Community Joins Forces to #GetBKOrganized Against Racism in Brooklyn

Senior Rabbi Rachel Timoner and the Racial Justice Subgroup of Get Organized Brooklyn have banded together on Wednesday to assist with their community in self organizing efforts to confront racism in Brooklyn in response to the white nationalist rally and attack in Charlotte, Virginia.

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Senior Rabbi Rachel Timoner shown before her opening remarks for the GOBK meeting

The Charlottesville incident last month concluded when several people were fatally injured after a man ran his car into a crowd of counter-demonstrators at a white nationalist gathering.

In response, the Brooklyn organization decided that it was important for white and non-white members to reflect on root causes of white nationalism that affect their borough. Since last year the massive bi-monthly meetings brought together a “multi-racial, multi faith” group focused on breaking down systematic racism. About 300 people were in attendance in the large auditorium, quietly murmuring amongst themselves until the beginning of the meeting.

Councilman Lander, who was present and in full support of the group, and Rabbi Timoner gave brief introductions and updates on the agenda. Dara Silverman, director of Powerlabs, which is a network that backs other independently run organizations took the floor.

“Racism isn’t just what happens in the south, or in Charlottesville, or in other places, but it also happens here in Brooklyn,” said Silverman. She spoke briefly on different forms of oppression.

The other prominent speaker and group member, Eric Ward, advocated for positive and creative responses to bigotry or racism rather than violence, such as marching or artistic expressions.

“The best defense is unity,” said Ward, “unapologetic unity.”

A panel of community leaders spoke on diverse subjects such as the criminal justice system, segregated schools in New York city, passing meaningful legislation, and intergenerational incarceration.

As part of the non-hierarchal philosophy, the closing “break out groups,” small sections of attendees that are interested in specific panel discussions or activist subgroups, convened afterwards. They even took to separate floors or rooms in the building with self-appointed leaders to hyper focus on their interrelated agendas.

“We have these mass gatherings,” Timoner said, “to build democracy. I do think that’s the answer.” She said that they are committed to holding an open space for people to continue to organize themselves and make an impact.

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Renowned Legal Activist Stands By Michael Bennett Civil Rights Lawsuit

The President of the NAACP Legal Defense and essayist Sherrilyn Ifill backs a civil rights lawsuit filed by NFL player Michael Bennett, a Seattle Seahawks Defensive End, against the Las Vegas police department after police targeted and abusively detained him.

According to a letter he posted on his Twitter account, on August 26th after the Mayweather-McGregor boxing match, Bennett was targeted for being a black man, arrested, thrown to the ground, and threatened immediately following a shooting in the area.

Held at the Open Society Foundations headquarters near Columbus Circle, Ifill and legal scholar Angela J. Davis were discussing their new book, “Policing the Black Man: Arrest, Prosecution, and Imprisonment,” before a crowded room and overflow room packed with fans of their work.

“We have a democracy problem. Not a black people problem, you know, and not a race problem,” Ifill stated as the panel began.

The book, a collection of essays edited by Davis, focuses on policing and racial discrimination in the U.S and the impact of the criminal justice system on African American boys and men. Ifill and Davis, delved into why prosecutors, local public officials, and police often create racial disparities in the legal system because they hold all the control with no real transparency.

Bennett announced his intent to file the lawsuit hours prior to the start of the panel. During the Q&A portion, an attendee asked if civil rights lawsuits against police officials affect the progress towards a solution to routine racial discrimination.

Ifill said, “It does matter very, very powerfully. It’s part of the equation.” She expressed a hope that individual claims, new patterns and practices of the justice department, and prosecutors willing to take action would raise consciousness. “I was thrilled. He [Michael Bennett] was willing and he wasn’t just going to suck it up.”

She closed the discussion saying that the civil rights lawsuit is just a small stepping stone in a bunch of processes designed to pressure the criminal justice system into change, but a necessary one.

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From left Speaker Sherrilyn Ifill, Moderator Chris Stone, Speaker Angela J. Davis

Your Mother Wears a House Dress

If your house

is a dress
it’ll fit like
Los Angeles
red sun
burning west,
deserts, fields,
for certain it will
drape even
a boy no less
boy in disrepair
wandering from shore
to crest, others
mistake his
searching for
despair, no,
never, but
for thirst,
cloaked as
he is, warm,
radiant in a
house dress.

By Joseph O. Legaspi

Like Children

My knee joints knocked from a lifetime of running

nothing would bring more joy than the sight

of losing the neighborhood boy in the wake of my stride

I’d track buses, chase dogs

just to break a sweat

but when our old souls met

my body had yet to learn that we’d slow eventually

we’d run together

do you remember

spitting in the face of our youth

we’d boast that neither one of us had ever moved faster

so we ran

we’d race

side by side

knees aching as age begged us to quit

but we were in love with it

the thrill of who can get to the door faster

loser makes dinner, winner stays forever

doesn’t matter

the car’s around the building across two lawns and a parking lot

we’d take off like the Olympics

he was leg, thigh muscle

but I was all distance

this was the way we lived, our existence

all gleeful and foolish

First time my knee gave out I was astonished it buckled under me. Stitches upon keloids upon black marks and scuffs that I never thought twice about until a pain bounced

so lightning quick

from there through my skin and muscle and bone that in a moment of shrouded clarity

I thought who shot you

as I tumbled a little down the stairs I had visions of intruders taking flight, aiming the gun just right, so that I could never run again.

Panic bit up my ankle

leapt onto my chest

started to dance

If I am shot

if my faithful knee has fallen whom would I run to

where would I go

My pulse quickened. Minutes seemed to pass. I’d never two step or tap my feet in anger or ruthlessly beat the kids in tag because I’m petty and bigger.

Heart sounded so loud in my ears as I clasped my leg

what if I never run with you again

what if I never run to you again

 

They End

Bolted upright I ask aloud to a sleeping room

“Is this a dream”

The timbre of my voice weighs down my ears, letting

me know that it’s not

Instinctively I feel for the dip.

Cool. Empty

Tiredness shoves me back into the pillow as if to say,

“Yes it always was but you knew that already”

I pray for answers that won’t come from simply having been asked

I used to pray loudly

out in a pasture where no one but ghosts could witness

now everything’s silent mutterings as I lull myself back

to restlessness

“It’s okay. It was a good dream.

Good dreams get to end.”

 

The Pursuit Of

we real cool

we beat slow

mellow flow hold

the fluidity at a

decibel of a syllable

go

vent

we street meat

in the belly

we brew steady heavy

live accents &

accidents