WASHINGTON, DC—The Washington, DC branch of the African National Women’s Organization (ANWO) held a community forum on Thursday August 6th, entitled State Violence and Black Women: Solutions to Protect and Defend, to discuss the ongoing murder and brutality of Africans by the police.
The forum was a direct response to the murder of Sandra Bland, an African woman killed in Texas, while in police custody.
Police say they pulled Sandra over on June 13th because she had not signaled a lane change.
The police escalated the stop with acts of violence; Sandra was arrested and jailed. Three days later she was found hanging in her cell. A police autopsy determined that she died from apparent suicide.
ANWO stands with thousands of Sandra Bland supporters and her family and friends who maintain that Sandra Bland did not commit suicide.
ANWO understands coming in contact with the police is what killed her.
Sandra Bland’s murder expanded the discussion of police murder of black people to the other ways we are killed by the State, outside of shootings.
African women provide strategies
Members of ANWO DC, President Yejide Orunmila, Charlye Cuff, Esq. and Rania Hamid facilitated the forum that focused primarily on ways to engage the police, knowing our rights and the benefits of designating an emergency network of people who could act on our behalf when we are arrested.
Charlye Cuff, ANWO member and attorney, cautioned that the best thing to do is to invoke our legal right to remain silent when engaging police.
She recalled that, in her daily work, “even though [her clients] know their rights, they still give [them] up because they feel the need to explain themselves.”
She emphasized that police are not your friend. They are not there to help you. The best thing to do is keep silent and ask for a lawyer.
Jails and court systems divesting poor and working class people of their resources was another significant issue raised.
Someone arrested on a non-violent charge can end up paying thousands of dollars between posting bond, lawyer and court fees.
Participant attorney Brandon Burrell said that “the reality is that the system is set up to benefit people with money.”
It’s the poor and working class that languish in jail for days, weeks or more trying to make bond.
We saw how this represented itself in the case of Kalief Browder, who spent three years in jail without ever being convicted of anything, just because his family could not make the $3000 bail.
The psychological trauma of the experience eventually led to Browder’s—State sponsored suicide.
What we need is Black Community Control of the Police
ANWO called for Black Community Control of the Police, stating plainly that otherwise we are just talking in circles.
We are a colonized people which means we live inside a system that ignores our rights, whether we know and exercise them or not. We, therefore, cannot expect justice.
The resolution is organizing and fighting for Black Community Control of the Police and other elements of community control that will do more than just knowing our rights to ensure the safety of our loved ones. .
The violence carried out by the State is a part of the ongoing effort to control the righteous resistance of African people, an attempt to scare us into submission.
We say we will not return to a place of despondency and inaction. The time is now to act in our own interest and defend our right to live and be free.
Toward the end of the forum, participants engaged in a short role play on interacting with police and how to initiate an emergency network call when in that situation.
There were also plans to initiate practical meetings that address police tactics and ways to defend against violence. We do not believe the results when the police investigate themselves.
We join the growing call for Black Community Control of the Police because Sandra Bland is not the first African to die in police custody and she will not be the last, as long we are not in control of our lives. – sign the petition.
African women, join the African National Women’s Organization to develop the solution.