George Floyd’s horrific murder one year ago has ushered in a new era of accountability where it’s not enough to simply say “Black Lives Matter.” It’s time to show it in our actions and decisions. It should now be crystal clear that we all have a responsibility to address anti-Black racism within our own systems and communities. We represent a group of Black civic leaders, formed out of the work of the Committee for Greater LA, who are working to build a blueprint for a new Los Angeles that lays out how we got here and what every Angeleno can do from here so that a global uprising is not necessary to get some measure of justice for one man.
One year ago today, outside of a convenience store in Minneapolis, George Floyd’s life tragically ended as Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for what we now know was 9 minutes and 29 seconds. A courageous group of community members, one as young as nine years old, bore witness, filmed, and objected to Chauvin’s callous disregard for Floyd’s humanity. Derek Chauvin’s vile act could have easily been swept into the vast sea of statistics that are used to justify and normalize the level of force permitted in Black and brown communities. Their courage and fortitude ensured that George Floyd’s murder would be the exception to that rule.
Darnella Frazier’s video made its way onto our timelines when we were collectively paralyzed by a virus burning through our community like wildfire. If we were not essential workers or unhoused, we were sheltering in place at home weary, anxious and traumatized by the loss of life, livelihoods, and any sense of normalcy that was disproportionately impacting Black and brown people. That video was the match that lit the powder keg that ignited an outpouring of rage, restlessness and resiliency never before seen on a global scale. Protesters from Minneapolis to Los Angeles to Cape Town called out in no uncertain terms that Black Lives Matter. If you had been living in a bubble glazed with apathy or willful ignorance, this epic wave of grief, trauma, exasperation at the erasure of Black people’s humanity may have caught you off guard. The magnitude of COVID-19 wasn’t enough to make this moment blow over quickly as millions saw the importance of the opportunity to make this moment an undeniable movement.
Here in Los Angeles, with our own sordid history of anti-Black racism and police brutality, we stood in solidarity with Minneapolis knowing that we have our own demons to exorcise. If we honestly take into account all of the intentional and unintentional systemic failures and discriminatory policies that have led to over policing in Black communities, disinvestment in education, an outsized population of unhoused persons, and tens of thousands underpaid, overworked Black essential workers providing our basic needs while at increased risk from COVID-19, we can begin to understand that the conditions that created the unrest around George Floyd’s murder could easily spawn from our streets just as it had in 1965 and 1992.
In September of 2020, the Committee for Greater LA released the No Going Back report that called for the creation of a State of Black LA Report led by Black leaders well-versed in the facts, figures and experiences that tell the story of generational discrimination and disinvestment in Black communities. This group, called the Black Experience Action Team, is committed to developing concrete plans to collectively address them through a partnership with UCLA, USC and more than 30 community, labor, philanthropy, business and government leaders. In August we will release our “love letter to Black Los Angeles’ ‘ that will incorporate in-depth data and policy analysis of the impacts of anti-Black racism coupled with a public arts strategy, community engagement and an actionable agenda that is community-centered. We did not create the circumstances that have led to intersectional and generational systemic injustice, but our voices must be centered in developing the solutions while celebrating our contributions to change the course of this city through our arts and grassroots resistance . The ultimate goal is to materially improve the lives of Black people and every other person in LA County left behind by a system designed to prevent us from thriving.
It took centuries to intentionally build the systemic racism we experience today. It will not be undone in a moment. If you thought the conviction of Derek Chauvin last month for the murder of George Floyd marked the end of the chapter on finally holding police accountable for the trauma and pain they inflict upon Black people and communities, you are sadly mistaken. If you or your organization made a public commitment that you would no longer stand for anti-Black racism and systemic oppression in any form, the work is far from over. We saw your social media posts, read your statements, walked alongside you at the protests, heard your calls for activism and allyship. This moment requires holding each other accountable, pushing our systems towards a new Los Angeles where we can demonstrate that if you fix it for Black people, you fix it for everyone.
We are developing a platform to put these commitments into action. We are counting on all Angelenos to step up and partner with us to push our institutions toward transformational change and an equitable Los Angeles for all.
Black Experience Action Team Chair
President, SEIU 2015