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We Have Had Enough! Black Lives Matter Western Mass 2020

keith harmon snow | MA, United States

1 June 2020: Northampton, Massachusetts: An official Black Lives Matter protest, the 'NohoMarch', was organized and led by 15-year-old, Angelina Miller. The march left Sheldon Field and proceeded on the sidewalk along Bridge Street, up to Main Street, then turned down Center Street to the Northampton Police Department building and the abutting parking garage on Gothic Street (site of the Hampshire County Courthouse).

"I Can't Breathe!" the last words of George Floyd, a 46 year-old black man who died on May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, when white police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down on the street, and three other MPD officers looked on.

We Have Had Enough! offers a limited documentary chronicle of the local western Massachusetts and 'Pioneer Valley' manifestation of Black Lives Matter in early June 2020. The BLM movement has erupted anew following the brutal and inhuman killing of George Floyd, a 46 year-old black man, by white police officer Derek Chauvin. 

This exhibit offers scenes from BLM protests held on June 1 and June 7 (2020) in the liberal and predominantly white college town of Northampton Massachusetts, and a BLM protest held on June 2 (2020) in the nearby historical mill town of Holyoke Massachusetts. 

The response of the NPD to the second Northampton protest (June 7) was very different than the NPD response to the first protest. Local media have downplayed the NPD police response, at both the first and second protest, while simultaneously exagerating the unruliness and aggression of the protesters. 

While the NPD at the first protest "took a knee" at the behest of the protesters, the local media portrayed the police in a leadership role in this, and local media obscrued the extensive paramilitarized police proesence at the second protest.

 

I grew up in Williamsburg, a rural western Massachusetts hilltown only 25 minutes from Northampton and 40 minutes from Holyoke. As a kid I witnessed the harassment of black children (and white children) who boarded the school bus and were subject to all kinds of cruel comments and sometimes (esp the white boys) physical violence. The persecutors were bullies, and I grew surrounded by bullies, and bullies expect others (whom they bully) to play along with their cruel and degrading jokes, taunts, harassment, and other bullying. Those who did not "play along" became targets themselves. It was a terrifying experience, being daily subject to and witness of this kind of physical and emotional violence. 

One day a black man who lived up the road from us knocked on the door of our house. I answered, and my mother appeared too. The man was kind, and respectful, and demonstrated a kind of humility that I have never forgotten and always respected. He asled, in a soft but firm voice, if we would please stop the name-calling against his children on the school bus. I was deeply ashamed of my self. I was about 14 years old. 

I know the red-neck rural white racist crowd very well, because I was once one of them.

After getting out of jail, at 19 years old, I set off for college in Boston. I applied to Umass Boston, and was accepted. I lived in Dorchester. One day, out running around the UMass Harbor campus, I ran through what was then a 'black ghetto' known as Columbia Point. I was, of course, severely beaten by some young angry black men, stripped of my clothes in broad daylight, my watch and wallet taken. I was threatened with stabbing—"should I stab him" one man asked several times, a 6 inch blade hovering over me—but I was not stabbed, and I was 'rescued' by an elder black man who drove the youths off and put me in a car and drove me out of there. I was oblivious to inner city realities and the injustices of a system of institutionalized racism and systemic violence.

At 27 years old I was walking down a street in Syracuse New York when I saw a gang of young black men threatening to beat a man whith a baseball bat. I shouted "Hey!" and the gang turned on me. They approached veruy fast and before I could block it the bat hit me aside the head and knocked me out. When I fell my head hit the curb and gnashed my face, broke my nose, and turned my head into a black and blue pumpkin. I spent a few days in Intensive Care. When the Syracuse Police dragged three black men in front of me, to identify who did it, I refused to cooperate, though I couldnt really say why. I suppose I knew that life was unfair to them, and I was privileged, and it all seemed exteremely unjust. 

I have spent my entire life in recovery from the bullying, violence, and racism of my childhood and my twenties. I'm talking about white people (not the people who beat me up). It is a never ending process. Unlearning racism in one's self requires hard work—hard personal work. It is too easy to be defensive, project one's beliefs and/or myths onto some 'other' person, and this is par for the course for the white man, and that is the whiteness of power. 

My teachers are many, but amongst them are Dr. Amos Wilson (The Falsification of African Consciousness), Toni Morrison, Dr. Enoch Page, Franz Fanon (The Wretched of the Earth), Martin Luther King, George Washington Williams, Malcolm X, Maya Angelou, Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah, Marcus Garvey, Fred Hampton, Audre Lorde... and so many people I have met and experienced in Africa.

 

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