Ahead of a host of local and municipal elections, the Black Southern Women’s Collective, today urged marginalized communities to demand that their elected leaders prioritize their voices and concerns. The Black Southern Women’s Collective is a network of Black women organizing in the South to improve the material conditions of Black people. Several members of the collective – Nse Ufot, executive director of the New Georgia Project; Pastor Rhonda Thomas, executive director of Faith in Florida; and Ashley Shelton, executive director of the Power Coalition in Louisiana –issued the following statement:
“Each year, families and communities are ripped apart by fatal police shootings of mostly Black people. Yet Congressional leaders still voted for Sen. Josh Hawley’s amendment to hire an additional 100,000 police officers. The sheer volume of people who lose their lives at the hands of police indicates that policymakers should not expand police budgets, but rather invest in proven solutions that keep people safe. These include community-based intervention and prevention programs, as well as grassroots groups led by directly impacted people. Investing in police will correlate to an increase in mass incarceration and dangerous interactions with law enforcement,” said Rev. Thomas.
“The pandemic has created a perfect storm of joblessness, food and housing insecurity, and death,” Shelton said. “We have not seen this type of crisis in over a generation, and few people have been left unscathed. Given this recent history, it is imperative that policymakers understand that we cannot police our way out of a national disaster. We know that the current level of pain being felt by the most vulnerable communities, spurs violence but there are tools we can use to reverse course. Leaders at all levels of government must choose compassion while ensuring that federal dollars get to the ground. They must prioritize interventions like mental health, not police.”
“If elected leaders do not consider the lived experiences of communities of color, we must use every election cycle to elect people more sympathetic with our needs. Once elected, officials cannot forget the promises they made to people whose very survival depends on said promises. Research has proven that increased police presence has a negative effect on Black and Brown people and we need officials who understand this. Any candidate or official who supports expanding police budgets must be questioned and challenged,” said Shelton.
“It should not take continual fatal police shootings, for the nation to understand the level of fear the Black community has towards police. As a nation, we cannot be like people who look in the mirror, walk away and forget what was there. We cannot continue to elect leaders who do not prioritize the very thing that will keep us safe and improve our quality of life. Every election cycle, we should be voting for people who will center the needs of marginalized people,” Ufot said.
The group further called on President Biden to do more to fulfill the promises he made to the Black community which voted for him in droves.
“Black people turned out for President Biden and now we need him to show up for us. He can do this by investing in Black-led gun violence and prevention groups in states across the country,” Ufot added.