Easter marks new beginnings, the time of year when we can’t help but wonder at the cycle of life whether it’s the budding of trees, hatchlings in nests, bursts of color in flower-filled gardens or listening to the sounds of joyful children scampering for eggs during a holiday hunt, it is hard to resist the pull of possibilities intrinsic to renewal. It is up to us to embrace it.
Reflecting on the challenges faced by communities everywhere causes me to reflect on how easy it is to miss this annual ritual of renewal and restoration so essential to our existence and yet so typically taken for granted as we rush through our days too often “living to work” rather than “working to live.”
During our daily race we tend to pause only periodically to celebrate good news and probably we stop more often to opine over the too many things going wrong.
I caught myself opining again this week when news broke of another senseless shooting of a young Black man, Patrick Lyoya, this time at point blank range—in the head—by a Grand Rapids, Michigan police officer. I had the same visceral reaction I always do when these incidents occur. He was only 26 years old, about the age of my own grandsons.
On one hand, I did not want to watch the video—it was too easy for me to mentally superimpose the faces of my grandsons’ over his, to make the tears of his family my own.
On the other hand, I could not turn away. I guess on some level I feel turning away from the pain makes it too easy to ignore—the one thing as a people we can never afford to do. We must bear witness as it fuels the movement for systemic change in the continuing effort to prevent the next Black life from being taken by those sworn to serve and protect.
“Oh my god,” I screamed in silent rage responding to the horror I witnessed on the video. ‘What must we do to stop these killings? Will things ever change,” I lamented to myself rhetorically.
As I dove back into my work that day I realized in how many ways things are changing, not regarding these police tragedies and certainly not fast enough and possibly not nearly enough, but I would be disingenuous if I did not recognize the progress.
San Bernardino’s First
I was reminded how after a three-year search, community pressure and 116 years, the City of San Bernardino has finally appointed its first Black police chief, Darren Goodman. With a law enforcement career that spans more than 31 years, Goodman has spent the last four years as its chief of police and in many ways it is like coming home for him as he spent years in service with the San Bernardino County’ Sheriff’s Department.
Acknowledging the significance of his appointment to “people who look like him,” Goodman expressed his commitment to people as a police chief for all the city’s residents.
Also, as recently reported by Black Voice News, California’s first-in-the-nation task force on reparations is making purposeful and steady progress having recently reached consensus on who in the state will be eligible for the yet to be determined reparations. As a result, when (and if) a final decision regarding the nature of reparations is determined, “individual[s] being an African American descendant of a chattel enslaved person or the descendant of a free Black person living in the US prior to the end of the 19th century,” will be eligible.
Doing it for ourselves
In other news regarding Black progress, the California Black Freedom Fund, has hired Marc Philpart, prominent advocate for boys and men of color, their families and communities, as its first executive director to lead the five-year, $100 million initiative to build and sustain the power of Black-led organizations, coalitions, and networks.
The fund provides an amazing opportunity for meaningful and sustainable solutions as it was co-created with Black leaders and organizers and is determined to address a history of underinvestment in Black-led organizations.
New laws, new opportunities
Regarding nonprofits, the Riverside organization, Starting Over, Inc. led by executive director Vonya Quarles, works every day to address homelessness and recidivism in the region and has added to its list of advocacy efforts, informing members of the community about the promises of AB 1869 and AB 177, recent laws that eliminated a total of 40 criminal justice system fees in California and making any unpaid balance related to those fees. “unenforceable and uncollectible.” This is another step toward helping those who have paid their debts to society to live a life unencumbered by these unreasonable debts.
Racism a public health crisis
I remain among the cynical regarding promises made by businesses and municipalities that declared “racism a public health crisis” in response to the collision of COVID-19’s impact on Black communities with the realities of institutional and structural racism and the ongoing disregard for Black life by rogue police officers and systemic racism in the criminal justice system.
Although the declarations are emblematic of a quest for redemption I’m sure I am not alone in questioning whether such statements will translate to meaningful action. This week, my skepticism was somewhat assuaged when I spoke with Gene Kennedy, Senior Public Information Specialist with the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services and learned more about work the county is doing related to Black maternal and infant care, including the county’s first ever podcast on Black maternal health in alignment with the county’s recognition of “racism as a public health crisis.”
The podcast features Stephanie Bryant, the branch chief of Maternal Child and Adolescent Health at Riverside University Health System (RUHS) – Public Health as reported this week by Black Voice News reporter Breanna Reeves.
These are just a few examples of the ongoing efforts aimed at redemption and renewal regarding the Black community, I experienced in my work this week.
It is so easy to become jaded and disillusioned when every day we face a barrage of information centered on what is broken all around us. This week reminded me of how important it is to remain in gratitude for the incremental progress—whether redemption or renewal–we are most assuredly, working to create a better community.
Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.