Dear Members of the MPA Community,
Two nights ago, I attended the NAACP’s Emergency Virtual Town Hall: A Nation in Peril. Like many of you, I have been saddened and disheartened by recent events, and wanted some direction on what I can do to support our Black brothers and sisters. The panelists were Derrick Johnson, President & CEO, NAACP, Representative Val Demmings (D-CA), Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dr. Cedric Alexander, Retired Public Safety Director, Dekalb Co, GA, and the moderator was Keith Boykin, CNN Political Commentator.
The overarching questions of the night were: where do we go from here? What do we, as a community, do next? What are viable actions we can take to affect change? These are big, tough questions, but they are questions that I believe MPA has been asking since our formation in 2017.
The common refrain from the panelists centered on a message of momentum – we cannot let the senseless deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and countless others become part of a cycle wherein the everyday reality of being a Black American is recorded and publicized by the media, we are outraged momentarily, then we all go back to “normal.” Instead, we must keep up a sustained movement where we fight for systemic policy change. Just like the catalyst for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 started with protests in the streets, we must start our push for change at the grassroots level and continue it all the way to the voting booth in November.
Rep. Demmings said she is very encouraged by the fact that unlike protests leading up to the CRA and VRA, these recent protests have included people from all ages, all backgrounds, all races and ethnicities. Senator Booker said that our next march must be to the polls to hold our federal, state and local officials accountable. Dr. Alexander encouraged us all to take our anger and our rage and turn it into something that will take us somewhere – the voting booth, a representative’s office – share your concerns constructively, but hold these individuals accountable.
Derrick Johnson closed with something that really struck me, and I believe struck at the heart of many of the efforts MPA has made as a group. He reminded everyone that elections have consequences – our nation’s response to the global pandemic is a result of choices made in 2016. Increased police brutality is a result of choices made in 2016. High unemployment and high rates of COVID infection in Black communities are a result of choices made in 2016.
In a democracy, our disputes are settled at the polling place. If we don’t take that seriously, we find ourselves having to react to bad public policy and bad policy choices by our leaders.
We need to be deliberate about choosing who gets to sit in seats of power and who makes decisions about our livelihood. We can’t start to make systemic changes to systemic problems unless we change who these leaders and decision makers are. We have all been working hard to affect change in our community and in our state, and we must keep fighting.
If you haven’t already, download the form to join the Shelby County NAACP.
You can donate to Black Lives Matter, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Campaign Zero, Reclaim the Block, and The Bail Project among many other organizations working on the front lines of these issues.
You can support local groups like Alabama Arise and Alabama Appleseed, who are working to address issues caused by systemic racism within our state. You can be more deliberate about supporting Black owned businesses – @bhamnow has been highlighting Black owned businesses on their Instagram for about a week now. You can also use your own social media to amplify Black voices.
However you do it, stay engaged and keep up the fight!