In It for the Long Haul
In the face of urgency, what does it mean to have a collective response?
Mikal Forbush, our Engagement and Education Director, has written the following message. We offer up his words, with all our hearts, to the Louisville community:
As collective actions take place here in our city - like so many cities around the country - in response to the deaths of Breonna Taylor, David McAtee, George Floyd, and many others at the hands of police, we recognize and share the grief and anger of our community. Protests and rallies that took place this weekend have expressed the frustration and rage of residents within our city. They follow a tradition of people coming together to force change; a tradition of individuals standing for a cause they believed in, standing for progressive change. These protests and rallies are disruptive and loud, purposefully. They are birthed out of the frustration and pain of the unheard and the silenced.
Systematic change is slow and at times must be forced. John F. Kennedy said “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” While we do not advocate for violence at Center for Neighborhoods, we understand that the anger created from centuries of oppression cannot be denied. The deaths of individuals will always outweigh the damage to property ( to be clear: our office was damaged in the actions that took place last Saturday night). But how do we move forward? How does our community work collectively toward actual change?
On Sunday, Black Lives Matters Louisville held a rally focused on healing. As I write this, faith leaders are continuing that work. This weekend, after our office was damaged, staff went to ensure that everything was ok. While there, we witnessed members of our community participating in the clean up of downtown (see below). Residents who saw a need and stepped up. In talking to the individuals, they explicitly stated that they supported the movement and the protest around Breonna Taylor’s death; but they also felt the need to start picking up.
These clean-ups do not deny the rights of protestors, nor do they wipe away the anguish behind the outcry. Instead, consider these actions as hope embodied. Let these actions be a reminder that what follows outrage is regeneration. With every breath of urgency there must eventually be a reflective exhale - how do we build our way forward, together?
The way forward has to be relational. We will need to build bridges over seemingly bottomless divides. Just as danger and possibility collide in moments as fraught as the one we all face now, our relationships with each other are going to be the necessary mortar of building back.
When planning for neighborhood change, we guide people to start with whatever they can do by themselves, alone. Then they can begin tackling whatever work there is that needs more helping hands. And then, only after both of these steps, can they begin to address the work that requires someone from outside their community to help accomplish. What can we do now, 3 months from now, 6 months, 1 year? How do we make this city a city that actually is the compassionate city that the Mayor boasts about? What local legislation needs to be in place to remove the inequality that is highlighted by reports from the Center for Health Equity?
Thinking about this process, what can you do right now? Yes, there is a need for continued clean up; but there is also a need for people to carry forward the work of progressive change. This means supporting organizations that are working for the betterment of our community, like Black Lives Matter and others, working hard toward systematic progressive change. Vote, make your voice heard - not only at rallies and protests but also at the ballot box - in changing how this city is governed. Call, text, and/or meet with your council person and let them know change needs to happen. Cities around the country have taken steps to end the systemic racism in their communities, Seattle, WA, is one example while Franklin County, the largest county in Ohio, has identified racism as a public health crisis. Systemic change is hard, it’s a long process, but our city, our nation needs change. We all need to be a part of this process, that by no means is calling for everyone to be a part of collective actions (here are ways to support without protesting, example 1, example 2) but we all have skills and gifts we can share to make our city a better place.
In 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. said of Louisville, "Upon this rock, we will be build an open city." Over 50 years later, so much healing work remains.