In the 60’s and 70’s, taking it to “The Man” was a norm for Black people. No jive. In 2020, the massive wave of protests got the whole world shook and the establishment asking, “What are we going to do to calm these people down?” Obviously, the constituents’ response today is trending. The spirit of our youth gets a 2020 soul clap. One cannot escape the desire to scroll, repost, DM, tag and text. In this case, change happened in an instant. “These people” have names and family members to identify their affiliations; neighbors and allies to testify on behalf of their character as human beings not thugs. When you hear and see the increasing incidents of Black men and women getting publicly lynched and harassed by police officers, it will never be a tolerable norm in the African-American community. To our victorious surprise, nor to the world, the vibrational outcry is rising across cultural lines. The tide has receded and will never roll back the same. In the midst of suffering through a pandemic, who would have envisioned the awakening of a new era? Just like that, a compound effect, that is viscerally felt and dually haunted by unsolved cold cases, beating with spiritual demands for justice.
Now, here we are. The country is finally at a courageous cul-de-sac to enforce the inevitable conversation of race relations and police accountability in the United States. A progressive step towards re-imagining solutions to ensure policies are properly vetted and passed to meet social justice demands on a state and federal level.
Between George Floyd seen publicly suffocated to death on May 25, 2020, by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s knee, Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black queen fatally shot eight times on March 13, 2020, when Louisville, KY cops conducted an illegal home invasion and to cap off the local rage, Robert Fuller Jr., a 24-year-old young Black man who was found hanging from a tree in a park near Palmdale, CA City Hall. The power of protestors led the strayed authorities back to the crime scene referred to by the late jazz singer, Billie Holiday, as “strange fruit,” to conduct a full investigation. SAY THEIR NAMES.
One unanimous fact: America needs local and national police reform. Legislative leaders, like Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA, CD 37), Congressional Black Caucus Chair and the co-chair on the Sub Committee on Crime is relentless for making boss moves when it comes to serving her constituents. Representative Bass introduced the passage of bold legislation for comprehensive police accountability in The Justice in Policing Act of 2020. Congresswoman Bass stated, “We want to establish a new day. We want to give police department’s the ability to begin to change the culture in policing and then we want to ban some of the most egregious practices like chokeholds and no-knock warrants and racial profiling. But in this bill, there are a number of resources so that police department’s nationally can operate based on standards and accreditation just like any other profession.” Representative Bass looks to have this bill passed through the House by the end of June 2020.
Locally, City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson (CD-8), is pushing forth a holistic approach to implement public safety strategies for police reform. Councilman Harris-Dawson said, “There’s a lot more to it; the Community Safety Partnership is just one example. There’s a host of Public Safety strategies that we have that can never get funded or get support because we have this addiction and we are tied to sort of traditional policing. Which, we know all the problems that it has, and frankly, I think we know the limitations of it. And so, during this time period, what we really want to do is increase accountability. Help create the conditions to reform the culture and reform the behavior in the one-to-one contact between citizens and police, and to reform what police departments like LAPD do overall.”
In addition, we asked Councilmember Harris-Dawson to share his reactions in the aftermath of George Floyd’s deplorable death and the city of L.A.’s response to the initial wave of peaceful protesters.
Maleena Lawrence: (In the context of #stopkillingus #blacklivesmatter) With community uprise over the misconduct and excessive use of force by the LAPD towards peaceful protesters and Mayor Garcetti’s reaction to call-in the National Guard, what is the role of responsible Black leadership during these situational crises?
Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson: Leaders have a responsibility to keep the conversation centered on what matters – the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed Black American. We need to spearhead conversations around public safety that center the needs and voices of our residents. Continue to invest in successful programs like the Community Safety Partnership and the Community Safety Initiative that take holistic approaches to create public safety solutions.
ML: From what we witnessed in the weeks of protest, how can you utilize your position as elected public servant to ensure the future protection of peaceful protests?
CMHD: We’ve had several peaceful protests here in South L.A. without incident. We need to focus on the real issue at hand and not become distracted by the senseless violence and looting done by those who do not share our commitment to justice.
ML: Thinking about the 1992 Rodney King unrest, with your background steeped in community organizing, as you experience this climate of social-political turmoil, what solutions do you offer to increase accountability and equality amongst elected officials and constituents?
CMHD: We need residents informed, engaged and committed to keeping us accountable. Join your neighborhood council; contact my office with your solutions and write in public comments during council meetings. Our role is to manage the city and represent the interest of our people.
ML: Thinking about the thousands of Angelenos who courageously assembled in solidarity to demand justice for George Floyd during a global pandemic, can you share what your office is doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19?
CMHD: We are investing in additional COVID-19 testing that includes antibody testing and removing barriers that dissuade residents from seeking testing. Residents who have protested should come to our newest testing site at the YMCA on Vermont and Century. This is led by doctors who grew up in our community and no police will be onsite. Drive-thru and walk ups are welcome. Appts available but not necessary! Visit our social media for details and dates @mhdcd8.
ML: In your own words, What’s at stake as we VOTE down the entire ballot for the upcoming November 2020 Elections?
CMHD: We have a lot at stake. We have the opportunity for a generational shift decades in the making. It starts right now with the Census and demanding the federal resources our community needs. We already know what we need to do in November but we cannot miss the opportunity that the census presents.