This weekend the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles co-hosted #BlackSunday, an opportunity for the community to intentionally spend their dollars with Black-owned businesses, who were provided with booth space at no charge. The sounds of African drums played beneath children’s laughter, and happy loud conversations, as merchants embraced customers, exchanged business cards, shared wine and apple cider toasts, made plans to come to Black Lives Matter meetings, and prayed together after a day spent shopping amidst a crowded, newly-dubbed “Justice Center” in Leimert Park.
The home of the old Zambezi Bazaar still feels like the recently-retired Ms. Jackie Ryan, warm and African to its core, and renewed by the youthful energy of Karma Nia Smart, who led the planning team. Tightly packed tables overflowed with organic hair products, handmade skin cremes, beautifully-crafted jewelry, statement teeshirts, and sweet treats. In the back room, children played Twister, practiced “karate,” and read books. What was envisioned as a marketplace and a chance to enjoy Black-led yoga, self-defense, and dance classes became a day-long celebration of Black community, laughter, and Spirit, a marked difference from the frenzied consumerism that is commonplace in malls around this time.
This was the first #BlackSunday hosted as a part of Black Lives Matter’s #BlackXmas campaign. Each year, from “Black Friday” through New Year’s Day, folks are encouraged to #BuildBlack by donating to Black-led liberation organizations, #BuyBlack by purchasing goods and services from Black-owned businesses that are beneficial to the community, and #BankBlack by moving accounts from White corporate banks to Black community banks like One United. Every day of the season, a “Black-owned business of the day” is featured on our social media platforms and tools are provided to those who visit blackxmas.org.
In addition to investing in our own communities, #BlackXmas and the emerging economic empowerment work of Black Lives Matter is intended as a divestment from White corporations that contribute to the murder, death, abuse, and exploitation of Black people in real terms. We assert that White capitalism is killing our people in very real terms, most starkly through its utilization of a violent, racist police force used to protect its quest for profit. On October 29, 2018, amidst early morning workouts, 30-year-old aspiring hip-hop artist, Albert Ramon Dorsey, was murdered by LAPD inside the locker room of the 24- Hour Fitness in Hollywood. The gym contributed to stories that painted Ramon as “violent” and “homeless.” Stories of a “240-pound Black man,” who reached for an officer’s taser emerged.
Nothing written of Ramon’s commitment to health or that he found solace in his regular fitness routine amidst the bustle of a new city. Nothing of Ramon’s courage and vision, moving across country from the suburbs of Washington, DC to Los Angeles just months earlier in order to pursue his dreams. Nothing of the friendships that he had forged or who he was as a brother, a son, and an artist. Albert Ramon Dorsey was painted as a throw-away, or worse, a beast, that had to be put down. This is the pattern of Los Angeles Police Department. This is what they do. They commit what journalist and author, Thandisizwe Chimurenga, calls “double murder,” killing the body, then assassinating the character. However, this is not the work of police departments alone; White capitalism is complicit. In fact, 24-Hour Fitness is emerging as a repeat offender. In 2017, employees called police on Dennis Todd Rogers, a Black man who, like Albert Ramon Dorsey, was a member of the gym.
Mr. Rogers patronized the Slauson location, which deemed him to be a problem on March 7, 2017 because he was there too long and his presence was “bothering” them. Rogers was described as “hostile” and the manager called the police. After Rogers had left the premises, but lingered in the area, the manager called the Los Angeles County Sheriff a second time. Rogers, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, was cornered by deputies in an adjacent parking lot and killed. The sheriff say that he was “armed” with an unplugged electric shaver that he was twirling like a “lasso.” While 24-Hour-Fitness seems to be engaging in a pattern that threatens the lives of its Black members by calling the police on them for minor perceived infractions, they are notalone in their blatant disregard for Black life. On October 2nd of this year, 36-year-old LaJuana Phillips bought “a lemon” from Best Auto Sales in Victorville.
Ms. Phillip was confronted by male staff, who quickly rebranded her from a customer who had spent tens of thousands of dollars and was rightfully upset about receiving a faulty product to an “angry Black woman” who should be criminalized and marked for death. Los Angeles County Sheriff wasted no time killing Ms. Phillips in broad daylight. There is Grechario Mack and Redel Jones, both challenged by mental health conditions, both accused of minor infractions in retail spaces, and both ultimately killed by Los Angeles police. 26-year-old Diante Yarber was deemed “suspicious” by Walmart employees in Barstow who called the police on him; officers murdered in the parking lot. This week, a 21-yearold young man, only identified as “Sky” was killed by a security guard inside Walgreen’s. The guard alleges that Sky was attempting to shoplift. This pattern repeats around the country: In St. Louis – the murder of Kajieme Powell after owners of a convenience store called police alleging that he stole a soda, outside Oakland – the murder of Yuvette Henderson after Home Depot called on her for allegedly shoplifting.
It was the 2014 murder of John Crawford inside a Walmart store in Beaverton, Ohio, that prompted #BlackLivesMatter to launch its #BlackXmas campaign, making a connection by the White corporate drive for profit and the targets placed on the backs of Black people.We are reminded that police function exactly as they were intended, to protect the profit of the ownership class. Slave-catchers, the forerunners to police, literally placed targets on the backs of Black people –our Ancestors – whose core humanity was denied, Spirits assailed, and bodies sacrificed to preserve the institution. At the core of chattel slavery was not simply a hatred for Black people, but a drive for profit. That drive for profit remains, as does the utilization of armed police to protect it. As we struggle to end police violence against
Black people, we must be radical in our approach, daring to get to the root of it all. White capitalism requires racist, violent policing to protect it. In order to eliminate police violence, and the killings of our people at their hands, we must also target the economic systems that built it and rely on it. We can start by making choices the feed our souls, our communities, our visions of Black freedom. We can have more Black Sundays, more communal spaces, more sharing of resources. This is why we say #Build- Black, #BuyBlack, #BankBlack, our lives depend on it.