Fixing Our Own Communities


(image on post is from Megan J. Smith)

There are people from throughout the country who have journeyed to Ferguson, Missouri over the last nearly two weeks. Many of them journalists, many organizers in their own communities. There are some people who are probably in Ferguson because they want to put their bodies on the line to stand against injustice as well as people who just want to be in the middle of whatever the biggest thing is that is happening.

Of course, the vast majority of people rallying, protesting, holding vigils, etc. in Ferguson are people who live in Ferguson (or neighboring areas). Who will still be there when the media leaves and the cameras are shuttered. Who will still be there when organizers return from wherever they came. Who will still be there when those who came to fight injustice go home and the people looking to be in the middle find a different middle to fill. Who will still be dealing with fixing their broken community day by day, person by person for months and years and decades to come.

For those of us who don’t live in Ferguson, or Missouri, or even remotely close to Missouri, it can feel futile watching from afar, wanting to be part of a solution that can help end the pain that community is experiencing.

But here’s the thing. Wherever you live, there are problems in your community that are looking for solutions. And there are probably already people in your community working on them (this is true in Ferguson, for sure).

***Please, before trying to fix a problem in your community, make sure that someone else isn’t already doing that work. They probably want your help but they probably won’t want it from someone who comes bulldozing in, erasing the people already putting in the time.***

First, you can keep helping Ferguson. #OperationHelpOrHush is a great place to start. Here’s a site with all the information you need about it (also, OHOH just joined Twitter). There is also a list of places to donate here. And an Amazon Wish List. (I encourage you to vet the places you donate as well as you can before doing so. Also, thank you to people on Twitter for pointing me towards these links.)

Then use social media, call your friends, shoot off an email, dial up the NAACP in your area, contact the YWCA, whatever and figure out what needs fixing in your own community and the people trying to fix it and ask them how you can help. That’s it.

The rest of my post is dedicated to doing that in the place where I live: Austin, Texas.

First: Do you know who Larry Jackson Jr. is? Or Yvette Smith? Or Nathaniel Sanders II? Or Ahmede Bradley? Read about them. Their lives and their deaths.

Then, “like” The People’s Task Force on Facebook (their website is here). Read more about the Peaceful Streets Project (FB page).

Finally, attend one or more of the following events:

Saturday, August 23, at 5pm: “#TheNewMovement :: Justice for Michael Brown and What MUST Come Next. At Givens Park (3811 E 12th St, Austin, Texas 78721). Description from the FB event page:

This Saturday evening at Givens Park, I’m asking everyone in the City of Austin to come out and have a very frank and open conversation about police brutality in America. Being that police brutality is something we deal with heavily in Austin already, this last incident is far from an isolated event.

Furthermore and MOST IMPORTANTLY, we will be discussing FEASIBLE PLANS OF ACTIONS for the future of OUR black and brown communities throughout the country.

We will also have stations with on hand for individuals that have been having trouble processing their thoughts and feelings in the past week for people to vent and get their feelings out.

For any further information, contact Chas Moore.

Tuesday, August 26, at 8:45am: “Justice for Jackson: Pre-Trial.” At Travis County Courthouse (1000 Guadalupe St, Austin, Texas 78701). Description from the FB event page:

The Pre-Trial for Detective Kleinert who murdered Larry Jackson Jr. last summer will begin Tuesday August 26th. The Jackson family and the People’s Task Force are asking those who can make it out in the morning join them for a rally outside the courthouse where we will demand District Attorney Rosemary Lehmburg set a court date to take Kleinert to trial and NOT offer him a plea deal! Unless we are out there pressuring the District Attorney, Kleinert will get off with no consequences like many other racist police. Come out and stand with the Jackson family as they continue their struggle to seek justice for their son.

Pre-trial rescheduled for October 1 so this event was cancelled.

Tuesday, Sept. 2 at 6pm: “Public Forum on Police Accountability.” At The North Door (502 Brushy St, Austin, Texas 78702). Description from the FB event page:

The public forum will focus on a recent resolution passed by the Travis County Democratic Party calling for action from the Austin Police Department to address systemic issues surrounding racial profiling, excessive use of force, and accountability in relation to the African-American community. The public forum will include panelists who will help create a healthy dialogue concerning this issue, and extend the conversation to the community at large.

– Vince Harding, Secretary for Travis County Democratic Party
– Sergeant Wayne Vincent, President for Austin Police Association
– Margo Frasier, Police Monitor for City of Austin
– Bill Spelman, Council Member for City of Austin
– Ashton Cumberbatch, Board Member for Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce
– Jim Harrington, Director for Texas Civil Rights Project
– Nelson Linder, President for NAACP
– Vanessa Sarria, Executive Director for Community Action Network

*For further information, please contact*

Thursday, Sept. 18, at 7pm: “The Fight Against Police Terrorism.” At Resistencia Bookstore (4926 E Cesar Chavez St, Unit C1, Austin, Texas 78702). Description from the FB event page:

As the people of Ferguson, Missouri rise up against the murder of 18-year-old Michael Brown at the hands of police, we can see the criminal justice system for what it really is, a racist institution meant to keep the poor and working class in fear. Join the People’s Task Force as we host a discussion on police terrorism and the criminal justice system that continues to fail Black and Brown people and grant immunity to racist killers.

LaKiza Sibley – sister to Larry Jackson Jr. who was shot and killed by an APD officer as he was trying to go to the bank.

Lucian Villaseñor – member of the International Socialist Organization and the People’s Task Force, a grassroots organization that fights against police brutality and racism.

If you know of other events, please leave them below in the comments or email me.

There is an on-going monthly anti-racism meeting held at St. James Episcopal Church (1941 Webberville Rd, Austin, TX 78721) every first Saturday of the month from 9am – 11:30am. I’ve been attending for the last seven months or so but this program has been around for 8 years. It is run by Mike Manor, so if you would like to know more, please contact him.

The next Building Bridges meeting is Saturday, Sept. 6, at 9am. The title of this next month’s workshop is “Peacemakers In Travis County.” I hope to see you there.

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