PRESS RELEASE: SPIRITHOUSE PROJECT CALLS AN EMERGENCY SUMMIT TO ORGANIZE A SOUTHERN STRATEGY FOR RACIAL JUSTICE AND NON-VIOLENCE
To: Peace and Justice Sisters and Brothers in the South and throughout the USA
(Columbus, GA, September 19, 2009)
A CALL FOR UNITY AND ACTION AS WHITE SUPERMACY GROWS:
With these questions ringing in my heart and mind, and I am sure in yours, I invite you to be a co-sponsor and/or attend a grassroots emergency summit on Saturday, September 19, 2009, from 10am until 5pm in Columbus, Georgia. We will discuss and plan a collective southern strategy that addresses the dangerous rising tide of racism, which is creating an environment for oppression, vigilante violence, and white backlash against people of color, especially African Americans.
If you want to be a part of the summit committee, please contact me as soon as possible. Additionally, help shape the summit by suggesting speakers. This work does not belong to one group or organization; it is ours to do together. United we stand, divided we fall. We are still looking for the best venue - please contact me for information about the location. I look forward to hearing from you.
Many of you know that I am a long distance peace and justice activist, who began my work during the Southern Freedom Movement in Lowndes County, Alabama as a student volunteer. While working in Lowndes County, Alabama, Jonathan Daniels, a white peer worker and seminarian saved my life by taking a bullet that was headed toward me by a white supremacist who belonged to the Ku Klux Klan. I know first-hand the devastation and deadly dangers of white hate groups. I know that they move from a position where they rationalize that they are the legitimate rulers of America and heirs to all of its benefits. I also know that our silence “does not protect us”. It is imperative that we speak out now! To quote the poet June Jordan, "Who will join this standing up?" I hope you will. Our future depends on it!
The SpiritHouse Project is a national organization that brings diverse peoples together to work for economic and social justice, as well as non-violence. SpiritHouse expanded its work into the South and has a southern regional office in Columbus, Georgia. Although we are in the midst of rebuilding our website, you can check it out at www.spirithouseproject.org.
It is time for us to move outside of our lethargy and fragmentation to form direct grassroots coalitions and working networks that provide sane alternatives to the explosive racism that percolates throughout every artery in American society. It is time for people of all colors, classes, genders, physical conditions, religions, ages, and sexualities to call out and question red-state politicians who use race to obscure the role they play in promoting economic and social misery among the very people whom they claim to support and represent. Additionally, it is time for us to smoke out the fact that they use the race card to hide their burning desire to re-establish white power through states’ rights, while simultaneously assaulting and weakening the federal government's responsibility and ability to guarantee the benefits of democracy to all people.
A report by the Southern Poverty Law Center shows that the majority of white supremacist hate groups reside in the south-red states. Florida leads the way with 57 hate groups, South Carolina follows on Florida’s heels with 45, and Georgia is next with 40. Clearly the election of President Barack Obama has unleashed the racism that is still a burning fire in the hearts and minds of many southern white Americans.
As I travel throughout the South, in my role as Director of The SpiritHouse Project, I see signs of chronic racism. It scars everyone and every place that it touches. I see its devastating consequences in the Black Belt South, where the Southern Freedom/Civil Rights Movement took place. These 110 counties are more than fifty percent African-American. However, with the reorganizing of white southern power through white supremacist populism, Empire Christianity, and economic injustice, these counties are the poorest in the United States. Economics drives racism, and racism drives economics. Many of the black residents in the Black Belt live in substandard housing. Some communities, such as Ruleville, Mississippi and Wilcox County, Alabama, still do not have running water or indoor toilets.
This is the real truth that the proponents and architects of racism try to hide from the entire world through lies that aggrandize whiteness, while demeaning and slandering people of color, especially African-Americans. Within this plan, white supremacists flip the script, and blacks become the racial predators and whites the racial victims. Rather than dealing with their long history of racism, they shift the burden of proof to black people. Consequently, they hide and obscure their real history as white supremacists, as well as abdicate responsibility for this history.
Today, far too many African-Americans turn our gaze elsewhere in the face of these disturbing facts. Instead, we focus on individual gains, rather than our collective welfare. We do this despite the racial unjust landmines that we individually and collectively confront and navigate everyday. An article in the New York Times says that “66% of African Americans feel that the races get along with each other”. We must move beyond this illusion to truth-telling that places us side-by-side with others who work for racial justice. If we do not stand up for ourselves now, then when? Paraphrasing Bernice Johnson Reagon, "where will we be standing" in the 21st century, as white supremacists move the pendulum back towards racial injustice and white supremacy?
Finally, this call for an emergency summit on racism starts with the understanding that our nonviolent movement for racial justice must build up the world, not tear it down. I believe that we can appeal to the best in ordinary people. Unlike the white supremacist elite, who forge their movement in racial hatred, we must ground our movement in love and mutuality. An organizing plan for racial justice allows us to find pathways to each other by remembering when all of our ancestors were strangers and stood outside of the gates of power in America. Our common suffering and struggle that led to gigantic victories are the common threads that connect us all.