NETWORK FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

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What Does “Black Lives Matter” Mean to You?

Recently, we have been gathering input from people who live, work or worship in Winchester about what Black Lives Matter means to them. In our last two newsletters we published powerful responses from ABC Resident Directors Tachera and Kenny Roberts and former Board member and long time Network supporter Mayra Rodriguez-Howard. In this issue we share a compilation of responses received thus far from our outreach to a diverse group of individuals within the community at large.

BLM highlights inequities and systemic racism
NFSJ intern Ayesha Ghosh, a Bengali Indian South Asian Winchester High School student, wrote BLM is about “combating inequality and erasure of Black stories and lives.” Winchester Select Board member Mariano Goluboff, who identifies as a White, Latino man, expanded on this notion, explaining that “Black Lives Matter means to understand the singular weight that systemic racist policies place on Black people. Whether it is enforcing laws unequally, the criminalization of Black children in schools, which leads to the school-to-prison pipeline, the abandonment of Black communities by local and state governments, or the lack of consequences for government employees who kill Black people. All contribute to making an unequal playing field for Black people.”

A Black woman who chose to remain anonymous wrote that “Black Lives Matter means it’s time for the racial injustices of the past 400 years to end.”

BLM affirms the humanity of Black people
Several of our Black respondents noted that they do not want to be defined only by the color of their skin. Karen Abdool, a Black and South Asian Indian woman, noted “It means being treated as a whole human being as a Black person…(that) my son will not be stigmatized as a criminal as a Black man or boy…(that) my daughters will be seen as intelligent people, and beautiful physically – their body type, skin type…I want my daughters to love their body and for people to accept them.”

Doug Cromwell, a Black man whose family has lived in Winchester for generations and who formerly served as a Network Board member, wrote that “BLM means to have the ability to…feel like we belong; where we were born, where our parents were born, where our grandparents were born, is our home. Freedom to be!!”

BLM is about Safety, Access and Freedom of Movement
The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, which served as the launching pad for the international movement, was created by three Black women–Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi–after George Zimmerman’s 2013 acquittal for the death of Trayvon Martin. Given the origins of the statement and movement, it was unsurprising that safety was a strong theme in our sample. Vernette Williams stressed that, “As a parent of Black boys, I fear for their lives each day not knowing what their future holds in a society that does not embrace them, instead, stereotypes them.” Doug Cromwell wrote, “BLM means to have the ability to drive a car wherever we like without being pulled over…BLM means being able to feel like we are not going to randomly be shot and/or killed because of the color of our skin.”

BLM means different things to different people
Notably, the issue of safety and policing was raised more often by Black respondents. One White woman wrote, “While I do support the idea of police reform, I don’t feel that BLM–for me–is tied as much to issues around policing, although I recognize that that’s a big piece of the systemic racism problem.” 

White people generally reflected on the white privilege they live with as a result of systemic racism. For Lisa Kalner-Williams, “Black Lives Matter” means that, although I live comfortably, I advocate for others who don’t… we have a mixed race child… I have to use my privilege to make sure that obstacles are removed from my family as they navigate Winchester and beyond as Black Americans.” A White, Italian-American Winchester resident wrote, “What BLM has meant to me is that I am more deeply aware of my white privilege.”

BLM is a movement for change
A unifying theme among our respondents was that BLM is a call for action and a movement for change. Chrep Meitner, a Cambodian American and Network volunteer, said “I see a big picture where all lives matter, and it is sad that we have to focus on Black Lives Matter because we are not there yet as a society.” Zeina Marchant, Winchester School Committee member who identifies as a White Lebanese-American, wrote that “Black Lives Matter lit the fire; that fire needs oxygen and direction, so we can build a movement of change.”

Coming up
Moving forward, the next article in our series will explore the relationship between BLM and policing. After that we will focus on how our respondents would like to see our community support BLM and what our community has been doing and will be doing in the future to address systemic racism. In the meantime, in our November 20 newsletter we extended an invitation to you, our readers, to share your insights, and we encourage you to continue doing so. Please email us at office@nfsj.org with your responses to the following questions (and please include your gender, race, and/or ethnicity in your response): What community support for Black Lives Matter would mean to you? And, what does or would that support look like?

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