1. The Root of a Movement
On April 20, Judge Dennis Porter dismissed charges against Chicago police officer Dante Servin in the killing of 22 year-old Rekia Boyd on the basis of technical differences between involuntary manslaughter and first degree murder. Since then, the Chicago chapter of Black Youth Project 100 has organized nationally and locally to ensure that Servin is fired without a pension from the Chicago Police Department. We have staged several direct actions and testified in front of the CPD Police Review Board every month to demand Servin’s termination. It is our duty as an organization with a black queer feminist lens to center on the lives of black women that are victims of state violence.
2. The Next Charleston
On July 18, Black Lives Matter–Charleston honored the most recent victims of White Supremacy by joining forces with the RBG Pan-African movement and others to meet the KKK face-to-face at a statehouse rally. This summer, we have resolved to become proactive in self-definition and self-defense by launching campaigns designed to build broad-based participation. We are promoting #BlackMindsMatter–Afrocentric Political Education by organizing a network of five neighborhood Liberation schools; establishing a culture of accountability and community oversight with our institutions of social welfare through #ProjectWeAreWatchingYou–Accountability, Transparency & Due Process; working to register 5,000 new voters, or #YourTimeIsUp–Political Mobilization; and innovating a cooperative marketing system for the local black economy, #BlackBusinessMatters–Economic Development.
3. The Presidential Challenge
On July 18, Black Lives Matter protesters shut down the Presidential Town Hall at Netroots Nation, a progressive conference held this year in Phoenix, Arizona. With Arizona organizer Tia Oso and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors taking to the stage, black women organizers asked Democratic presidential candidates Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders to address police brutality and systemic racism—in particular, the murder of black women like Sandra Bland, who allegedly committed suicide after being arrested by Texas police. They also highlighted the lack of emphasis on black organizing and issues at the conference, which was focused on immigration but had no discussion of the organizing and experiences of black immigrants. Other organizers spoke offstage, invoking #IfIDieInPoliceCustody and the liberation of black trans women. After the event, both candidates used the hashtags #BlackLivesMatter and #SayHerName, expressing concern over our issues.
—Elle Hearns and Angela Peoples
4. Kicking the Confederacy off Campus
Since June, a group of students and alums from Middle Tennessee State University have been organizing to change the name of the ROTC building named after Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate General and Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Forrest Hall was established in 1958 and withstood a campaign to remove its name in 2006. In 1989, MTSU removed a 600-pound medallion of Forrest from the Keathley University Center. Following the shooting of nine people at Emanuel AME Church, Tennessee’s governor called to remove a bust of Forrest from the state capitol; Showing Up for Racial Justice-Nashville has staged a campaign, #BustTheBust, to remove the bust; and MTSU President Sidney McPhee has called for another conversation for the removal of the Forrest Hall name. As we spread our petition, the decision to remove the name sits in the hands of the Tennessee Historical Commission.
5. Putting the Campus Police in Their Place
On July 6, the Saginaw News of Central Michigan reported that a Saginaw Valley State University master’s student, DaJuawn Wallace, was being charged with a felony for fleeing and eluding police. In February, university police signaled for Wallace to stop, but Wallace continued driving for 1.5 miles until he found a well-lit area to pull over. If charged, he could have lost his financial aid, scholarships, and employment. On July 7, the day prior to his preliminary examination hearing—and following student outcry on social media—all charges were dropped. Still, we saw this as an opportunity to highlight the larger problem of harmful interactions between students and police. The following day, community members and students protested outside the Saginaw County Courthouse, standing quietly before speaking about social injustice and questioning the length of time it took to drop the charges. On July 13, SVSU’s president launched an internal investigation focusing on police policy at the university and met with students to discuss our concerns.
6. At Columbia, a $10 Million Bubble Bursts
In June, after 16 months of organizing, students from Columbia Prison Divest won an unprecedented victory. Columbia University, which previously held over $10 million in shares in two private prison companies, Corrections Corporation of America and G4S, will become the first university to financially divest from the industry. As part of a larger prison divestment movement that seeks to make prisons a socially toxic investment, CPD sought to expose the racist systems of inequality that justify the privilege awarded to elite college students at the expense of the incarceration and degradation of marginalized communities. Moving forward, we are using the momentum from our win to support prison divest campaigns on other campuses while encouraging students to recognize our place within the system of mass incarceration and take an anti-racist, prison abolitionist stance on the issue.
7. At the UC, Palestinian Justice Stays on the Table
At its July meeting, after thousands of students, faculty, and staff signed an online letter of appeal, the University of California Regents decided not to propose the adoption of the US State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism. The State Department’s vague language could be interpreted to include criticisms of Israeli government policy and its treatment of Palestinians, which Palestine rights activists and advocacy groups, such as Students for Justice in Palestine, UC Student-Workers’ Union–UAW 2865, and Jewish Voice for Peace, reject. While this decision marks an important victory for the protection of free speech, especially on university campuses, we remain vigilant of future efforts to adopt this definition and, overall, to stifle Palestine advocacy.
8. In Miami, a Sit-In for Community Control
In Miami, Dream Defenders has been working with the historically Black neighborhood of Overtown to fight the displacement of its low-income population. We are organizing to ensure adequate employment and other community benefits before the $2 billion Miami Worldcenter is constructed. We have already met with the mayor, commissioners, and developers to put forth our demands. We have vowed—and carried out—days of civil disobedience. On July 10, we staged the first-ever sit-in at Miami’s Government Center. On July 14, we voiced concerns at the county commission—and were escorted out by police. So far, one of our demands was accepted: banning the criminal history box on job applications. The MWC needs another $100 million in taxpayer subsidies to break ground, which gives us another opportunity to pressure city officials into enforcing our demands.
9. In Chicago, a Break in the School-to-Prison Pipeline
Over 2011 and 2012, black male students in Illinois were suspended eight times more than their white counterparts. This led us to lose over one million days of instruction because of exclusionary discipline, and Illinois was one of the worst states for racial disparities. I know this story all too well—I was expelled for cutting class because I didn’t feel well and spent months looking for a new school. In May, after pushing for two years in Springfield, students of color from VOYCE and the Campaign for Common Sense Discipline passed Senate Bill 100, the most comprehensive state legislation to address the school-to-prison pipeline. SB 100 bans zero-tolerance in all Illinois publicly funded schools, and exclusionary discipline is now the last resort. The “counseling out” of students is also forbidden along with the use of fines and fees as a disciplinary measure. SB 100 is currently sitting on the Governor’s desk awaiting his signature.
10. In New York—and Beyond—Reimagining the Struggle
At “Stars & Stripes: (Re)Claiming the Vision” on July 4 on Coney Island, artists created space on the boardwalk to dance and build relationships at a time where the mere presence of blackness endangers us. The Million Hoodies for Justice Arts Network was joined by Afro-Latino and Puerto Rican community members, reflecting the force of the African diaspora in the struggle for black lives. Our network is a new, national platform to facilitate creativity, community, storytelling, and resilience. In the coming months, we are excited to launch in Miami, New York, Minnesota, Philadelphia, and Chicago.
11. Whose Celebration?
On June 24, the White House held a reception to commemorate June as LGBT Pride Month. As President Obama began his speech, a voice came from the crowd: “President Obama, release all LGBTQ immigrants from detention and stop all deportations.” The voice belonged to Jennicet Gutiérrez, an undocumented trans woman and one of the founding members of Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement. Jennicet said that she could not celebrate Pride while some 75 transgender detainees are being exposed to assault and abuse in ICE custody. Her protest was met with boos, jeers, and calls of “This isn’t for you!” from the LGBTQ leaders assembled there. Jennicet and Angela Peoples of GetEQUAL were escorted out of the building after the interruption. Jennicet’s action received attention from supporters around the world, starting conversations about the treatment of trans women of color in detention. There is no pride in a country that treats immigrants this way and there can be no celebration while this administration continues detention and deportation of undocumented people.
—Familia TQLM, Not1More, and GetEQUAL
12. Whose Parade?
On June 21, two-spirit, queer, and trans youth of color blocked Denver’s “Coors Pride Parade.” Our community lost 17-year old Jessie Hernandez in January because of Denver Police’s violent practices. For Buried Seedz of Resistance, the idea for this action came on June 1 as we invoked the spirit of our ancestors marching in unison and protection with us, including Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Angie Zapata, Ale Reyes, and Jessie Hernandez. As a collective, we hadn’t attended Pride for the past six years for the same reasons we protested this year—excessive police presence, corporatization, the lack of Trans Queer People of Color in leadership, and the overall white-washing of Pride’s original roots as a Trans and Queer uprising against the police. We are continuing to build relationships and work closely with the Hernandez family and plan to collect interviews and stories for a documentary about Jessie’s life through the directorship of their siblings.
—Buried Seedz of Resistance
On July 14, hundreds of San Francisco immigrant rights activists gathered at San Francisco City Hall to call for a sober dialogue after Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant, shot Kate Steinle. Following the shooting, the city has been at the center of heated debates about Sanctuary Cities and due ordinance policies that prevent local law enforcement from colluding with federal immigration agents. At the gathering, we held white carnations under Steinle’s name to show respect and plead for sensible solutions—rather than responding with nativist measures like those of California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer who have proposed bills to blur the jurisdictions of local law enforcement and ICE. As an undocumented immigrant in San Francisco, I’ve witnessed people from all backgrounds support each other, and I believe that we can do it again.
On July 15, in Duarte, California, members of the Immigrant Youth Coalition, in partnership with the ICE Out of LA Coalition, protested the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Department of Homeland Security for advancing the Priority Enforcement Program, or PEP-COMM. We loudly interrupted what we considered a farcical Sheriff-sponsored community forum that promoted anti-immigrant voices while suppressing comments from community members directly impacted by the new federal policy. We proceeded to march out of the building, chanting “No Papers, No Fear!” Outside, four members of the IYC from the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys, all directly impacted by deportation policies, refused police orders to leave the intersection near the venue and were arrested. We stand in fierce resistance to PEP-COMM as all immigrants, even those with felonies, are community members, friends, and family who don’t deserve double jeopardy under collaborations between police and ICE. In policy, PEP-COMM is a transparent re-branding of the heavily discredited S-COMM program—and is gaining traction in the wake of the recent incident at the San Francisco pier.
15. “For the future, and for the yet-to-be born!”
Editor’s note: After embarking on July 5, the Apache Stronghold Caravan has brought the resistance to Resolution Copper’s takeover of the sacred Oak Flat in Arizona—added to the National Defense Authorization Act by John McCain—to Washington. For more, read Naelyn Pike’s dispatch from June 22. (Video: Wendsler Nosie)