But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. No chains will ever bind them, except the ones they choose to use to get free. In the eyes of the foolish [i.e. “powerful”] they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be a collective suicide. Their going from us – their destruction. But they are at peace now from death, for they die-in the name of Resurrection.
– Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-4 RTT translation*
(photo by Sarah Ji)
Last week, the International Association of Chiefs of Police brought their annual conference to Chicago. Law enforcement leadership from over 80 countries were in attendance with their corporate backers in the thousands at McCormick Place. Over the course of the week, mayor Rahm Emanuel, governor Bruce Rauner, police superintendent Gary McCarthy, and president Barack Obama were all in attendance.
On Saturday October 24, 2015, Black Youth Project 100 and allied affinity groups staged disruptions in various locations, in an effort to shut down not just the IACP conference, but the city of Chicago itself.
Less than a week away from All Saints, I find myself particularly struck by the lectionary text for the day. Especially when read along side the public statement of byp100 and their community partners:
We make up a smaller affinity group of this larger action, representing members of Assata’s Daughters, Black Out Pride, Fearless Leadership by the Youth, Fight for 15, Organized Communities Against Deportation, and Not One More. We are shutting down the intersection of 26th St. and Martin Luther King Drive, in front of McCormick Place. Our goal is to make entrance into the conference as difficult as possible, and to bring traffic to a standstill in the heart of Chicago.
Our reason for being a small part of this larger action is this: We are witnessing an unprecedented mass disinvestment in the Black communities of our city. From Homan Square’s disappeared, to the closing of half the city’s mental health clinics, to Barbara Byrd-Bennett’s theft of public funds, Black communities are being robbed of their most precious resources, maliciously and intentionally, and offered nothing in return but harassment and abuse in the form of more prisons and cops. While Rauner slashes supports for homeless youth, mental health, HIV services, and child care, Emanuel’s proposed city budget for 2016 allocates a whopping 2.1 billion dollars–40% of the annual budget–towards policing.
Even as we block this intersection, the city of Chicago spends 4 million dollars a day on policing—more than it spends on mental health services in an entire year.
What this tells us is what we already know: That Black lives don’t matter to the city of Chicago; That the primary violence our communities face does not come from gangs and crime, but from structural violence in the form of evictions, school closings, budget cuts, policing and incarceration; That the systems born of chattel slavery to maintain Black lives as disposable commodities are as thriving now as they ever were.
What we understand is that the role of policing is not community safety, as we’ve long been taught. It is an apparatus which protects property and wealth, the power and social control of the elite, precisely by targeting, terrorizing and marginalizing Black communities on a consistent basis. As the state inflicts deep social and economic violence on our people, the police use physical violence to keep that structure in place.
The police do not protect us; They protect the status quo–one dependent on the demonization of Blackness.
Today, we stand as a multiracial collective, representing multiple organizations, ethnicities, faiths and genders, all united in the struggle for economic justice and Black liberation. While our action is led by Black people for Black people, we recognize that the struggle for Black freedom is our collective responsibility to carry out, and necessary for the justice sought by us all to be achieved.
(read list of demands and rest of statement here)
3:5 For though in the sight of the IACP & policemen they were punished, their hope is full of freedom. Having been disciplined [in their actions], they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them [more than] worthy; like gold in the furnace they tried them, and like a sacred offering we accepted them as our saints and prophets.
– Wisdom 3:5-9 RTT translation*
*RTT translation = RealTalk Theology 🙂