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Why I’m going to Ferguson

image from slate.com

This moment is a call to action for every American. We must expose abuse, challenge injustice, stand up and fight back!

Like many of you, I have been watching the events of Ferguson, Missouri unfold from afar. I’ve watched, in horror, as a small suburban community has been terrorized by those sworn to protect it. Military vehicles have been deployed on neighborhood streets, tear gas has become a daily occurrence and individuals, posing no threat, have been apprehended without cause or explanation. I watched on my computer screen and couldn’t help but see how stories and headlines only a week ago describing the West Bank were being used to describe this small town in middle-America. Police have acted with impunity, and the public has watched much of it from laptops and cell phones. We have become incredible at documenting events and terrible at doing anything about them. I sat and watched as Ferguson, Missouri became a war zone.

With headline after headline and one thing became clear, if you are brown-skinned and decide to fight back against an injustice in your town, you can expect a brutal response. This, in and of itself, is not new to communities of color. For centuries, whenever the poor or people of color attempt to exert their dignity as humans beings the powers that be have used brutal means to stop it. Where police once used water cannons on Blacks fighting for the right to vote, we now have MRAPs and LRADs being used against Blacks fighting for the right to grieve.

The question then becomes, how can we help the people of Ferguson and work to prevent these senseless murders across America?

Only by acting in solidarity wherever and whenever we see injustice can we hope to thwart those who perpetrate these heinous crimes. To me, acting in solidarity means asking those most directly affected how we can help, using that knowledge to empower our communities at home to take action in support and to always remind people that we are all affected by injustice, no matter who amongst us it strikes.  The only way the police will alter their behavior is if their force is met with equally strong and unrelenting condemnation from people across the country, of all races. That solidarity can come in many forms, and there is even a list of ways you can help here created by those on the ground.

I need to go to Ferguson because I am someone privileged enough to have the means and skills to help. I have the responsibility to go for all of those who suffer from similar patterns of violence, who have been systematically disempowered for centuries and all those who will inherit this corrupt system of oppression if we fail. I’m fortunate enough to work for an organization that values community and fights for social justice every day. Where some would be met with skepticism and fear from co-workers, I was bolstered in my decision to support others. If all organizations had the values of Action NC our communities might be a different place today. Because I have the ability to help, I also have the responsibility to help.

I don’t know what to expect, but I plan to plug into the work currently being done, document every step of my journey, and spend every minute building a community strong enough to push back against the rise of militarized violence in our communities.

And just as I was called into action by those on the ground, I call on you. Look at the list and pick something you can do. Check Action NC’s Website and Facebook page for updates and share them far and wide. Engage those around you in discussions about how police violence damages our communities.

This moment is a call to action for every American. We must expose abuse, challenge injustice, stand up and fight back!

 

In solidarity,

Jason Ortiz