Dear Department of Justice, Mayor Jackson and Local, State and Federal Representatives;
What will it take for us to realize that we must address all of the issues that are outlined in the Department of Justice Report? We can’t afford the loss of more innocent victims. The local conversation was necessary because it was an opportunity for us as citizens to be the voice of the voiceless, and the disenfranchised. The youth were leading marches but we knew that marches weren’t going to change the policies that are so broken and fragmented. We knew that out of the marches in the 60’s came some real policy changes that impacted all of America - The Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act are the greatest achievement in social justice the world has ever seen. We forced America to look at itself, and today we must do the same. Fifty years later the rallying cry is still the same “Why We “Still” Can’t Wait 2015.
Lack of justice in law enforcement is spiraling toward a tipping point. The continuing cycle of denial, silence and lack of solutions is reaching a critical mass that necessitates the enactment of principles spoken over all but only accorded to some. The polarizing and stigmatizing effects of unequal treatment by law enforcement have produced fear for the safety of family and friends in the hands of those who take an oath to protect and serve, silence construed as community apathy. Knowing that African American young men are 21 times more likely to be shot died by police than their white counterparts, should send an alarm that something is wrong. When my cosmetologist is required to have more training hours for certification than the police officer that is patrolling my community I say to all conscientious citizens, this is “Why We “Still” Can’t Wait.
When I look at the faces of young that have aged out of the foster care system and I know the likely hood that they are impacted by mental health disorders that cloud their judgment and their ability to have rational thoughts is very real but our police officers aren’t prepared to deal with that their training doesn’t include serving at risk populations. We know that are young people have been exposed to violence and that exposure increases their risk of mental illness but I look at the training curriculum for the Peace Officer and nowhere does it place an emphasis on cultural competency. Then you should understand me when I say ‘Why We “Still” Can’t Wait.
When I look to individuals that have identified themselves as community leaders and they have no stand or will not stand up for the least of these then every bone in my body cries out loudly with boldness and a new found strength. This is “Why We “Still Can’t Wait.
If you fear me and I have no power then just think of my fear for you with all of the power. The Local Conversation was designed to provide a voice to the voiceless the innocent people that have lost their lives, the people that are scared to speak up, the forgotten people that the world has dismissed. The voices that were present were there to give solutions because they were tired of attending grip sessions. These were people dedicated to the community and willing to take a stand. In the words of Fannie Lou Hamer, these were folks that were “Tired of being sick and tired” and people that understand that Justice begins with Just Us.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated “Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structures dams that block the flow of social progress.”
The Community Corrective Action Report provides principles for engagement, support and implementation of practices that reflect the ideological underpinnings of equitable treatment under the law. This document is the first of its kind to provide an actionable plan that captures the insight and experiences of those who are disproportionately affected by law enforcement practices. Recent grassroots responses across the United States indicate the need for solutions that link community vision with fair practices. The Community Corrective Action Report provides these linkages through
- Identification of key factors that create, maintain and naturalize problematic practices in law enforcement
- Providing recommendations for addressing these factors
- Providing a framework for assessment of progress
Passively waiting for change continues to be the enemy of justice. Dr. King mentions that "Time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively...Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable…Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, nor struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
We must always remember that we must walk not because we want to walk we walk because we have to walk.
This is “Why We “Still” Can’t Wait 2015
Yvonka Marie Hall
Northeast Ohio Black Health Coalition