Rethinking Thanksgiving: Solidarity with Indigenous Resistance

On this webinar we hear from Krystal Two Bulls (NDN Collective, LANDBACK Campaign), Jean-Luc Pierite (North American Indian Center of Boston), Khury Petersen-Smith, Mea Johnson (Indigenous Environmental Network, North American Indian Center of Boston), Annie Banks, Julia Tasuil, Kazi Toure and Jaan Laaman (Jericho Movement) about Indigenous-led frontline movements to resist violence and colonization fueled by the current extractive economic system and gather ways to further and deepen solidarity with Indigenous resistance.

This webinar is an invitation to interrogate so-called thanksgiving, and move beyond the myths of USA history with Indigenous People on Turtle Island. From tar sands pipelines across Turtle Island to Arctic oil and gas drilling, Indigenous campaigns of resistance continue to lead the way in protecting future generations against the destruction of sacred lands and waterways.

Watch the full webinar here.

Read the full transcript here.

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image shows a photo of the department of corrections building from the outside

With the Louisville jail in crisis, advocates are pushing harder for bail reform

By Roberto Roldan, WFPL Louisville

Workers at the jail in downtown Louisville are speaking out about what they see as a growing crisis. They say the jail is overcrowded, understaffed and its infrastructure — like computers, elevators and cell door locks — is in disrepair.

The Metro Corrections union has described the current conditions as “a dumpster fire,” and a majority of its members recently declared they have no confidence in jail leadership.

Advocates who have been pushing for years to limit or eliminate the use of cash bail see themselves as uniquely positioned to help address the jail’s capacity issues. And they say their proposal seems to be gaining traction in light of the crisis.

Every month, members of the local activist group Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ) knock on doors in mostly white, working-class communities to organize support for issues that disproportionately affect their Black neighbors. 

They’ve focused in recent years on criminal justice reform and more specifically the issue of cash bail. 

Bill Allison and his wife Pat spent a recent Saturday morning speaking with residents living along Shingo Avenue in Louisville’s South End. Bill, a local attorney who has worked with the ACLU of Kentucky, usually starts by explaining what cash bail is. 

“If somebody gets arrested, the judges say, ‘You have to post money to get out of jail,’ even before their trial,” he explains to a woman and her elderly mother, both immigrants from Albania. 

“A lot of people — poor people, working-class people — cannot post this bond.”

Oftentimes, though, Bill doesn’t have to explain anything. He said many of the people he meets know what being arrested is like, or they have a family member who’s been to jail. 

Those people are eager to sign postcards in support of ending cash bail. The SURJ organizers then send those notes to local judges, who have wide discretion when setting bail. 

“When you can talk to people at home, most times they’ll sign the postcard,” Bill said.

In fact, SURJ has a 78% success rate when it comes to gathering signatures. Democrats and Republicans alike sign it. In three years, the group’s members have knocked on 3,000 doors and had more than 700 conversations about cash bail.

Read the entire article, or listen to the story, at WFPL.

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After Rittenhouse verdict, activists fear for their safety at future demonstrations

By Adrian Florido, NPR

Adrian Florido: Police and vigilantes, says Erin Heaney (National Director for SURJ), respond less aggressively when there are white people in a crowd. The fact that Rittenhouse was acquitted despite his victims being white, she says, drives home the threat that nonwhite protesters face if the verdict emboldens more vigilante violence.

Erin Heaney: It reaffirms the need for those of us who are white to be putting our bodies on the line and also, you know, doing the long haul organizing.

Adrian Florido: She says many of the white people her group organizes are new to racial justice work. And though many are shaken by Friday’s news…

Erin Heaney: One thing we are seeing is that, like, many, many new people are finding our organization and, you know, signing up saying, I want to do something – really just, like, in the last couple days. So I think there is a risk that people are going to be more scared. But I also think that the news also is moving more people into wanting to fight for racial justice.

Click here to listen to the full story on NPR News.

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image shows many people gathered at a protest. Attica Scott is speaking through a microphone. In the background a number of white people are holding a SURJ banner.

Kyle Rittenhouse verdict sparks Louisville protests

By Ayana Archie, Louisville Courier Journal | Photo by Joe Sonka

About 50 people gathered in downtown Louisville on Saturday afternoon to protest the verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse case. Rittenhouse was found not guilty on all charges against him Friday, more than a year after he shot three men during a protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The protest, which took place on the steps of the Hall of Justice, was organized by the Louisville chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice, whose goal is “bringing more white people into racial justice movements for change.”

Anice Chenault, part of the LSURJ leadership team encouraged people to use their anger toward the criminal justice system to bring about change, starting with those around them. 

“We feel this anger,” she said. “We say to ourselves and people who we know agree with us that this is wrong. But we got to start saying it to people who don’t agree with us. We have to start saying it in public. You have to start taking risks at work. Because if we don’t speak up, especially white folks, every time we don’t say something there is an assumption that we agree.” 

Read the rest of the article at the Courier Journal here.

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image shows a group of about 15 white people outside under a tree in a neighborhood. They are holding signs that say "Kim Beaty for sheriff"

2021 Buffalo Sheriff’s Race

In the 2021 Buffalo Sheriff’s Race, SURJ Buffalo joined a multi-racial coalition of local partners to do our part to disrupt the cycle of violence in the Erie County sheriff’s office. Though our candidate, Kim Beaty, did not win the election, our work in majority-white communities moved white voters to support progressive criminal legal reforms.

In Erie County, the Right has maintained power of the sheriff’s office — and for over 15 years moved white voters to elect Tim Howard, one of the deadliest sheriffs in the country  — through “law and order messaging” for decades despite having a Democratic majority by 22 percentage points. This election, we knew that Tim Howard’s endorsed successor would use the same racist messaging to appeal to white voters.

As a part of a mutli-racial coalition on the ground in Buffalo (including our partners Black Love Resists in the Rust), SURJ Buffalo answered the call to organize our own, just as we did in the 2016 sheriff race. We set out to talk with suburban white voters about the deadly jail conditions in Erie County because those are the folks most targeted by the racist “law and order messaging” of the Right. 

Through an extensive canvassing and phone banking program, over one thousand SURJ members took action to make 53,000 phone calls, knock 6,000 doors, and have 7,800 conversations — securing 2,300 vote commits for Kim Beaty, ​​a Black Democratic sheriff candidate. 

Here’s what happened in those conversations:

In every single conversation, we found someone who had been locked up in the Holding Center, knew someone who had, or were worried about their loved ones struggling with mental health or substance use and what could happen if they were to end up there. It’s clear that all of us are impacted by the carceral system in some way. It harms us all, even those of us who are white.

Our work in this race reminds us that we can talk to white voters in the suburbs about criminal justice reform without ignoring race — and that we can effectively move them to support progressive reforms when we engage in conversation. In fact, they are waiting to hear from us. The very voters we have been told “don’t want to talk about criminal justice reform,” were ready to talk about their own need for jail reform.

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image shows a large group of white people sitting in a park pavillion, raising their hands. Many of them are wearing black tshirts that say "citizens for a safer Cleveland."

Citizens For a Safer Cleveland

In the 2021 general election, SURJ Ohio members in Cleveland, Ohio joined a multiracial coalition of Black-led partner organizations to mobilize voters and win on Issue 24 — a ballot initiative that will create the most powerful  police civilian review board in the country, thereby putting the final decision on police policies and the discipline of officers in the hands of the people. 

In a heavily policed city like Cleveland — where, 7 years ago, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was murdered by cops in less than 2 seconds after Cleveland Police arrived on the scene to a child playing with a toy in his local park — many thought that the Fraternal Order of Police would block an accountability measure like Issue 24. But the measure passed by 18 points – a result of years of deep organizing in multi-racial communities led by Black Lives Matter Cleveland and families who have been affected by police violence. 

SURJ Northeast Ohio (SURJ-NEO) led an extensive canvassing and phone banking program targeting majority-white communities in the City. Over 100 SURJ Ohio volunteers had almost 4,000 conversations at the doors and over the phone with white voters in Cleveland to mobilize them in support of Issue 24 and the Citizens for a Safer Cleveland campaign.

Campaigns like Yes on Issue 24 are not simply election season fights. 

Back in 2015, after the murder of Tamir Rice, white SURJ Ohio members began asking this question: “How can we organize white people in this historical moment of police accountability?”

The answer from our Black partners was resounding: accountability processes are only as good as the people who show up for them. White folks must show up.

And so, as part of a multiracial coalition, SURJ Ohio members participated at every Community Police Commission meeting for over 4 years —  making sure that white folks did our part to hold the city accountable. That commission eventually went on to be the working group that worked with the families to create the initial ballot initiative known as Issue 24.

The Issue 24 ballot initiative victory is the result of over 6 years of long-haul organizing that followed the leadership of those most impacted by police violence.

Citizens For a Safer Cleveland Read More »

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Rittenhouse acquittal- we must be organizing in our communities targeted by white nationalist movements

Photo by Sean Krajacic / Kenosha News

By now you’ve heard the news that Kyle Rittenhouse — who shot three people, killing two, last summer in Kenosha, WI at an event protesting the police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake — has been found not guilty on all charges by a nearly all-white jury.

My fellow white people: I need you to recommit to organizing in your own communities today.

Kyle Rittenhouse — and the nearly-all white jury who acquitted him — come from our communities. 

At Showing Up for Racial Justice, we are working to build a different way of being white. We must build a movement that brings white people towards a real vision of justice. As the Right doubles down on radicalizing our people, we’ve got to fight just as hard to organize them away from white supremacy and towards liberation. 

We must be organizing in white communities targeted by white nationalist and other far-Right movements. We have to step into our responsibility to organize our own people towards something better. We need to build political homes where people can come as they are — and where we can transform them. Where we can help our people build multiracial solidarity, not organize ourselves around the solidarity of whiteness. 

This moment is another example of how the criminal legal system does not build safety and it cannot save us from white supremacist violence. 

Policing and the court system have once again failed Black people and enabled white supremacist violence. From the beginning in this case, the police refused to make initial arrests, allowing a murderer to walk free after actively pursuing unarmed victims. Police remain allegiant to white supremacist violence, allowing white men to act as vigilantes, shooting unarmed innocent people, while Black people are locked up for petty crimes. They defend a system that creates many people like Rittenhouse and the jury that acquitted him. These are not isolated incidents or a few bad apples, and the sooner we can accept that we have to change the whole system, the better.

Without organizing in majority white communities, we should expect this kind of behavior and violence to continue and increase in light of this verdict. Join me in the work ahead of building a better future for us all.

Here a few ways you can be recommitting to organizing in white communities:

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Rethinking Thanksgiving

Indigenous solidarity is an essential part of the struggle for racial justice. We know this nation was built on stolen land and broken treaties — and that Indigenous people today continue to be subjected to racist violence in the form of police brutality, dangerous pipelines, and disinvestment in community infrastructure. We also know that the things Indigenous-led movements are demanding are a matter of life and death for us all.

This holiday season, join us and our partners at Indigenous Solidarity Network, Catalyst Project, Resource Generation, Rising Tide – North America, and Irish for Racial Justice for a webinar, “Rethinking Thanksgiving: Solidarity with Indigenous Resistance,” on Monday, Nov. 22 at 5 pm PT /8 pm ET to interrogate the legacy of the Thanksgiving holiday and recommit to supporting Indigenous sovereignty.

At this webinar, we’ll hear from frontline Indigenous efforts to protect land and water. We’ll be joined by Khury Petersen-Smith, Krystal Two Bulls, Julia Tasul and additional guests from the Indigenous Environmental Network. Live captioning and ASL interpretation will be available on the call.

From tar sands pipelines across Turtle Island — the name for North America used by many Indigenous people — to Arctic oil and gas drilling, Indigenous campaigns of resistance continue to lead the way in protecting future generations against the destruction of sacred lands and waterways. Here are more ways you can take action and deepen your learning:

We are in a time of climate catastrophe and reckoning, and we are also in a time where Indigenous-led movements are building power and leading us towards a liberated future on our planet. Join us this season in recommitting to supporting and joining these fights.

Rethinking Thanksgiving Read More »

image shows a white woman speaking at an event. She's holding a microphone up to her face. She's wearing a brown jacket and has brown hair.

Ku Klux Klan members in the sheriff’s department show ‘who is inside the system’

Op-Ed by LSURJ member Carla F Wallace, Louisville Courier Journal / Photo by Alton Strupp

In the summer of 1985, Robert and Martha Marshall’s home was firebombed in the Sylvania Neighborhood of Southwest Jefferson County. I remember standing with them amidst the charred remains of their home as we held vigil there in support of their family and in protest of what had happened.

The civil rights lawsuit brought by the Marshalls all those decades ago has now led to the recent revelations in The Courier Journal that Mike Loran and Gary Fischer, two current officers in the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office were members of a Ku Klux Klan group within law enforcement.

This is not shocking news. In the 1980s, it was discovered that some members of LMPD were Klan members. The Kentucky Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression fought to have them removed. We argued, how can you swear to treat people equally, regardless of race, carry a gun doing it and also take an oath to the Klan?

But it is deeper than that. We are not talking here about a few ‘problem sheriffs’ or bad-apple cops. We are talking about a system whose roots are in the recapture of runaway slaves and whose work today is at the top of the list when it comes to feeding mass incarceration and perpetuating police violence — disproportionately against Black people, people of color and poor white folks too.

Read the full article here.

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image show a large group of people wearing black tshirts at a park. They are raising their fists. The graphic reads "launch of citizens for a safer Cleveland."

I believe our movements can win.

by Erin Heaney, SURJ National Director

I believe our movements can win. And I know white people have a crucial role to play in getting us to the world we all deserve. 

Over the course of the next eight weeks, we are going to share powerful stories from our work across the country — work that ignites my hope for a future free from racist, Rightwing control. I hope you join us as we celebrate our movement’s victories and learn from strategies that prove the power of multiracial organizing.

We know our most powerful resource is you. The vast majority of our funding comes from folks just like you, and we hope you’ll join with thousands of SURJ donors to build the transformation work that’s possible only when we all come together.

We are collectively at a time of great upheaval, reckoning with the death of millions globally from COVID-19, the rise of global temperatures and super storms, the threat of white supremacist vigilantes patrolling capitols and communities, and the continuation of unrelenting state violence. But we are also at a moment of possibility, as resistance movements grow and we continue to see movement victories secured by Black feminist organizing. Within SURJ, our numbers are growing and our strategy is sharper than ever before.

In 2022 – a midterm election year – white supremacy will continue to be used as a political tool to maintain violent and racist systems. We need you, your families, and your friends to commit for the long haul to break rank with whiteness and join us in putting time, energy, and money on the line for racial justice.

I am inspired and deeply moved by SURJ’s work to date. I hope you feel motivated by SURJ’s strategy, that you embrace the critical work of organizing in the South, and that you support SURJ as we scale up and go deep in order to break the Right’s hold on white people. With your support, we can move thousands into multiracial movements for an anti-racist democracy, build a different way for white white people to find belonging, and secure greater safety, access, and dignity for all. 

It has been a pleasure to learn from all of you over the past year, and we look forward to sharing our collective knowledge with weekly deep-dives into our campaigns through the end of the year.

I believe our movements can win. Read More »

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