violence in the home? domestic relationships etc.

Q: Speak to the role of class in the economics of racism

Q: Hi I’m 15 yrs old and go to Oakland tech, I just want to know what I am able to do as a young girl in Oakland. as a YOUTH. so I can spread the word to my friends!

Q: “How do we turn Black Lives Matter into a larger issue of anti-capitalist movement”

A: i want to address the class question. Ann this might not make you happy. But I’m gonna start by saying that its really important for people to sit inside of race, and I’m going to ask you to that because similarly to all lives matter, I think there is something that we do as social activists where we are trying to find our place. and thats okay.

reality is that yes police brutality disproportionately impacts low income and poor people. But also true is that across the board it disproportionately affects black people across class.

All the isms are intimately connected. You can’t have one without the other. Which is why we can’t talk about class without talking about race. I also want to say that its important to talk about class when we are talking about who needs to be in leadership. I don’t want to dismiss this question. It’s important for folks who have been on the margins to be in leadership. This shows us what kind of movement we need to build. and shows us who is not a part of conversation. I’m gonna save the home quesiton for a different time privately after.

But to the young person. You’re dope, btw. thank you for being here. To answer your question: you’re doing it. I know there are a lot of young people who are doing walkouts die-ins, talking with home and community, and lifting up your voice. Keep doing it.

R: the only thing i want to state is yes the role of lifting up youth in this moment. That has been so critical. people leading things in Ferguson are young black female bodied queer people. and I just want to lift that up in terms of the importance of the young right now. Yes talk to people, continue out in the streets and take direct action.

K: also to the hella dope young person. easy thing to do: make sure that you and your peers KNOW YOUR RIGHTs. I think when I was doing work around the gang injunctions and with young folks in Fruitvale…and there was a big issues with people not know what their rights were when they were getting stopped by the police. This does put young folks at risk.

Young people can get stopped on the street by a cop for whatever reasons based on appearance– Sharing last names, tiny insignificant details. but once they are labeled this way and put into a gang databased, if they ever ARE arrested, there sentencing can be enahanced based on being labeled as a gang member. SO YOUNG PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW their rights, no matter what you are doing. Even though that doesn’t necessarily affect how the cop will interact with you. But so you are stepping ton things from a place of power. There is a training happening soon and I would love to connect ou

A: awesome young person– There is a national day of youth action 12/18. talk to Malakai about that!

Q: ferguson people???

A: I got something to say. (Applause!!!!)

Person from Ferguson: I have something to clarify with the young girl who is 15. I love your question. but it’s backwards, you asked what can you do. you can do whatever. We should be asking you all what you want to help with. You can do whatever you want. This is youth time. This is the youth generation. This is your time. We’ve been in ferguson since august 9th. black women, black men, we’re all leaving the movement. we never thought our city would have a tragedy like we did. And it stunned us. Our first reaction was to just move. We began to organize. If you’re not in the org it’s not bad to join an org. First help and first start by going to the streets. First help by getting on ground, go out to where it started. anyone got questions? I got answers.

Q: From what I know in Ferguson and now in Oakland that there is a media narrative and state narrative claiming that militants in the street, ppl going beyond nonviolence. are either white or provacateurs. I wanted to discuss how we can combat this narrative. This false narrative. Though white militants do need to step back. talk about diversity of tactics of time and space. how can we keep this movement uniting vs. polarizing non

A (person from Ferguson): The only way to keep movement united like how we do in ferguson is that we tell everyone to turn off the devil box. You can’t take things in from the mainstream media. I spent the whole month, 24 hours in a parking lot. Me and 6 people were there. We wanted to make sure that people knew we were there 24/7 on that parking lot. We were seeing MSNBC, CNN, FOX, and the whole time they were showing coverage of rioting and looting. They never showed us standing next to them. They made the world believe we were looting for weeks. They were showing clips of the same day for weeks. Once I saw that, it opened my eyes to how many times have I been lied to every time I turn on CNN? A lot of people say black lives have been forgotten in America, but I feel that black lives have never mattered. Nothing now is different from history. We all have to come together no matter what color. Once they get through the genocide of the war on us, as black men and women, who do you think is next?

I: With that we’re going to close our panel. Can we give one more big round of applause for our panel.

STANDING OVATION AND MASSIVE APPLAUSE.

Molly: We are going to take a short break and when we come back there will be break out groups. Want to acknowledge that Jack from the Oscar Grant family is here with us, and would like to thank him for being here with us.

I will announce break out groups– they are a time to digest the panel, to talk, and conspire and get active.

5 breakout groups: Please choose one and stick with it.

  1. Making black lives matter wherever we are, how do we do this work? Facilitated by POC, all other groups facilitated by white people.
  2. Engaging white people in this movement moment– out in lobby, and another one in the back of the room.
  3. Strategies for accountable anti-racist action
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