Why Black Lives Matter: Beyond the Hashtag

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Erica
 Davis-Crump
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2020 has exposed two pandemics, viral and racial. Both are disproportionately taking the lives of Black Americans. For four hundred years now, there have been two starkly different Americas. It is very literally Black, and White. In that time, the boiling points have exposed minimal progress, and deep pain. Since June 1, 2020 there have been 123 Brown and Black Americans murdered by police. The death that has dominated global media is the murder/ modern day lynching of George Floyd of Minneapolis. While George Floyd’s murder was a media sensation, he is one of 123 in the past six weeks. Six weeks. Perhaps now, you’re gasping and thinking the aforementioned number is inflated. It is not. (Again, two starkly different Americas) 

If you are a White American this statistic may be jarring, but it’s a norm that BIPOC have been living with for hundreds of years. Where the talk in non BIPOC homes may be about the birds and the bees, the talk in a BIPOC home is one of compliant instruction; to just get home alive if you’re stopped by police. 

This is evident in the thousands of personal testimonies of BIPOC men and women, even more so of the civil rights leaders from the 60’s and 70’s. Just this past Friday, the world mourns the passing of two civil rights giants, Representative John Lewis, and Reverend CT Vivian. These were men that faced death with every peaceful protest. They walked with, and advised Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and lived through the violence of America’s segregation. These men were massive agents of change. They witnessed the loss of many comrades to the common state sanctioned murder of Black bodies, and simultaneously experienced the blessing of their legacies being manifest as they lived on. Today, we feel their absence immensely, but we are now charged with the duty to advance the work of civil/racial justice torch they left for Americans to carry.

 It’s clear that racial privilege is rampant during this pandemic, and it is frightening to witness. Many of our neighbors are in a situation where the home may not be safe, or school may be the only place where a child was receiving consistent food access. We can’t simply blame it on the ability to “make better life choices”, when we live in a nation that refuses to put adequate resources to the enduring concerns that keep our citizens bound in poverty and traumatic cycles. (That inherently impact Black and Brown Americans)

The “leaders” around the nation that have negated justice for these public murders,(as of today the murderers of Breonna Taylor still have yet to be arrested, and its been over 105 days), and at the same time have poured their efforts into banning abortion access, going toe-to-toe with the court systems, are draining pivotal resources in this time of dire need. Bringing to light how regularly those backdoor calls for favors could have been utilized to increase capacity for unemployment sites, provide for food banks, child welfare, family reunification, and increase mental health hotlines, rather than burdening an individual for the decisions regarding their reproductive rights. 

From the disregard for decarceration – where predominantly people of color; specifically black men and women are imprisoned for non-violent crimes, or still in jail because the simply are unable to post bail – to the essential* worker taskforce (*Let’s be real, essential in this case is merely capitalistic code for sacrificial. We aren’t going to front as if the current income these companies provide match the hazard that these men and women are working through) that is dominated by women, (again specifically black women who are not in a place to protest showing up or tolerate exposure as they are in a multi-generational home, or are sole providers for their children), inequities still fall heavily on communities of color, this hits harder for the Black community. 

This pandemic has also further exposed the hate for women in leadership as racial slurs to the current lawsuit that the Mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance-Bottoms, has been enduring for working to keep her city safe. To Dr. Armen Henderson who is on the frontlines with COVID-19 and was arrested in front of his home for loading supplies to take to his hospital. Our very own Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has been an innovator in opting for necessary precautions that aren’t convenient for leisure, yet necessary to avoid higher death tolls. 

By now you have seen numerous statements from multiple companies about Black Life mattering. Often, these statements have been an address on the lack of proximity many have to the Black American experience. Many people are finding out they have been anything from oblivious to complicit within the active racist systems that have always been at work in our nation. What does doing the work of anti-racism look like? Where does one begin? How do those of us that identify as “progressive” actively work toward the equity of life for every American? Specifically, the liberation and healing of Black Americans? 

COVID-19 feels heavy and traumatic simply because it is. It has been made it clear that there must be a direct and immediate change in the systems of healthcare, reproductive justice, and labor. While we know that day won’t be today, we certainly can start to act now, and for our future generations. 

It has been made it clear that there must be a direct and immediate change in the systems of healthcare, reproductive justice, and labor. While we know that day won’t be today, we certainly can start to act now, and for our future generations.

The intersectional battlefronts for human rights intrinsically collides with racial justice and liberation for Black life. In the next few weeks we will dive into:

  1. The intersections of justice and the Black leaders that were trailblazers for these movements
  2. Historical examples from victimization to legal acknowledgement and progress: Black Lives always mattered, and mattering is the minimum. 
  3. What it means to fight racism (how truly simple it is, and the accountability it requires of all involved) 
  4. Resources on anti-racism, and reveal how to do personal and community work toward the equity of life the Black community has been working against since the undocumented uprisings of slaved Africans centuries ago. 

Hopefully you join this journey to begin (or dive deeper) into expanding the necessary individual and collective awareness and education to impact the change that’s vital to actualize the progress we need now. 

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Alissa Barnes :: Executive Director
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Alissa Barnes is Executive Director at ProgessNow New Mexico where she leads a team that works on message development, issue and voter education, and amplification of progressive messages and values. She leads the organization in strategy development, fundraising, and organizational growth and sustainability.

Alissa’s background includes nearly 12 years at Roadrunner Food Bank where Alissa led the development and creation of multiple programs that are now national models, invested in community building and collaborations, and worked closely with elected officials, educating about hunger and why policies would either benefit or hurt clients in food lines. She has a BA from the University of New Mexico and various non-profit certifications.
  • If she followed her childhood dream, she would be a Broadway tap dancing star
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Marianna Anaya :: Deputy Director
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Marianna oversees strategic messaging and creative implementation tactics for issue-based and political campaigns. She leads the team’s digital and earned media programs, bringing a New Mexico values-based approach to her work. 

Marianna’s background includes race and ethnic studies in education as a focus at UT Austin and UCLA, political campaign work, staffing former Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham as well as leading organizing and communications work for the Albuquerque Teachers Federation.

  • She currently serves as the Board President of Emerge NM. 
  • Her hobbies include getting more women, queer folks and BIPOC elected to office.
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Lucas Herndon :: Energy and Policy Director
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Lucas’ focus is on all things energy and environment, election integrity projects and general messaging strategy. He is often the front facing voice for PNNM when it comes to issues surrounding methane, renewable energy, oil industry accountability, and public lands issues. 

Lucas has an extensive background in public lands and solar energy. He was instrumental in the creation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in 2014 and has participated in every local election since 2012 through phone banking, online organizing, and poll watching. Lucas is a lifelong resident of Las Cruces where he has served in various capacities of leadership including as President of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce, District Director for the Dona Ana County Democratic Party, and attending and completing the inaugural classes of the Las Cruces Neighborhood Leadership Academy and the Las Cruces Tree Stewards. 

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Josette Arvizu :: Communications Director
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Josette Arvizu is the Communications Director at ProgressNow New Mexico where she oversees the development and implementation of systems that further the external and internal communications of the organization.

Josette’s background in marketing includes copywriting, paid media, SEO and content strategy for businesses and nonprofits, including convention and visitor bureaus from Bermuda to Anaheim. She began her career teaching writing to college students while in New Mexico State University’s MFA in creative writing program. Her previous work promoting diversity and inclusion includes coordination of writing and traditional arts workshops for Native American youth at the Tucson Indian Center.
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Jackie Aguirre :: Communications Specialist
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Jackie’s focus is on graphics and social media marketing that promote progressive issues across our state. 

Jackie’s background includes work in the Reproductive Justice space focusing on Latinx, Chicanx and Mexican-American communities.

  • She is a co-owner of a community art gallery celebrating BIPOC artists
  • She is a long-time volunteer for Planned Parenthood and works with college students to provide condoms/dental dams, menstrual products & other resources
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Edgar Cruz :: Communications Specialist
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Edgar Cruz is a Communications Specialist at ProgressNow New Mexico where he focuses on video creation and research that promotes progressive issues across our state.

Edgar has a background producing multimedia initiatives. With over five years of radio production experience, he is a movement agent who believes in exploring all avenues of media to inform and engage community.

  • Is a host of Espejos de Aztlan on KUNM
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  • First discovered his passion for organizing as a high school student after joining the Youth Alliance in 2009