June 20th, 2015
Last weekend at the Rural Caucus & Strategy Session, we discussed in depth the moment we are in; a moment of great hope and inspiration as the movement builds for Black Lives Matter, but also acknowledging that there is a growing counter-movement and potential for backlash. For many, the killing of nine unarmed Black people in bible study at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, a church with over a century of history as a center of Black resistance to slavery and white supremacy, hearken back to the violent backlash to the civil rights movement.
Like many of you, we are saddened and we are angry. The news of a white young man opening fire in a black church as a premeditated plot to start a “civil war” is difficult to absorb. There are so many questions this raises, including: if Black people aren’t safe in church in the USA, where can they be safe?
Tillamook for Love held a vigil Friday evening for Charleston, SC and Emanuel A.M.E. Church
Over the last several months, the cries for “Black Lives Matter” have echoed across the country and across Oregon. Rural and small town Oregonians have felt emboldened to speak out, to not remain silent and therefore complicit, even when it felt nearly impossible to start meaningful conversations about racism in their communities. Folks have marched through Bend in the hundreds, stood vigil silently on street corners, held signs in front of their post offices, and written letters to the editor. In moments like these, the value of being present, of being public, of being visible is key to opening up the community conversation.
The Movement for Black Lives has called for a day of vigils and actions on Sunday June 21st at 6PM (read their powerful statement below). We aren’t in Charleston, but there are things we can do here in rural and small town Oregon, as human dignity organizers, as people committed to justice:
Organize or join a vigil or action. So far we know of several around the state and more will be added to our Facebook page as we hear about them. Human dignity group organizers are planning events throughout the week. You can organize a demonstration, too – all it takes is a few people together with signs. Need some support? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Confused? Saddened? Angry? Your neighbors are too. Where does talking to your family and friends fit into your plans this weekend? Transformational conversations are what our movement is built on. Connect, share what you’re feeling, and process together.
Not sure what to talk about? Read up and then engage. There are a number of articles linked at the bottom of this ROPnet that can help spark some conversation.
Start the conversation about what you can do locally. Over the last few years human dignity groups have been organizing to build Safe & Welcoming Communities for all, from building relationships with (and at times challenging) local law enforcement to address racial profiling, to bringing educational events to town, to developing rapid response teams able to respond to hate activity. Contact ROP and let’s schedule a gathering to start developing strategies for your group.
Let us come together for justice and deeply consider what we, as organizers, must build and create so that every member of our communities can live their lives fully with safety and dignity.
Statement from the Movement for Black Lives on the Charleston Shooting:
Charleston’s Emanuel A.M.E. church, which is steeped in the incredible history of resistance to slavery, will now be known as the site of an unspeakable and tragic act. Our hearts go out to the families of those killed. We also keep in our thoughts a congregation that lost its pastor and a community mourning the loss of its neighbors.
We are reminded today that while our attention has focused on increasing state and police violence against Black people, racist vigilante attacks are a large part of this country’s legacy. We must face the hard truth that our collective work goes much further than the implementation of body cameras and police reform initiatives if we cannot even be safe worshipping at church.
Whether its the murder of four schoolgirls at a Birmingham church in 1963, the killing of twelve year old Tamir Rice by Cleveland police officers, or the suicide of Kalief Browder after years of being unjustly imprisoned and tortured as a teenager at Rikers Island jail– our communities continue to suffer the many strains of a cancerous racism allowed to flourish in this country. While the arrest of this shooter must come as a small comfort to the families of those killed, we know we cannot arrest our way out of this country’s history or its present.
Therefore, as a movement, we must say what our President cannot or will not say. This was an undeniable act of terrorism intended to strike fear into the hearts of Black communities at a time when we have bravely stood together declaring that #BlackLivesMatter everywhere.
We continue to fight for a world that values Black life in the names of all those we have lost, including and especially those who were killed last night on a date we will surely never forget.
Articles that human dignity groups across Oregon are sharing:
“The 9 heartbreaks of the Charleston shooting” by Latoya Peterson
“Why we must call Dylann Roof a terrorist” by Shaun King
“We Were Never Meant to Survive: A Response to the Attack in Charleston” by Alicia Garza
“White Christian Allies, Talk About Race From Your Pulpits” by Reverend Emma Akpan
Check out this comprehensive syllabus of readings on Charleston and beyond!