January 15, 2016

Dear ASWAD Members,

On behalf of the ASWAD officers, I am sending the message below from our colleagues Barbara Ransby, Cathy Cohen, Donna Murch, and Robin Kelley asking you to lend your names and dollars in solidarity to the Black Lives Matter Movement.  If you would like to be a part of the initial signatories, send how you would like your name to appear and the amount you are donating to which of the 5 organizations directly to Prof. Barbara Ransby at: barbara.ransby@gmail.com

Sincerely,
Leslie M. Alexander, Ph.D.
 
 

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Dear Friends, Colleagues, Comrades, Sisters, Brothers and Sibs:

We write to ask you to lend your names and a few dollars to an important solidarity effort to support the growing Black Lives Matter Movement (BLMM), and to make a collective statement and gesture (as opposed to our many individual efforts) on behalf of the Black, African American, Africana and African Diaspora intellectual communities to which we belong.

Beginning with black-led protests following the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and the not guilty verdict for George Zimmerman, we have witnessed a resurgence of the 'long' Black Freedom Movement. This resurgence was accelerated with the police killing of Michael Brown in August of 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Since then, fueled by social media and cell phone videos, we have seen a steady stream of protests, vigils, disruptions, occupations, and outright uprisings targeting racist police violence. In Chicago the most recent police killing of Laquan McDonald, which some have referred to as an 'execution,' has resulted in sustained protests and the firing of the police superintendent. Even more recently, the police killings of Bettie Jones and Quintonio Legrier have created a renewed crisis in the city and an intensification of struggle.

College campuses from Mizzou to Brown have ousted administrators, on the one hand, and secured commitments of resources to combat racism on the other. At the center of all of this are the efforts of black youth organizers, queer activists, and veteran movement people, pushing back hard against the devaluation of black life. And despite narrow and reductionist labels, the core analysis of many of these organizers is layered and complex. They are highly sensitive to issues of gender, class, sexuality, race and empire. They have also rejected both the allure of 'leaderless-ness' and the trap of top down hierarchical models of organization. There is much more to say, but we are reaching out to you now to ask for concrete support to help nurture and sustain this work.

There are a few areas where we, as academics, with humility, can help. Some of the groups have received black celebrity donations but that is limited and will likely be short-lived. Others have gotten some foundation funds, but we know this can sometimes come with strings attached. So, BLMM organizations need financial resources. If each of us gives a little, we can make a meaningful contribution overall.

Secondly, they need us to publicly and in large numbers, stand with them. Some of these young folk are our students, but many more are our 'would be' students if there were not so many roadblocks between public schools and university classrooms. And they are increasingly under attack, suffering arrests, harassment and vigilante violence, as was the case in the shooting of five activists in Minneapolis.

So, given these needs, we are proposing a loosely organized group, Black Scholars for Black Life (BS4BL) with a support role only (we are not the spokespeople). The idea, borrowed in part from the recently formed, Law for Black Lives, is to lend our names and moral support, raise some back up funds, and contribute any relevant scholarship and data that might be useful (if and when organizers want to utilize it). We are asking to list your names now, and would like to hear back from you by January 14. We will then begin wider circulation (with your help) with the goal of 500-1,000 names by January 18, MLK Day 2016, at which time we will launch the statement and notify you as to how many dollars have been contributed to BLMM groups under the rubric of BS4BL. If 1,000 donors contribute at least $100 each, we could raise up to $100,000.

There are many worthy groups. The five groups we are appealing to you to support this year as a critical mass of BS4BL represent different areas of movement work. Black Lives Matter (BLM), as you know was started as a hashtag by our sisters Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors and has grown into a highly visible national group with over 26 chapters. byp100 (Black Youth Project 100) focuses on organizing 18-35 year olds nationwide and engages in direct action and civic engagement work through a queer Black feminist lens. Hands Up United (HUU) is engaged in many life-sustaining on the ground projects in Ferguson with the support of artist Tef Poe and others. Million Hoodies for Justice is a national racial justice network working in Black and Brown communities. Our colleague, Kimberle Crenshaw, has helped to launch the #SayHerName campaign (as a part of the African American Policy Forum) and is insisting on inclusion of Black women victims of state violence in all of our protests and organizing efforts. Of course if you choose to support another group with a donation and want that to count as your indirect "dues" to BS4BL, we are fine with that too.

Warmly and in solidarity,

Barbara Ransby
Cathy J. Cohen
Robin D.G. Kelley
Donna Murch


STATEMENT

As scholars dedicated to the study, documentation, and analysis of the Black experience, we come together to lend our moral and material support to the organizing efforts and courageous leadership of the young people in the Black Lives Matter Movement (also under the rubric of the Movement for Black Lives and involving many organizations). Over the past three years, beginning with the killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black Florida teenager, and the exoneration of his killer; and more recently with the August 2014 fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, we have seen a steady stream of protests, vigils, marches, rebellions and creative acts of civil disobedience in dozens of cities across the country and statements of solidarity from across the globe. Through the #SayHerName campaign organizers have also underscored that it is not only Black
men, but Black women who have also been victims of state violence, and we must
hold up their stories as well. BLMM's emphasis on queer and transgender people
reflects the principle that ALL Black lives must matter. Putting their bodies on the
line, with their cellphone cameras in hand, young activists have raised awareness
and garnered outrage over various forms of state violence that have become routine
events, and are enacted in public policies, in low income Black communities. They are standing up to say no to police violence and economic violence, and to out-moded forms of hierarchical male-centered leadership. They are standing up, and we stand with them. This statement of solidarity does not suggest agreement with every single tactic or slogan but with the powerful spirit of opposition to state violence, white supremacy and racial capitalism that is embodied in the ongoing work of BLMM/MBL and its constituent organizations.

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Membership is open to anyone whose life's work is grounded in research, scholarship, writing and /or teaching about the U.S. Black and Black Diaspora experience (no credentials check or authenticity litmus test). In forming Black Scholars for Black Life we pledge three things. We will maintain an open communications network so that we can mobilize our collective voices when needed or asked. We will explore ways that we can contribute our scholarship and research in accessible form to movement organizers who are interested. Thirdly, we will contribute "secular tithes" to support this movement in our small way. Each member will be asked to contribute to a BLMM organization (suggested organizations are listed). We have five organizations that we recommend for this year. Groups covering different aspects of movement work with accountable leadership structures in which we have great confidence are: Black Lives Matter, byp100 (Black Youth Project 100), Hands Up United (based in Ferguson), #SayHerName campaign (a part of the African American Policy Forum), and Million Hoodies Movement. In one year we will re-evaluate this list. We are not dictating how the funds will be used but we strongly urge inter-organization bridge building or political quilting, and new leadership development, in order to fuse organizational work into movement work and to create greater capacities to sustain the work over the long haul. For those of you with formal academic positions, we suggest the following minimum contributions, if you are able: Endowed Chairs/ Department Chairs/ Deans ($250); Full Professors ($175); Associate Professors ($100); Assistant Professors ($50). Others give at your discretion.

We invite our colleagues to join with us as the 100+ initiators. We will be urging our colleagues to step outside of the classroom and off our campuses, at least virtually, and register moral and material support for BLMM by lending their names and to BS4BL and making contributions to BLMM groups. Funds may not be tax deductible.

We have immense confidence in the ability and integrity of these five organizations to guarantee that resources will be spent appropriately. Donations should be made directly to the designated groups, not to us but indicate BS4BL on your check or in the memo of your online donation and let us know which groups you have supported.

If you agree to join with us for this launch, please indicate title and affiliation that you would like to include for identification purposes. The widely publicized statement (shaded text above) will indicated you as one of the initiators of BS4BL. Also, let us know which organization you will be donating to or if you will give an equally divided set of donations to all five (which is what we strongly recommend). INDICATE BS4BL in the subject line of your email to us and in memo or comments when you donate. Groups will be looking out for BS4BLDonations should go to (more info on each group on the websites):

http://blacklivesmatter.com

http://byp100.org

http://www.aapf.org  [SayHerName]

http://www.handsupunited.org

http://millionhoodies.net
 
 
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