top of page

What We Mean When We Say BLACK LIVES MATTER, and why protesting brutality isn’t enough

Curtis Renee & John Sloan, III

Co-Lead Organizers, BLMDetroit

Every company, large or small, now has a pre-written statement of platitudes. It’s ready just in case they need it; sitting on the harddrive of their newly minted Director of Diversity & Inclusion. It’s been written, re-written, vetted, reviewed, edited, sanitized, and watered down so many times no one is really sure what it means. It goes something like this:

“We stand in solidarity against racism and violence.” Generalized platitude, check.

“When members of our community hurt, we all hurt.” Sympathetic acknowledgment, check.

“We’re pledging $1M in support of efforts to address social injustice.” Ambiguous commitment, check.

Sometimes (more and more often recently) the more daring among them might pull a quote from a famous Black leader, like:

“Neither love nor terror makes one blind: indifference makes one blind.” — James Baldwin

And, now almost all of them add... #BlackLivesMatter. But what does any of that mean? The statement above isn’t a hypothetical, it’s a combination of two actual statements of support from YouTube and HBO. Statements like this are common, and millions of people across the world like, share, and re-post them alongside their own semi-cryptic expressions of remorse for “the way things are”. But, very few of them actually seem to understand what it means. So, while we cannot speak for them, we will speak for ourselves.

What do we mean when we write, speak, or shout

Black Lives Matter?

We mean that the current societal intersection of governance and commerce was built upon a legacy of implicit bias; one that values the lives of Black bodies as inherently less than our white counterparts.

Or, said a different way: Our society was built to be intentionally racist!

Our society was built this way -- not our systems of government, commerce, or policing independently -- but our entire way of being (and, if you think we’re wrong, take a moment to re-read the Constitution).

This is important, because these moments can die out with the energy of a firecracker; a bright flash of light quickly reduced to a smoldering flame. Black bodies are beaten, vandalized, and mutilated by police forces across the country. And, unfortunately, it isn’t new. This fact has been a blatant reality for centuries. And, to focus only on police brutality is to address merely a portion of the problem.

Many people, regardless of race, view the Black Lives Matter Movement and our official network of chapters as a loosely organized group of young people, united in an effort to abolish or demonize police officers.

This is far from the truth.

We look at the entirety of what it means to value Black Life. Here, in Detroit, we support and organize Youth Arts Programming, because we recognize that our children aren’t given the same access to education as their while counterparts.

Here, in Detroit, we work to support local urban farms because we understand that our communities aren’t provided the same access to nutrition.

Here, in Detroit, we believe in dismantling a predatory system of cash bail, and a for-profit jail structure that targets our youth.

Here, in Detroit, we partner with organizations committed to the idea that each and every human being has a right to clean water.

Here, in Detroit, we push back against a system that illegally and unconstitutionally forecloses upon homes, because we believe that we all have the right to a roof over our heads.

Here, in Detroit, we fight to redefine the concept of safety, because we believe that only by centering control within the community can we truly guarantee equitable safety for all neighborhoods.

Here, in Detroit, we care about keeping Black bodies alive, and giving them the access to truly live.

The official Detroit chapter of Black Lives Matter has yet to organize a protest action. But our members have attended, and we have seen the violence with which protesters have been met.

So, here is what we are doing:

  1. Starting on Juneteenth we will be launching a series of free Virtual Teach-Ins, Trainings, and Forums. We firmly believe that to organize effectively we must be organized, and it is our obligation to arm members of our community with the education, knowledge, and training necessary to accomplish our goals. This is a virtual series because we also recognize that the same systemic forces that have brought us to this moment have also created an environment where COVID-19 can disproportionately affect our community; and we value physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

  2. We will assemble a coalition of community leaders and organizations, and provide community members with an opportunity to voice their grievances.

  3. We will hold a march and rally this fall (date TBD) where we present a list of clear and direct solutions to our local and state government. These solutions will address the full breadth of systemic issues at the root of our society’s bias.

We are all angry. We are all hurt. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery -- they are not the first. We remember Ayana Stanley Jones. We remember Malice Green. We remember Sandra Bland, Tony McDade, Tamir Rice, Terence Crutcher, Atatiana Jefferson, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Michael Brown. We remember Trayvon.

We are angry, but we are organized. Here in Detroit, in Lansing, in South Bend, in Philly, and across the country. We are the living record of all our ancestors have done, and everything our youth have yet to accomplish.

We are the Black Lives Matter Movement, and we know what that means.


Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page