Tuesday, May 31, 2016

"Where is BLM After Northside Shootings?" That's a Loaded Question.


One of the refrains I see on social media after shootings in north Minneapolis is the question of why people associated with Black Lives Matter aren't out protesting against that particular shooting, or why BLM isn't speaking out against issues like Black-on-Black violent crime.  I've felt that most of those queries, especially coming from Caucasians or those not affiliated with BLM were misguided at best.

That chorus began again after the tragic shooting death of Birdell Beeks, and I can tell you where Black Lives Matter was...

Organizing vigils and calling for an end to the violence.

I was at two vigils for Ms. Beeks, one on Friday of last week and one earlier today.  In both cases, the message from those in attendance was inescapable; the violence has to stop and the community has to rise up and make that happen.  The claims that BLM is not present are just plain false, and anyone saying the community isn't holding up a mirror to its own, that person is either not paying attention or not looking beyond their normal sources of information.

The small vigil on Friday was hastily put together by community members, activists from groups like BLM, and Council Member Cam Gordon over coffee at a West Broadway establishment.  I heard about it on Facebook and was working from home at the time.  I stopped work early and went a few blocks south to pay my respects.  The Black Lives Matter folks were key organizers of that event and many of the same folks were at today's more organized and publicized vigil was also heavily attended by Black Lives Matter supporters.

Furthermore, the movement is a decentralized one.  There's no motion or Robert's Rules of Order governing where its supporters can go or what they can do with the name.  There can be drawbacks to a decentralized movement, but that characteristic does make it easier for the group to be present and to represent themselves at such events.

And it's worth pointing out that a central theme behind BLM is to change the systemic power structures that devalue and diminish Black lives.  The group is free to choose which events serve as crystalizing moments around such goals, or even which events may change the course of the movement.

Finally, the claim that the Black community isn't focused enough on themselves in the wake of such tragedy is a spuriously incorrect one and borderline (or perhaps full-on) racist.  Again, if one is at these events, you'll see as the photo above indicates, a clear message calling for the end of Black-on-Black violence.  And if one stays long enough to hear the speakers, that message is front and center.  Sure, there are calls for justice, calls for better economic opportunities, more jobs, and an end to systemic racism and oppression.  Families and friends mourn, but there are constant calls from people within the community:  if you see a kid doing something call them out on it; call their momma; tell them they're worth more than that, but also that what they're doing isn't right; and if need be, call the police.

These are the messages being spread at such vigils.  Anyone claiming otherwise, from the safety of a like-minded social media group, has been misinformed by mainstream media or is willfully perpetrating a false narrative.

Where is Black Lives Matter when the community mourns Ms. Beeks?  Right there with us.

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