Therese Okoumou, today's hero, has been arrested for climbing up on to the base of the Statue of Liberty during an action hosted by a group called Rise and Resist. It was the most beautiful thing that I have seen and on a today like to day, it was needed. But, my joy soon faded to anger and curiousity about ways to divert help to get Therese out of police custody. My anger is directed at white people who call themselves allies, but refuse to put themselves on the line for Black and Brown bodies. The ones who refuse to become accomplices.
This is the second time in the last 24 hours that I have witnessed a Black woman and a Brown woman being thrown under the bus by white folks (seeking elected office, white Democrats) and their white adjacent friends who call themselves "activists" that have either policed these women for expressing their pain as people DIRECTLY affected by fascist immigration policies or not standing in solidarity and sheilding them from arrest. In one interview with Daily News Jay Walker (and organizer with Rise and Resist) stated that “She’s been an active member of Rise and Resist for four or five months,” Walker said. “She’s participated in quite a few of our actions.” But when compaired with the statement that Rise and Resist posted on Medium, it is clear that they abandond Therese while attempting to show (Disingenuous at best) concern for her well being. SEE FOR YOURSELF:
"The person who climbed the Statue of Liberty was one of forty participants in our planned banner action, but her decision to climb the statue was made independently of the group, without consulting any other member of the group. We understand and share her desire to see the immediate release of children from detention and reunion with their parents. We hope that her legal representation will arrange for her release under her own recognizance."
I call bullshit, it is clear that this is a white led org that may be well intentioned, but they've neglected to meet up to their own standards... Rise and Resist DOES NOT live up to its own mission:
Rise and Resist was formed in response to the 2016 U.S. election. We are a direct action group made up of both new and experienced activists committed to opposing, disrupting, and defeating any government act that threatens democracy, equality, and our civil liberties. We work collaboratively, creatively, respectfully, and with all the joy we can muster for the health of the people and the planet.
We reject State sanctioned violence, bigotry, and systemic discrimination in all its forms, including those directed at people because of their disability, gender identity/expression, immigration status, race, religion, sex, and sexuality. We condemn all the oppressive policies that define the current government regime."
The fact that this org even spawned because of the 2016 election, is not a comforting thing.
Yes, some great activists were born from the 2016 election, BUT when white people came forward they had no understanding of the activist landscape. They came to police activist who had been on the ground fighting for our communities and their presence became disruptive. Apparently, they still are disruptive. We took time to teach and train white folks how to be accomplices, some got it and some didn't get what it really means to stand between Black and Brown bodies and law enforcement.
HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT YOU ARE ALLIES WHO STAND UP AGAINST OPPRESSION, BUT YOU DIDN'T SHIELD THERESE FROM THE PIGS?
HOW CAN YOU DO THIS WORK AND DISAVOW A COMRADE INSTEAD OF QUIETLY SEEKING QUICK RELEASE FROM CUSTODY AND LEGAL REPRESENTATION?
HOW CAN WE TRUST YOU TO TAKE DONATIONS TO HELP THERESE, WHEN YOU HAVE DISTANCED YOURSELF FROM HER?
A simple step into the right direction requires that white people STOP trying to take leadership in movements in a ways that center yourselves and your whiteness. The movements of the marginalized are not your movements, you play a support role. The Black Lives Matter movement is not yours. You don't deserve the attention, the Black and Brown people you claim to support deserve that. Do not speak for us when we can speak for ourselves, we don't need a translator so that your white cohorts can understand. Stop saying "us" and "we," when you post and speak about issues that directly affects/effects the Black or Brown communities. You don't know what it is to be part of the Black or Brown diaspora(s). You are needed in the spaces where you don't normally see Black folks or even in spaces where we are not welcome, that is when you you speak up. Then after you speak up, bring a Black person into the space so we can speak for ourselves.
Had Rise and Resist done these things, Therese may have been able to avoid arrest. Think about it white and white appearing people don't have to worry like folks with darker skin tones about the things we worry about in our daily lives. Do better white folks.
UPDATE: RISE AND RESIST HAS RESPONDED