"I can’t believe what you say because I see what you do.” - James Baldwin
In the days following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police, and Ahmaud Arbery’s murder at the hands of white supremacists, we have seen millions of people across the country rise up and demand justice. UCC stands with these justice-seekers and draws inspiration from the variety of tactics that were employed to demonstrate our collective frustration, grief and anger.
As a Community of Practice, UCC seeks to recognize, value and advance the humanity of Black and Latinx people. In part, this means making space for the vast and varied emotional responses to the pain and outrage of our communities. These are human responses to systems of dehumanization. As such, we resist the reductionist narrative that the expression of pain over this past weekend was solely instigated by “outside agitators”. Black communities are hurting in body and in spirit. Monroe Center was clean in twenty minutes, while Black communities have been systematically harmed for generations.
The responses from those in power also brought home the fact that our work here is far from over. On Saturday, the same day of a scheduled protest, GRPD officers were found to have used appropriate force in the brutal beating of Kavosaye Phillips. Shortly after, we witnessed the Mayor and City Manager declaring a State of Emergency, the institution of a city-wide curfew and calling in the National Guard. This was a militarized response to peoples’ outrage against state violence. To remedy this, we’re given platitudes about the “strength of our community,” along with reminders that “this is not who we are.” We are given invitations to sit and talk about the problems. We are tired of hollow words, defunct committees and blasé equity statements. They ring hollow in light of the events of this weekend.
We have seen time and again that we live in a system that prioritizes profit over people. The travesty of our gentrifying neighborhoods, the exploitation of the poor and the vulnerable through low-waged, unprotected work, the environmental toxins that inflict slow death on our neighbors, the military mobilization to protect downtown - and even the extension of a State of Emergency to cover the costs of police mobilization - are clear examples of this. This experience has made the importance of our work more clear. We are angry. We are frustrated. But we are also ready to work. We are recommitting ourselves to our mission of recognizing, valuing and advancing the humanity of our family, friends, neighbors and community. In the next few days, we will be issuing a joint position statement outlining a continuation of the years of work that communities have done around the issue of police violence.
To our Black communities: we hope you find places that can hold the range of emotions that you are experiencing right now. If you trust us to curate this space for you, we are happy to do so. If you’re wanting to get involved in the ways we are striving to make change, we invite you in. Regardless of how you choose to navigate these times, stay safe and we love you.
Letter originally published on the UCC Facebook page on June 4, 2020.