Saturday started as the perfect day to get out of the house to support black businesses and extend a helping hand to some of Chicago’s most vulnerable residents. I volunteered with My Block My Hood My City (MBMHMC) as cars lined up for blocks to collect safety kits to distribute to seniors all over the city. Later that afternoon, I decided to stop by Kilwins in Hyde Park to treat myself to an assortment of gourmet chocolates. Little did I know that the day would take a sudden turn, and Kilwins’ downtown location and other black businesses would fall victim to vandalism.
During Sunday morning’s press conference with Mayor Lori Lightfoot in the wake of widespread destruction in our city triggered by the tragic death of George Floyd, emotions ran high for obvious reasons. Several black leaders joined the mayor, including Ghian Foreman, who fought through tears as he addressed the media. “This is especially tough for me,” he stated. “As a young black man being the President of the Police Board, the buck stops with me when it comes to accountability. I would not have had the same restraint that many officers showed last night. At the same time, I understand the frustration of the community. People are tired.” As a resolution, he appealed for fair treatment and equal access to resources.
In response to protest escalating to destruction, Rev. Otis Moss III, stated, “America is dealing with two viruses: One is COVID 19, and the other is COVID 1619. America has ignored the cries, pain, and anguish that have come from the lips, lives, and hearts of many people of color in this nation. We’re not all responsible for some of the actions taken yesterday but, we’re all accountable.” Rev. Moss expressed pride in the young people who heeded the call and protested peacefully, and he urged them not to lose focus. “Looting doesn’t lead to liberation, and breaking windows has never stopped brutality. We must break racism, racial terror, and white supremacy.” His solution is to organize, set a moral compass, develop an agenda, and continue to fight.
MBMHMC founder Jahmal Cole reminded the audience of Barack Obama’s statement that what happened to George Floyd is not normal. People have a right to be outraged that a police officer committed this crime and others attempted to cover it up. “Being silent is completely unacceptable,” said Cole. Unfortunately, black people are immediately criminalized and never given the benefit of the doubt. “We’re the victims, and we get blamed. It’s not normal that we have to grow up fast. Some kids get to learn how to ride their bikes. We have to learn how to act when we get pulled over.” He urged police to use their badge as a platform to “amplify goodness.” At the same time, he believes that all activists have a role to play to fight injustice and must understand the fundamentals of community organizing. According to Cole, those who wish to be community organizers should ask themselves, “What’s something simple I can do that will have a positive impact on my block?”
As the mayor stated at the beginning of the conference, “This is a time for us to unite. We have to turn our pain into purpose, get through this moment together, and do the work to unite our city and move us forward. in a way that is more equitable, inclusive, and just.”
George Floyd’s death is not just a Minneapolis problem, but an issue of global proportions. People everywhere have had enough of the random, senseless killings of innocent black people at the hand of law enforcement. Though some may find it difficult to protest in peace, we must be intentional about how we respond to injustice. Effective protesting does not involve violence, crime, and destruction.
This weekend’s incidents serve as a wake-up call to seriously address the underlying issues that plague the black community.
Donna Montgomery is a Community/Arts writer in Chicago. Find her at https://www.glwriting.com/GoldenLadyWrites.