On Friday, May 29, following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, I attended the moving “Eulogy for Black America” rally organized by the NAACP at Shrunk Plaza with about 150 masked-up sisters and brothers. Huge black-and-white photo posters of George Floyd and 3 other African-Americans recently killed by police or the 2 “civilians” in Georgia brought home the reality of those human lives, now snuffed out by police brutality.
The a capella singing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (the Black National Anthem) was heartfelt and beautifully performed by a soloist from an African-American church.
All the speakers, including two women rabbis, were strong, speaking to different issues and perspectives. City Councilmember JoAnn Hardesty, who was meant to be the final speaker and to read a statement from Mayor Wheeler, developed a choking cough and could not finish her remarks. Before she was taken ill, however, she said this:
“This is the reality of being black in America,” Hardesty told the crowd. “Over and over and over again, black people have been killed, and there has been silence from the majority community.…Black people are tired. Black people are exhausted by racism.”
The mostly young crowd was warmly thanked for turning out, by Hardesty and others. The head of the Urban League in Portland, Nkenge Harmon Johnson, led us in impassioned chants of “What do we want?” “Justice!” “When do we want it?” “Now!” This was later taken up by people sitting on the grass when Hardesty was trying to recover her voice.
To summarize the speakers’ points:
- Black Americans are exhausted by racism and police brutality/murder, enabled by an entire system; others, especially white Americans must step up and take this on;
- Police brutality is a Portland issue too; the police contract coming before the City Council is a way to push for changes/reforms to the police here;
- White people must have the difficult conversations with other white people about racial issues and why it is important to us as well; we must own our history/current situation and confront racism.
Feeling helpless, staying quiet, and wringing our hands over injustice is not the XR way. Let’s rebel against white supremacy in all its guises. In the words of our 4th Demand:
“We demand a just transition that prioritizes the most vulnerable people and indigenous sovereignty; establishes reparations and remediation led by and for Black people, Indigenous people, people of color and poor communities for years of environmental injustice, establishes legal rights for ecosystems to thrive and regenerate in perpetuity, and repairs the effects of ongoing ecocide to prevent extinction of human and all species, in order to maintain a livable, just planet for all.”From Extinction Rebellion US
There’s much more to do to integrate racial justice beyond the rhetorical level into practical action, both here in the Portland Metro area and on the regional and national levels. Let’s get to it. If you’d like to get involved with this effort, and/or have helpful feedback, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.