Today I woke up to a Facebook post that my roommate from college shared on her feed. Her response to that tauntingly generic Facebook encouragement— “What’s on your mind?” seemed a little more perturbed, urgent and determined than usual: “This is a must read! #blacklivesmatter#takeaknee and if u don’t like my hashtags feel free to unfollow me.” Whoa… okay, she had my attention. I found my glasses and I was in. The share was an essay by Solange Knowles about her recent experience with racial discrimination at a Kraftwerk concert.
The essay is entitled “And Do You Belong? I Do…”, and the title is a pretty good indication of what follows. Here we go, I thought… I am about to read about how someone had caused Beyoncé’s sister to feel some type of way. I knew it would be a truthful expression of Solange having to deal with some, well… ignorant mess. I’ve certainly been there. This was going to be a level of discrimination probably more than the norm though, because why else make such an effort to share?
Solange’s essay is thought-provoking and definitely worth the read. She is insightful and honest about her past experiences with racial discrimination, as well as her recent encounter while trying to dance and enjoy music with her family.
Though the content of the post is not surprising – again, so many of us have been there – the trash throwing did surprise me. (Yes, someone throws trash at Solange and her family.) Really?? It was taken there??? But instead of responding in the moment in a way that likely would have brought negative attention to her and her family, I have to applaud Solange for instead turning to Twitter, then laying it out there again in writing, as well as covering the anticipated naysayers with intelligent responses.
We are reminded by her action that knowledge is power, well-chosen words are power, and speaking up in protest is power. I think it’s important that she bravely lays it out there for the world to hear.
My fellow GBN Editor Lesa Lakin just e-mailed me this mash-up of Janet Jackson‘s “Can’t Be Stopped” with #BlackLivesMatter footage and Jesse Williams‘ now-classic speech from the 2016 BET Awards . Not sure who made it and posted it on Vimeo five days ago, but thank you – great message and inspiration! Keep protesting, speaking out, being creative and rising up!
Mark Zuckerberg has always encouraged Facebook employees to think for themselves, but one issue is trying his patience.
People have been crossing out “black lives matter” on the walls of Facebook‘s headquarters and writing “all lives matter.”
The founder and CEO addressed the issue at a company-wide Q&A session last week.But it didn’t stop. Zuckerberg wrote a strongly worded memo to employees earlier this week about “several recent instances.”
In his note, the Facebook (FB, Tech30) CEO seemed frustrated by the fact that the act has continued, despite making it clear in the past that it was “unacceptable.”
“I was already very disappointed by this disrespectful behavior before,” Zuckerberg wrote. “But after my communication I now consider this malicious as well …This has been a deeply hurtful and tiresome experience for the black community and really the entire Facebook community.”
#BlackLivesMatter sprung to life as a hashtag in 2012 after the death of Trayvon Martin. The phrase went viral on social media, drawing people into a conversation about police brutality and inequality, and unifying thousands across the country on these issues. Some people pushed back with the slogan “all lives matter.”
“But when someone says ALL lives matter, it can sound like that person is dismissing the specific pain behind the slogan,” CNN’s Donna Brazile wrote last year. “Those who are experiencing the pain and trauma of the black experience in this country don’t want their rallying cry to be watered down with a generic feel-good catchphrase.”
Zuckerberg gave his own interpretation of the movement: “‘Black lives matter’ doesn’t mean other lives don’t — it’s simply asking that the black community also achieves the justice they deserve.”
Some wallsof Facebook’s offices are covered in whiteboards in chalkboards. Usually adorned with signs reading, “write something,” they’re covered in layers of messages, doodles and signatures from employees and visitors.
“Crossing out something means silencing speech, or that one person’s speech is more important than another’s,” Zuckerberg admonished.
A Facebook spokeswoman confirmed that the memo had been sent but would not tell CNNMoney if those responsible for the acts had been identified or disciplined.
Here’s the full text of the memo, obtained by Gizmodo:
“There have been several recent instances of people crossing out ‘black lives matter’ and writing ‘all lives matter’ on the walls at MPK.
Despite my clear communication at Q&A last week that this was unacceptable, and messages from several other leaders from across the company, this has happened again. I was already very disappointed by this disrespectful behavior before, but after my communication I now consider this malicious as well.
There are specific issues affecting the black community in the United States, coming from a history of oppression and racism. ‘Black lives matter’ doesn’t mean other lives don’t — it’s simply asking that the black community also achieves the justice they deserve.
We’ve never had rules around what people can write on our walls — we expect everybody to treat each other with respect. Regardless of the content or location, crossing out something means silencing speech, or that one person’s speech is more important than another’s. Facebook should be a service and a community where everyone is treated with respect.
This has been a deeply hurtful and tiresome experience for the black community and really the entire Facebook community, and we are now investigating the current incidents.
I hope and encourage people to participate in the Black@ town hall on 3/4 to educate themselves about what the Black Lives Matter movement is about.”
The President and The First Lady will host a Black History Month reception with two generations of activists as leaders from the Civil Rights Movement will also be present.
In this space, there will be an open dialogue, “…to discuss a range of issues including the Administration’s efforts on criminal justice reform, building trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve and the president’s priorities during his final year in office” according to an email from a senior administration official obtained by Buzzfeed.
Here is a list of the attendees, per the White House:
• Aislinn Pulley, Co-Founder and Lead Organizer with Black Lives Matter Chicago
• Al Sharpton, Founder and President of the National Action Network
• Ben Crump, President of the National Bar Association
• Brittany Packnett, Member of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, Co-Founder of We The Protestors and Campaign Zero
• C.T. Vivian, Civil Rights Leader and Author
• Carlos Clanton, President of the National Urban League Young Professionals
• Cornell Brooks, President of the NAACP
• Deray Mckesson, Co-Founder of We the Protestors and Campaign Zero
• Deshaunya Ware, Student Leader of Concerned Student 1950 at University of Missouri
• John Lewis, United States Representative (D-GA)
• Marc Morial, President of the National Urban League
• Mary Patricia Hector, National Youth Director of the National Action Network
• Melanie Campbell, President of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation
• Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of Color of Change
• Sherrilyn Ifill, President of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund
• Stephen Green, National Director of the NAACP Youth and College Division
• Wade Henderson, President of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
The Texas state trooper who pulled over Sandra Bland was indicted on suspicion of perjury Wednesday, making him the only official criminally charged after Bland’s death last summer fueled criticism of police and their treatment of minorities.
The Texas Department of Public Safety announced it would move to fire Trooper Brian T. Encinia.
The indictment marked the conclusion of the grand jury’s investigation of the case.
If convicted of the misdemeanor perjury charge, Encinia faces up to a year in jail, according to Warren Diepraam, a spokesman for the Waller County district attorney’s office. The grand jury declined to indict on a charge of aggravated perjury, Diepraam said.
Bland, 28, who was black, was found hanging by a plastic bag in her jail cell three days after she was arrested July 10 during a routine traffic stop about 55 miles west of Houston.
Encinia pulled over Bland for making an improper lane change. The confrontation that ensued, which led to Bland’s arrest on suspicion of assaulting Encinia, was captured on a dashboard camera video that went viral.
The charge against Encinia stemmed from a one-page probable cause affidavit that Encinia filed with jail officials justifying Bland’s arrest, in which he wrote that the reason he removed her from her car was to conduct a safer traffic investigation, said special prosecutor Shawn McDonald.
“The grand jury found that statement to be false,” McDonald said.
After she was arrested, Bland was taken to the Waller County Jail in nearby Hempstead, where she was unable to make $500 bail. Officials said Bland hanged herself with a plastic bag.
Bland’s family and Black Lives Matter supporters questioned why she had been arrested at all, with some asking whether she had taken her own life. At the time Bland was stopped, she had just accepted a job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University.
New Orleans‘ leaders on Thursday made a sweeping move to break with the city’s Confederate past when the City Council voted to remove prominent Confederate monuments along some of its busiest streets.
The council’s 6-1 vote allows the city to remove four monuments, including a towering statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that has stood at the center of a traffic circle for 131 years.
It was an emotional meeting — often interrupted by heckling — infused with references to slavery, lynchings and racism, as well as the pleas of those who opposed removing the monuments to not “rewrite history.”
City Council President Jason Williams called the vote a symbolic severing of an “umbilical cord” tying the city to the offensive legacy of the Confederacy and the era of Jim Crow laws. “If anybody wins here, it will be the South, because it is finally rising,” Williams, who is African-American, said.
Stacy Head, a council member at large, was the lone vote against the removal. She is one of two white council members. She lamented what she called a rush to take the monuments down without adequate consideration of their historic value and meaning to many in New Orleans.
Fixing historic injustice is “a lot harder work than removing monuments,” she said, even as many in the packed council chambers jeered her. She said the issue was dividing the city, not uniting it. “I think all we will be left with is pain and division.”
The decision came after months of impassioned debate. On Thursday, four preservation groups filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to stop the city from taking down the monuments by challenging the city’s removal process.
There was a time when Melina Abdullah wanted to be the next Maxine Waters.
A year or two ago, I recognized that those middle-class aspirations are done,” Abdullah says now, in the soothing voice of a therapist or guidance counselor. “You can’t go in and yell at people or camp in front of the mayor’s house and go, ‘Now I’m running for office.’ I had to make peace with that.”
Abdullah lives in a three-bedroom house in the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles with her three children. She drives a Volvo. She’s a tenured professor and chairs the Pan-African Studies department at Cal State Los Angeles. She’s a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first black sorority. She was appointed by Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to the county’s Human Relations Commission. Abdullah, in other words, has more than a toe in the American middle class.
But Abdullah, who was born in East Oakland and whose dad was a union organizer and self-proclaimed Trotskyist, has chosen to immerse herself in the black working class and its struggles.
She’s not unlike most of the Black Lives Matter leaders — college-educated, middle-class black women who felt compelled to fight against police violence directed at the black community. “Our degrees won’t save us, our middle-class status won’t save us,” she says. “Who’s being killed? Andrew Joseph in Tampa, Florida. His parents are college-educated, middle-class people. Trayvon Martin was killed in a gated community. Aiyana Jones, 7 years old, sleeping on her grandmother’s couch. I have two little girls. How can you sit back? That’s how a lot of us feel. We’re really facing wartime conditions.”
In a nation where black women are still stuck at the bottom of the power structure, Black Lives Matter is the only major national protest movement to be led by them in modern times. It has in the past two years become the most prominent left-wing movement in the country, a persistent topic on the national news and in both Democratic and Republican presidential debates.
The Black Lives Matter movement also could end up having a significant impact on local, state and national elections — which might be cause for concern among politicians like, say, Mayor Eric Garcetti.
The national organization founded by three black women — Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi — takes its cue from the local chapters; the L.A. chapter, in which Abdullah is a key figure, was among the first.
The elements of Black Lives Matters’s DNA — young, female, gay-friendly, artsy — set it apart from every previous civil rights movement.
Although the group prides itself on its leaderlessness, Abdullah is one of five or so black women who, having helped start the L.A. chapter, now serve as its chief organizers. Nearly all are rooted in academia or performance art — or both. Their rhetoric leans toward the highbrow, their tactics toward the theatrical.
“We’re fighting against white supremacist patriarchal society,” says Shamell Bell. “That’s why you need black women to fight it.”
Bell, who’s been involved in Black Lives Matter from the beginning, is perhaps its prototypical organizer. A 31-year-old former professional dancer and former student of Abdullah’s, she’s currently a Ph.D. candidate at UCLA. In a movement that draws on each of its members’ gifts and abilities, Bell often leads street protest dances. While occupying the mayor’s front lawn, she taught a group of activists Jerkin’.
Cullors, 32, who coined the now-global hashtag #blacklivesmatter, is a performance artist who studied religion and philosophy at UCLA. When she was just 17, she joined the Bus Riders Union, a somewhat iconoclastic advocacy group in L.A. that pushes for more funding for the bus system and less funding for light rail.
A distinctly working-class nonprofit, the Bus Riders Union was Cullors’ entry into political organizing. She later started Dignity and Power Now, a coalition that fought brutality by sheriff’s deputies who work inside the county jails.
Cullors grew up in 1990s Pacoima, a low-income northeast San Fernando Valley neighborhood, during the height of the federal war on drugs that disproportionately imprisoned thousands of minorities. Cullors’ father and brother were in and out of prison for most of her adult life.
“That really shaped my understanding of what it meant to be black in this city,” Cullors says. “I had a lot of anger. And I was clear that I wanted to do something about it.”
In Los Angeles, Black Lives Matter has emerged as Mayor Eric Garcetti’s fiercest antagonist. Garcetti was elected without much support in the black community, which backed Wendy Greuel. But Garcetti will almost surely need the backing of black voters should he run for higher office, as is widely assumed.
“Whether he’s running for governor or U.S. senator, the political calculus that his consultants are going to use is that the black vote in Los Angeles can put him over the top,” says Dermot Givens, a political consultant. “Which is why he has to do everything he can to solve this situation.”
Garcetti, who appears galled by this vocal new opposition from the left, has dealt with Black Lives Matter rather clumsily.
After 25-year-old Ezell Ford, who’d been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, was shot to death in August 2014 by LAPD officers in South L.A., the group camped out on the front lawn of the mayoral mansion in Hancock Park. Garcetti made the news, along with Black Lives Matter, when he was caught on video trying to sneak away in a black Suburban SUV.
Bizarrely, when the well-to-do, Encino-raised Garcetti finally met with these black leaders in July, he at one point started speaking to them in Spanish. In the eyes of the organizers, it was as if he saw all minorities as the same and dealt with them accordingly.
“[Garcetti] does a really good job at tokenizing people,” says Black Lives Matter co-founder Cullors. “He does a really good job placating. But he doesn’t actually do the work that it takes to change the culture and change policies that are anti-black.”
“There’s been a shift in politics in the black community,” says Givens, who argues that Black Lives Matter has not so much caused this shift as it has reacted to it. “And the mayor is playing old-school politics. He’s surrounding himself with old-school black people who have no idea what’s going on.”
The origin of Black Lives Matter dates to July 13, 2013, when George Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder of Trayvon Martin in Florida.