No Justice, No Peace; I Can’t Breathe; Black Lives Matter.  It has been 9 days since the death of George Floyd.  During the first day of protesting, I felt like those words were going to be recycled chants that fell on deaf ears.  The next day the protests spread to other cities, but I couldn’t allow myself to hope.  As a black man.  No, as a black leader who has faced discrimination, injustice, and threats, I have seen this so many times.

I anticipated the tone-deaf counter-narratives like “all lives matter.”  They came but were drowned out by more chants for justice, for oxygen, and for change from around the world.  With each passing day, I began asking myself, “Do I dare dream?”  Now, more than a week into this, those chants feel like more than a statement.  It feels like a promise that says, “We will not stop until we have change.”

I grieve for the loss of the life of George Floyd and the countless others who have lost their life due to police brutality.  I grieve for lives lost behind bars because of negligence, poor healthcare, and violence, some of whom have been students of YBB.  I grieve for the exorbitant time taken from those convicted of crimes when we know there are better options.  I grieve for all of these people and the families that have been torn apart by systemic injustice.  But it is not enough for us to grieve.

We need to be committed to action.  As a multi-racial, multi-gender team, this is our commitment to anti-racism:

  1. YBB will pay full-time staff who choose to volunteer or lawfully protest during working hours
  2. YBB staff and board will collaborate to create and post a racial equity statement
  3. YBB will create a publically available racial grievance policy
  4. YBB will continue paying for racial equity training for full-time staff and expand this policy to cover all paid staff members
  5. YBB will continue to give no-questions-asked scholarships to our Trauma-Informed Yoga Trainings for Formerly Incarcerated People and People of Color

Will you join us in committing to action?  Here are some actions and resources for you.

Actions:

  • VOTE: make sure you are registered: https://vote.gov/.  National politics matter, yes. And, the vast majority of people who are incarcerated are impacted by state and county policies. The Washington State Department of Corrections implements legislation from our state elected officials!
  • Pay attention to the unprecedented number of amazing black women running for Washington State Congress this year.
  • Support initiatives that decriminalize the justice system by signing petitions, talking to legislators, volunteering, and voting
  • Become educated on systemic oppression and racism.  Yoga Behind Bars will be putting on a Virtual Trauma-Informed Yoga Training this month, where we dedicate a large portion of the training to discussing systemic oppression and racism.  Other great trainings include:
    1. Cultures Connecting
    2. UIR People’s Institute
    3. Social Justice Fund Anti-Racist Giving Plan workshops
    4. NPARC-Non-Profit Anti-Racism Coalition
  • Engage in conversations around race and social justice with your family, friends, co-workers, and communities that you belong to
  • BE AN ALLY.  Reach out to your family, friends and colleagues who are impacted by racism and discrimination to ask how you can support them

Resources:

  • Racism in the Criminal Justice System, an InforgraphicA heartbreaking infographic on the racial disparities in the criminal justice system
  • ACLU: Know Your Rights While Protesting:  Stay safe and know your rights when interacting with police
  • Black Lives Matter:  Their mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes
  • Campaign Zero: has a comprehensive guide to policies that aim to correct broken windows policing, excessive force, racial profiling, for-profit policing, cash bail, etc.
  • Color Of Change: An online racial justice organization.  You can sign petitions, create your own campaign, and organize around racial justice issues
  • NW Community Bail Fund: provides cash bail for marginalized people charged with crimes who are unable to afford bail

 

Standing in Unity,

Julian Saucier
Jess Frank
Anthony Blankenship
Maggie Wegener

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