Black Brunch and Protesting as a way of
By Kenneth Session Jr.
It’s Friday September 4th 1981 Henderson, Nevada, Lake Mead. You are a young African American male, 30 years old accompanying your soon to be mother-in-law, fishing on the eve of your wedding. Trying your best to do all things necessary to impress and keep your image squeaky clean for at least one more day. Not equipped with the proper license for fishing you sit out on the activities, even though your mother-in-law has insisted you participate in a friendly competition of “So You Think You Can Fish.”. After hours of watching her fish, hearing her go on and on about absolutely nothing it’s finally time to go. For a second you grab hold of a fishing rod and start to pack up. Almost instantaneously a Game Warden stops you and asks you to provide a fishing license. When he learns you don’t have one you’re put under arrest. You’ve asked the 3 officers present, to explain your arrest but no one will. They take you back to shore put you in the car then ask you various questions about an unregistered shotgun found “in the vicinity of your current location”. You of course have absolutely no idea what their talking about. The whole situation has escalated into something completely unnecessary and a $50 fine turns into 3 days in a Clark County jailhouse. Never once were you processed. Never once were you allowed to make a phone call. Never once were you read your rights. And never once were you told the reason for your arrest. In fact the arrest never even followed your record.
Absolutely true, it happened to my step father. Its a more fortunate story than that of one you’ve heard a million times before. Afterall 3 days in jail and coming out living to tell the tale is more than we can say for a lot of Black people who find themselves in similar situations. But these situations hold the same moral conflicts, and create bias in the people who watch on as events like these happen to minorities in this country everyday. This story is one of the many events that have shaped my permanent opinion about police officers as a general whole in this country.
There is no doubt we live in a racist society. Organizations such as Black Brunch, Cop Watch, and Black Lives Matter, believe specifically that the police system is especially racist and are working to bring this issue to light, through protest and or civil disobedience.
In the wake of the non indictments of the officers who killed Mike Brown and Eric Garner, a lot of protest having sprung out. Most of these have come from right here in the Bay Area. Protest in America are our way of showing the rest of the country, sometimes the world, the ugliness we thought to hide as well as we could. This is why many believe that protest is what makes changes possible, especially change such as police reform.
A little more than 50 years ago a man named Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of two America’s. The first America he said, is a beautiful place, “overflowing with the milk of prosperity and honey of opportunity” , and the other America is a place where hope and dreams have been figuratively gunned downed and destroyed. The goal and struggle of the civil rights movement was to introduce the two, overtake the ugly and rise up as one America unbound by conflict or struggle, able to live out the true meaning of our nations creed. But sadly Dr. King’s life was cut short and somehow we managed to fall short of completing that work. More than 50 years later organizations across the country pick up the baton and try to finish the task.
You may have heard through social media of a new kind of protest formed out of our own backyards that’s spread throughout the country to places like LA, New York, Boston, and Baltimore, called Black Brunch. What is Black Brunch? According to an interview given by Spook Magazine with founders Wazi Davis and Brianna Gaines, Black Brunch is a tactic for direct action not to be confused with being an organization or group. They’re reaching back to the civil rights movement with civil/public disobedience similar to the walk-ins Martin Luther King orchestrated in the 60s. “Black Brunch is saying no business as usual”, says Davis with Spook Mag. “Everyday, Black people are murdered by police, and millions of other things, too. We’re not going to let people sit around and pretend this isn’t happening.” They wanted to take the pain and heartache of the African American community and show it to White communities where it’s easy to shut that pain out. They’re saying we will take up your space and you will feel us.
The young leaders of Black Brunch talk about the struggles of basically being African American in this country. Davis says in that same interview with spook, “One part of the violence that Black folks face is about simply being able to exist and be. We can’t just exist and be in public space because we’re thought of as threatening.” Even in the Bay Area where we pride ourselves in being the light that’s paving the road for the rest of the country, we still see our young Black neighbors specifically, as thugs and harden criminals. According to USAtoday.com, in Berkeley where African Americans only make up 10% of the total population, Black people are arrested at a rate of 209.9 per 1000 residents while non-blacks are only arrested at 22.5. And the numbers are this disproportionate around the country. These numbers also specifically relate to the prison population, and the skyrocketing proportion of Black people in jail than any other ethnic group of people. Black Brunch also makes it a point to celebrate the lives of those killed by police officers, by chanting their names and signing it off with an “ash”, which is basically like an amen.
Davis and Gaines, spoke about the perpetual injustice they feel African American’s have received, more recently at the hands of the justice system. They protest that injustice and bring it to light. Although they did not name the type of police reformation they believe should occur, that does not take away from the things they’re doing to try and bring about some sort of major change, they evidently believe is necessary. Chaining yourself to the OPD’s front door makes your call for police reform pretty clear. Black Brunch has only just begun and a list of reformation demands seem to be well in the works amongst these leaders.
Gaines says in the interview “ Moving forward we’re thinking about what specifically we’re asking from our allies” . Black Brunch considers they’re allies to be any non black people of color and specifically “white folks” who acknowledge the oppression in Black communities. They’re asking their allies to do nothing more than just stand behind these black leaders , literally, and match their level of passion toward change. Davis says “Walking through this world, we’re constantly reminded that it belongs to white folks. Every sidewalk we walk down, every street, even in our own hoods, there are white folks regulating and policing where we live, how we live. I think that is definitely something for white folks to keep in mind when you’re thinking, ‘How can I be an ally, how can I show support?’ Like, it’s not about you, don’t ever make it about you. Recognize the world and this society are by default about you, because of white supremacy. It’s about recognizing that, and taking a step back and allowing for Black leadership to prosper.”
Black Brunch is in sync with a lot of community based groups seeking police reformation around the country in that they truly believe change comes with exposing ugliness, and trusting people will be ashamed in what they see enough to make a change. That is why protest is the best way to make change, it makes you see the truth in what other people are feeling within their communities. A truth that you may not know yourself simply because you’ve been sheltered away from it.