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BPF Among 14 Faith Leaders Arrested in Solidarity Action with 14 #BlackLivesMatter Activists

BPF Among 14 Faith Leaders Arrested in Solidarity Action with 14 #BlackLivesMatter Activists

Calling on D.A. Nancy O’Malley to Drop Charges against the #BlackFriday14

One year ago on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year, 14 Black protesters locked themselves to a BART commuter train in Oakland, California to assert that ‪Black Lives Matter‬, and to take a step to ‪end the war on Black lives‬. News of this all-Black action quickly went viral, inspiring activists in countless cities and towns across the country.

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In the year since, hundreds of people in Oakland have blocked traffic, blocked doors, locked themselves to various objects and accomplices, and shut down business-as-usual in support of Black Lives. Many have been arrested. But out of all these people, the Black Friday 14 are the ones still facing jail time. Oakland District Attorney Nancy O’Malley has refused to drop the charges against them, after allowing scores of white and non-Black people of color to participate in civil disobedience without charging them.

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In solidarity with the Black Friday 14, fourteen faith leaders gathered on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to hold space in the county courthouse of DA O’Malley’s office, encouraging her to get on the right side of history, end this racist selective prosecution, and drop the charges.

BPFers Dawn Haney, Katie Loncke, and Jessy Zapanta were honored to be among the 14 faith leaders showing solidarity with the ‪#‎BlackFriday14‬. They, along with the rest of the 14 faith leaders, were arrested for their demonstration after refusing to leave the courthouse when it closed for the day at 4:30pm. The leaders were taken into custody around 4:55, singing “We Shall Not Be Moved” and chanting (links include video). Just moments before the faith leaders were arrested, one of the Black Friday 14, Mollie Costello, reminded us that, “Solidarity is the new ‘I love you.'”

CBS TV coverage

SFGate

The Nation

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Alongside BPF leaders, the faith-based protestors included leaders from the Pacific School of Religion, First Congregational Church of Oakland, Bend the Arc: Jewish Partnership for Justice, United Church of Christ, Starr King School for the Ministry, and Solar Cross Temple. Read about each faith leader’s connection between their faith and commitment to action for Black lives.

Our team of 14 faith leaders also had a critical support squad — including BPFers Sierra Pickett, Minerva Arias, Cecilia Lucas, and Michelle Puckett — who took photos, fed us snacks, and met us with hugs when we got out of jail a few hours later. We also had the spiritual support of an interfaith rally held at the same time just outside the courthouse with many spiritual speakers, including BPFer Mushim Ikeda.

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Why BPFers Joined the Action

As students of the non-dualistic teachings of the Buddha, we acknowledge the interconnectedness and preciousness of all life. And precisely *because* of this, we must insist that Black Lives Matter. We must work toward a world where Black lives *do* matter as much as everyone else’s.

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Katie Loncke, BPF Co-Director: “The karma of slavery is heavy in this country. So heavy that many people and institutions refuse to acknowledge it, refuse to wake up to the epidemic of state-sanctioned violence against Black bodies. This nation’s legacy of slavery, its brutal exploitation of captured Africans (and Native Americans), is uncomfortable for many people to consider. And as the Buddha taught, when the mind is confronted with uncomfortable truths, it often runs for cover in rationalization, justification, and delusion. Anti-Black sentiment is one pervasive form of delusion that afflicts our entire society. And so it is up to all of us to transform the karma of slavery, by working for racial justice and insisting on true freedom for all beings. To me it’s an honor and a blessing to support the bold and beautiful actions of the Black Friday 14.” 

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Dawn Haney, BPF Co-Director: “The War on Black Lives is real, and the suffering it causes must end.

Most folks know the Buddha taught about suffering, but he also gave us a path toward ending suffering and gaining liberation. One of the eight practices toward liberation is Wise Action, which Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh describes as, “I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing.”

I support the Black Friday 14 and their visionary action to demand an end to police terror against Black people, to refuse to let police kill with impunity. It’s time to drop the charges, and deepen our practice to ensure that Black Lives Matter.”

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Jessy Zapanta, BPF Operations Manager: “The abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass stated: “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” Furthermore, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” The words of my childhood hero, who liberated himself from the shackles of slavery in the mid-1800s, still ring true today—almost two centuries later.

The struggle continues as our Black family members and friends are subject to the legacy of slavery through white supremacist culture, racist policies, and state-sanctioned violence. Black folks are fighting for their lives in a system designed to stamp them out.

The #BlackFriday14 have taken courageous action to highlight that #BlackLivesMatter, literally putting their bodies on the line to demand justice from those in power. In a move to silence Black resistance, DA O’Malley is charging these civil rights activists with misdemeanors, yet at the same time refuses to indict killer cops who have gunned down innocents.

The Black Friday 14 are in this struggle for freedom, and we need to be right there with them. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.

As a Buddhist, a descendant of colonized peoples still struggling for the right to our own land, and as a spiritual friend on this path to collective liberation, I’m here until we all get free. Drop the charges against the Black Friday 14!”

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Comments (3)

  • Aracruz

    It is regrettable such a thing, in 2015 there is still racism against blacks. But we have to fight for our rights consgueir.

  • Kara

    A coalition mindset is crucial to #BlackLivesMatter. I recently attended a discussion at my college about Asian Americans’ role in the movement, which called all minority groups to action, even those whose race doesn’t face as much discrimination. This talk got me thinking, not only about coalition between races but coalition between all humans. Human nature often leads us to support single causes that may be more personally relatable to us for whatever reason, but the Buddha’s teachings can show us that every single cause out there effects all of us equally as a human race. #BlackLivesMatter works on the understanding of equal valuation of life and deserves activism by all lovers of humanity and life. Nondiscriminatory compassion is everything.

  • Katie Loncke

    Hi Kara!

    Just wanted to say hi and thank you for contributing a slew of thoughtful comments lately. :) Sounds you are observing and participating in some great work in NC.

    On the BLM issue I’d be curious to know more of your thoughts and experiences around the paradox of interconnectedness (oppression hurts all of us) vs. privilege and hierarchies (oppression hurts some of us more than others). I’m not sure I follow you when you say that every single cause affects all of us equally as a human race? From what I see, racism affects different people in different ways, with some harms being more immediate, severe, and deadly than others. As a Black / mixed woman with light skin, I notice that colorism (white supremacy valuing light skin over dark skin) affords me certain forms of safety and benefit of the doubt that darker-skinned people don’t receive as readily in the U.S.

    At the same time, like you say, there are reasons we feel compelled to fight for causes even when they don’t seem to immediately impact us. (Though they might impact us indirectly.) I think of bell hooks who writes that the first victims of patriarchy (though not necessarily the worst harmed) are men, whose emotional and psychic lives are stifled by patriarchal violence. And I agree with you that the Asians4BlackLives formations and conversations that we’re seeing are also really encouraging and interesting, though not without their own challenges (like the European-invented category “Asian” being so broad as to sometimes be counterproductive).

    It also seems like BLM leaders are doing a solid job at explaining that when we value Black lives we actually uplift the many other lives, as well. My understanding is that the basis of some of this current theory comes from legacies like the Black queer feminist group the Combahee River Collective, who wrote in their Statement in 1977:

    “If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all systems of oppression.”

    https://we.riseup.net/assets/43875/combahee%20river.pdf

    I see this as being a bit different from the idea that Black lesbian women’s oppression *equally* harms people of all races, sexualities, and genders. Rather, the theory is that eliminating the causes of institutional oppression for Black lesbian women would generate a ton of positive, wholesome room (I guess we could think of it as merit or good karma) for many people, even those who don’t experience these particular forms of violence.

    The story of course is more complicated than Black and non-Black — indigenous oppression and liberation deserves to be considered, too, and there are differentials of power and relative safety even among Black people, especially if we think globally. But just wanted to throw in that CRC source since I personally find it really useful in a lot of the #BlackLivesMatter conversations. As you say, Black lives deserve action by all lovers of humanity and life! :) Which totally echoes these words of wisdom from BLM co-founder Alicia Garza:

    “If you really believe that all lives matter, you will fight like hell for Black lives.”

    Thanks again for joining the conversation, Kara, look forward to hearing your thoughts!

© 2017 Buddhist Peace Fellowship

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