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Community Reflections on Justice for George Floyd and the 2020 I Can’t Breath Rebellion
By Maleena Lawrence Contributing Writer
Published June 4, 2020

 

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The City of Los Angeles hasn’t dealt with this much commotion since the 1992 Los Angeles Riots when LAPD officers brutally beat Rodney King. Unfortunately, with white nationalist on the rise, more savage police misconduct is being reported in record breaking numbers throughout the United States. On the flip side, as the harshness of hate gains exposure the power of love is in an uproar to protect The People and the sanctity of justice.

We checked-in with Los Angeleno protestors to hear their thoughts and share in their first hand accounts when demanding justice for George Floyd. Since it’s difficult for people to rapidly respond in the center of compacted trauma, I asked community members to answer any of the following questions: “As an observer or protest participant, Why was it important for you to participate in the #justiceforgeorgefloyed protest? How has the 2020 I Can’t Breathe Rebellion impacted your life? What are you called to do? Or, Why do Black Lives Matter to you?”

Sahara Ali Speakes, Actress/Spoken word Poet in Tarzana, CA

For me, as a black African-American female participant I want my future generation to know that I fought and I really want to fight for change.  The biggest things I’ve been telling my friends to do are the small things from supporting black artists, coffee shops to knowing who you vote for is more than just the president. All the small things like check-in on your own Black friends. Not just posting on social media where people share their stories and experiences without having to relate. Just listen to us and ask us questions and ask fellow races to do the same.

Alisa Cabrera, Homeschool Mom in Encino, CA.

As a black person living in this country this has always been my experience. And I’ve always been active, participating in protests and in organizing to help get people to vote and get involved. When I generally would speak out on these matters I would be meant by silence in my church community or the idea of this is sad but no involvement. It’s disheartening to hear some of the criticism from people who are just quick to point out people who are rioting and looters and compare them with the peaceful protestors but have never been a part of the solution or attempt to really help in a concrete way. I saw a lot of people fighting to maintain peaceful protest. I did see people tagging but every single one of them were white. It was very strange. Very confusing and people were talking to them, even filming them, asking them to stop. And then the looters weren’t even really a part of the protest. They were camped out in front of the stores the whole time and just waited until the protesters moved in their direction and took advantage of the chaos. It was really eye-opening to see how quickly things turned ugly when it wasn’t the protesters involved in the looting or vandalism but when you look on social media or even in mainstream media you may think differently.

 

Bernadette Speakes, Actor in Northridge, CA

I wanted to share some thoughts as I reflect on what’s going on in our world right now. I went to Hollywood to protest with my whole family knowing it’s something that my mother did in the sixties. It made it all very surreal to see so many, know matter the race, creed or gender. We were all together respectful and passionate. Everyone played a part giving out water, snacks, some had materials to make signs. It reminded me that there is good in humanity and I broke down crying in the arms of my son. The conversation of race can either divide us or bring us together. Most times people don’t want to engage in that conversation because they don’t know what to say or they don’t want to say the wrong thing or they just want to keep the peace which is really complete disengagement. The only way that the conversation will get easier is if we work to keep having it. White people, Black people. Black people have had this conversation not always because we want to but because we have too. And I encourage my white brothers and sisters to have enough humility to take a good look within themselves and stop trying to relate because it is not about that. It’s about admitting to the possibility that they may have been silent or they didn’t acknowledge their own white privilege, or they didn’t bother to educate themselves or their children. If we aren’t doing any of those things, then we can not have a unified America. We all must continue to educate ourselves on the local level of who’s running for office. We keep focusing on the president and yes that’s important, but it is, what is going on locally that affects us directly and if we are being lazy and not doing our due diligence to find out who’s running what, their record, what they stand for before we go off into the voting booth nothing’s going to change on that level. We need to find a way to teach the Next Generation.

Nourbese Flint, Policy Director for Black Women For Wellness,  Echo Park
What to say about the George Floyd protest. I am profoundly disappointed by Los Angeles’ response, particularly Mayor Eric Garcetti. It’s not just a national protest. I’m a born and raised Los Angeleno through and through. I love the city, probably a little too much but I also know that the city doesn’t love me as much as I love it. When we had an opportunity to respond to this movement and this moment with mental health professionals, community leaders, civic response, strategy to address and figure out how to get rid of racism in the Department’s both in the police and other City departments we decided to respond with an army of police officers and actual military. Then put them on Los Angeles residents. This was a response devoid of humanity and understanding and pain.  It just left me profoundly sad and worried. Knowing that our city and our state is going through a budget crisis and money that could have been used to put people in housing and food security and thinking about how we are actually going to get people Health Care. Now money is going to police officers and the National Guard. So, I would say our city chose wrong. I’m just looking forward to how we can figure out how to hold our city council and Garcetti responsible for the complete blunder of this situation.

Mel Chude, Actor Downtown LA

Going out to join the crowd, I find that the difference this time around is that there’s other races and cultures a part of the movement. My experience is you know, there may have been a hundred people actually standing up for the first time and maybe 10 were black people because Black people are home due to COVID-19 and in the face of protest, police usually attack the Black people. As a peaceful protester, I got shot twice by a rubber bullet. One in the neck and one on my leg leaving a five inch open gash. But it’s not going to deter me. It’s not going to deter anybody that I know. We must fight. We must organize. There are so many solutions. President Barack Obama laid out a great deal of them. As far as the people on the ground just having more people come out, you know, a peaceful protest late in the evening the police do agitate. There were agitators in the crowd and none of them are of our kind. As a black man, I just felt like we’re fighting for Black Culture, our race as a people and we must be out here on the front lines. We can not allow other people to co-opt our movement. Knowing as a black man that I am stepping up for what’s right and for my brothers and sisters that have been lost in the sacrifice of the struggle. Even after being shot twice and all the blood, it is better to be alive from a rubber bullet then die like brother George did, or Ahmaud Arbery or Brianna Taylor. Any day any time, I want to be here for the fight and represent my people. God Bless.

Charity Chancellor Kohl, President of the Black Los Angeles Young Democrats

Dr. King said, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” The global uprisings we are seeing are for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and all the Black people who were taken away as a result of racism and white supremacy. We speak their names. – Denae Joseph

These protests are the most righteous action anybody could participate in. Calling for justice and demanding change is a daily commitment we should all have. Now is the time for policy change and inspiring leadership.- Isaac Bryan

Black lives matter isn’t just a hashtag for police brutality, it also means Black employment, Black mental health, Black maternal health, Black prosperity, Black security and educating Black minds. All facets of our lives matter and Black is not criminal. -Nicole Walker

Even in the middle of a pandemic that disproportionately impacts Black people throughout the county, we once again find ourselves victims of state sanctioned violence. Black people are facing two pandemics; COVID -19 and Racism.- Jelani Hendrix

Racism is and has been a devastating public health issue, especially here in LA. If our leaders and elected officials don’t get that and are unwilling to appropriately  respond to this crisis, then they too are on the side of our oppressors.

 

KAREEM GRIMES, Actor

People ask me how I feel about the Riots. I ask them how do you feel about White Cops Killing innocent black people?

This is a Culmination of 1619 -2020 Black People are Tired Tired Tired. People talking about looting & Rioting. But they quickly forget about Black Wall St. Bombing on American Soil By Americants on Americans

Karyn Chung, In solidarity

My son, Nathan, and I joined the Speakes family at the Hollywood protest. When my grandchildren ask me “what did you do?” “Where were you?”, I want this to be part of the story. But this is just a part, I’m stepping in to seek change – Real Change, that comes from voting, policy changes, and whatever else I can be part of that brings change. And my sons will be a part of the learning because more is caught than taught.

John Wood Jr., Writer and Spokesperson for a non-profit in South Los Angeles

I have been moved and saddened by aspects of the protests that we have seen in the country in the city. I’ve been inspired by the people who have acted with the courage of their convictions to make their voices heard non-violently and who have stood with dignity to speak the truth. I’ve been saddened by those people who have taken a course of violence and who have let either opportunism or bitterness lead them to act in a way that does not honor the larger cause of human dignity and equality. The larger story we are seeing unfold is cries for justice leading to creative expressions of social improvement and social reconciliation off. I think that as we move past the exceptional episodes of violence, we will come to discover a general pattern of transcendence because I think that the spirit of Justice moves in non-violence. And I think that the philosophy is one that will take root in our actions, in our Spirits, in our hearts. I think that will allow us to move this country to a better place where the tragedy is that we are responding to do not happen, do not characterize life is we live in today. It’s a long struggle, but I think it’s one that we’ve been engaged in for generations and one that still gives us reason to be hopeful that we can make this a better country and a better world. The last thing, I’ll say is that I’m happy to see that in Los Angeles at least  people aren’t tearing down and damaging our own black community. Sometimes it’s been the case in the past. I’m happy that we are respecting ourselves and committing ourselves to the work of Justice.

Thank You Los Angeles for taking a stand for Love, Justice and Freedom. #BlackLivesMatter #justiceforgeorgefloyd #icantbreathe

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