Perspectives From the Front Lines: Flashpoint Floyd Weekend
Monday, June 1 - The Day After the Weekend of Madness
I can't properly express the confusion, anger, frustration and anguish I'm experiencing. I'm grateful that I'm not yet afraid, but I don't think that's far off. After a night of non-stop explosions, shooting, and looting all around me, I toured my community early this morning to find rubble everywhere and smoke streaming from fires that still burn in places. Sirens wail. All but one of the grocery stores are shattered with debris from a night of looting strewn about. The one remaining store--a store that took six years to lure to the community--has decided to close indefinitely. I had to comfort a young mother who was at the store desperate to get food for her baby. She wept violently as I embraced her. McDonald's and Starbucks are smashed. The doors of the banks have been ripped from their hinges and the ATMs have been dragged out, mechanical entrails spilled all about. Zombies still wander in an out of the empty Dollar stores, grocery stores and liquor stores unlucky enough to have been targeted. The streets are empty and fear hangs in the air like smog. My people who happened to be out there last night tell me that cops just watched. I am heartbroken. My mother is terrified.
Wednesday, June 3
Even though the siege of the last few days has lost intensity, violence is still prevalent around the neighborhood. The media isn't reporting it fully. We are gearing up to bring in CPD, the FOI, various Aldermen's offices and men and women of courage to protect the grocery stores and other vital establishments that remain open. We will also be delivering supplies and resource packets to seniors and families. Sometimes it feels like this is a movie but it's all too real. Some of the stories I've heard anger and shock me about the failure of the state to protect the most vulnerable. One senior told me she called 911 thirty times because of the shooting and looting right outside her house. They never answered, and no one ever came. Meanwhile, Hyde Park is virtually untouched and joggers run around with their Labradors while madness ensues three miles south. It seems that even in the midst of historic upheaval, the communities of wealth are protected while poor communities must cower in fear for their lives. I wear a brave face because leadership demands it, but inside I'm shaken and anguished. This must change. Our work is more vital than ever because it's never been more clear that race, persistent poverty, state and corporate neglect, and a kind of generational hopelessness that makes people believe life is cheap are at the core of all of this.
Thursday, June 4
We convinced the owners of the Local Market (the last grocery store standing in South Shore) to re-open today. We are gathering to secure the location for the grand re-opening at 8 am. Over this week, I have been processing the situation that has unfolding before my eyes, and why it is affecting my community and the nation so powerfully. I have arrived at three conclusions:
Persistent, third generation poverty is at the core of the anger triggered by the Floyd lynching.
Tweaking police conduct rules is insufficient, since police were historically founded and organized to protect the monied elite and keep others not so fortunate in their place.
Only a massive public/private investment in career and job training, and launching a nationwide employment initiative such as national infrastructure upgrades and a reinstatement of career tech education in the public schools will actually change the conditions that resulted in Flashpoint Floyd. Anything less is a guarantee that this period of protest is just the beginning of increasingly more urgent public outcry.
Monday, June 8
I have received word from the volunteer initiative that we were able to make 174 deliveries and serve 533 individuals this past weekend. Most of the budget was spent on food, but other requests for hygiene products, diapers, and toilet paper was also prioritized. This collaborative effort was very successful, and we intend to repeat it for the coming weeks. It is the least we can do for our community.
The destruction we see around us isn't only about the horrific murder of George Floyd.
It is about the 45% of our young people in South Shore and other Black and brown communities out of work and out of school. It is about a history of public investment inequality such that one wealthy community on the North side has received more public investment over the last 20 years than Englewood, Chatham, Austin and South Shore combined. It's about the paltry economic support for our local business owners. It is about a system that puts one in four black people in jail. It is about conditions that lead to a third world life expectancy rate in Black and brown communities while just 7 miles north people live well into their 80s. It is about decades of deep, crippling poverty, where many of our young people--the ones we say are our future--don't even know anyone with a career-track job or a successful, legitimate enterprise and are not connected or moneyed enough to go to one of the handful of quality public schools.
We need to tear down and rebuild the broken justice system and the structure that supports it. The city, state and the federal government need to recognize that this moment is but a prologue to even more upheaval if we don't invest earnestly in education, training, job creation and business ownership or we will keep wasting tax dollars to pay settlements for "bad" cop behavior, bury more needlessly dead citizens, and repair communities like South Shore, and Austin. As far as I'm concerned, the message couldn't be more clear. Now is the time for serious, structural solutions.