MARCH 28, 2015 | #c2cmhc
A surprise snow storm Saturday morning did not stop people from gathering at Mount Holyoke College to attend A Call to Consciousness. The conference was organized after several students from C.A.U.S.E. made a trip to St. Louis for “Ferguson October” in answer to the protests in the community and the calls for solidarity after white police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed black teenager Mike Brown who was unarmed and shouting, “don’t shoot” with his hands in the air on August 9th, 2014. After the murder, Mike’s body was left in the street for four and a half hours while the police of St. Louis brought out tear gas, rubber bullets, tanks and other materials for war before finally moving his body in an unmarked vehicle. Currently Darren Wilson (who was never indicted) has received a million dollars, left his post as an officer and began giving motivational talks. While every 22 hours a black person is still killed by police and vigilantes with almost no repercussions the community continues to protest, and uprisings have taken hold across the country and across the world.
The morning sessions were led by local activists, scholars and organizers. Chris Tinson, professor of Africana Studies at Hampshire College and co-founder of TRGGR Media Collective and (…) spoke on the penal democracy and mass incarceration. They were followed by Tarra Parish – an organizer in Springfield who is gathering people who are working from a place of shared values to stop the school to prison pipeline – and David Hernandez who spoke on the administrative incarceration and deportation of black and brown people, a system which is almost more nefarious than federal and state incarceration because prisoners are not allowed access to a fair and speedy trial or to many of the other basic judicial steps that incarcerated people are supposed to be given.
Rap Sessions was a dope panel with Johnetta Elzie, habitual truth teller, Ashley Yates, co-founder of Millenial Activists United and infinite wielder of Black Girl Magic, Tef Poe, Rebelutionary Rapper and creationaries G1 and RodStarz of the Rebel Diaz Arts Collective. It was moderated by movement maker Jasiri X of 1Hood. Panelists spoke on the work they are doing in their communities from Ferguson to Palestine to the Bronx to the United Nations in Geneva.
After a break the conference participants moved to more intimate break out groups to discuss Media, Spirituality, Women and Police Violence, Tangible Solutions and Artivism. The space was mostly people of color and so served as what many felt was a healing time to have honest conversations on the current work already happening in local communities and how to stay connected to build a more unified movement.
The panelists spoke again briefly to report back on the break out groups and overall the idea was the same: build community and know your role in the movement.
The group reconvened at 10pm for a concert by all of the emcees who spoke on the panel and Vithym and YC the Cynic of RDACBX. As is the tradition the show ended with a cypher where local emcees were given a chance with the mic. Before Tef Poe came on the group chanted, “turn up don’t turn down we do this for mike brown” for a solid five minutes. It was a powerful moment and one that spoke clearly to the energy of this generation which is best explained with another chant, “we fired up, can’t take it no more.”
The conference was the beginning of a week of local actions in western massachusetts that are in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement which demands equality and freedom for black and brown people rather than the exploitation and brutality that have been destroying the world since colonization. The work aims to dismantle the interconnected systems of capitalism, white supremacy and patriarchy that, through imperial expansion have become the dominant culture in much of the world.
This year’s ASK conference at Hampshire College will host Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, the founders of Black Lives Matter to speak on the movement. Francia Marquez, indigenous freedom fighter from Colombia will speak on the struggle in La Toma to keep illegal mining companies out of the community and put and end to the displacement of the black people who live with the land. Angela Davis will speak at UMASS to discuss abolitionist feminism and the work she has done in her life.
All work is dedicated to the current movements of the global black family as we strive together for liberation and justice.
►Vanessa Lynch is an afro-caribbean community organizer and journalist who uses art as a medium for social justice and decolonization. In 2013 she co-founded Orange Ink as a news and art outlet run by young people of color. She is currently working as a member of the Injustice Liberation Front and serving as Vice President of the Board at Arise for Social Justice. She is also the newest addition to the TRGGR MEDIA COLLECTIVE. Pa’lante. @drvonskillet