From RvaNOW: #STAYWOKE, alliance with communities of color

A message from your RvaNOW Chapter President, Vicki Yeroian:
I wanted to skip the newsletter this month to talk briefly about something much larger at play. Many of us have been watching the news, following trends on social media, and hearing bits and pieces about the racial war our criminal justice and judicial systems are placing on some of us reading this, as well as our black neighbors, friends, brothers, sisters, cousins, colleagues, peers, etc. etc. Everyday I turn on the TV, I watch another person my age, or someone who hasn’t even lived to be 23, shot to death, choked to death, beaten to death by the very people we are supposed to call in times of trouble. And why? Because they don’t look like me. So I ask us all, who are people supposed to call when the police murder?
The answer is US. When our institutions fail, it is up to ourselves to develop a sense of community and alliance. We cannot sit by and allow our institutions to continue murdering communities because of racial bias. People are people; some people commit criminal acts, but people are always people first. Everyone deserves a fair trial; the disrespect black families receive fighting for justice has been downright disgusting in this nation.
So I ask you to #STAYWOKE. What does that mean?? That means staying informed and aware. Go out and support your local NAACP or Urban League actions. If you live in Richmond or in Central VA, there is a growing social media campaign you need to be following:
Black Lives Matter RVA
Black Action Now
Justice RVA
All three pages will help keep you up to date with local actions and ways to get involved. If you do not have a Facebook, the community group Active Rva will also be posting events on their community calendar: Active RVA Calendar. This movement is just beginning. Don’t let it stop:
  • Keep posting on social media, using hashtags like #STAYWOKE or #BLACKLIVESMATTER
  • Call your friends and colleagues out when a racial bias slips out of their mouth and help them understand why what they said is harmful
  • Attend local events listed on the pages above
  • Keep the dialogue going–ask your neighbors or co-workers if they are involved or would like to learn more about what’s going on.
Being a white ally, there are a couple of things I would also like to note for other white allies:
1) This movement is not about us. All communities will be better off without segregation, but as white people, we are not the ones in danger of death. We are not the ones who should be speaking; we are not the ones who should be leading. Respect the struggle you know nothing about and understand how your racial privilege can be a resource for those without it. You can do that by learning from and meeting new people at these demonstrations or actions. There have already been two workshops on how to effectively support direct action in Richmond, for example.
2)  We are the ones who speak the language of our institutions, and that’s because all societal institutions were, and still are, made for us. We are the ones who can provide invaluable support, whether it be by standing behind the movement’s leaders or by creating a pathway for our leaders to communicate and effectively change our laws, methods of enforcement, and norms.
3) Understand that our criminal justice, legislative, executive, and judicial systems are flawed. The origins of police in the United States stem from slave catching. The amendment that we claim ended slavery actually made slavery permanently legal, just through our prisons. Mandatory minimum sentences and the War on Drugs was how we put black and brown people in prison, in mass. Drug use is a medical issue, not a moral deficiency. We also deregulated the media, so that news stations could legally lie to us about it all, reframing the initiative as a crack down on crime. Our War on Poverty created ‘the projects.’ No Child Left Behind ensures lower income communities continue to have less resources for their schools. Again, white people wouldn’t really know all this because our news stations are legally allowed to tell us the only problem is that black people just kill other black people. . .
Families have been torn apart. Children are told they will fail before given the chance to learn what success is. Fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters lie dead in the street. Across the nation, people are taking a stand to stop the madness. Richmond NOW is stopping to take a stand, and I am asking that you do too. Is it worth it to stay stagnant and idle–knowing that if we do, we end up continuing oppression and murder? Is it worth it to stay tucked away in a suburban hideaway, knowing that outside your gated community, people are afraid to live their lives as they choose because of how they look? Is that the community you want for you, for our future generations? Our nation can’t breathe, and until it can, I know I will take a stand.
I hope you do too because advocacy means nothing if you are only advocating for yourself. Thank you for reading! The Newsletter will continue on its regular schedule in January–deadline for submission are Jan 3rd.
Love and Peace from,

The Feminist Crew of RvaNOW
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