The official Black Lives Matter chapter has released their response to Monday night's meeting with Mayor Jim Strickland and Interim Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings at Greater Imani Church. The meeting was held in response to Sunday's protest that blocked traffic on the I-40 bridge. Although that protest was peaceful, Monday night's meeting was chaotic, as attendees vied for the microphone to voice their concerns and organizers urged "decorum" through most of the event.
This is Black Lives Matter's official statement:
Sunday, Memphians joined together downtown to speak out against police brutality and to demand that city officials recognize that Black lives do matter, especially in an area that has a majority Black population. While the official Black Lives Matter Memphis Chapter did not organize this momentous protest, we are proud of what was accomplished under the banner of #BlackLivesMatter. Our members were able to attend and stand in solidarity with other protesters to show city officials that we will no longer sit idly by while injustice continues to reign in our city and country.
As a result of Sunday's action, city officials and protesters called for a community meeting that took place yesterday at Greater Imani Church at 4 p.m. as an effort to hear the concerns of Memphians around the issue of police brutality and to develop a plan together. Members of the chapter attended yesterday’s meeting, one that revealed the frustrations, anger, and traumas of Black Memphians. Memphis has been ranked as one of the poorest cities in the country with a 29.8% poverty rate, which is above the national average; Black citizens have a poverty rate of 34.4%.
Since 2012, 29 individuals have been killed by Memphis police officers, most of whom were people of color. It is clear that the community members’ responses were a direct result of living in deplorable conditions for years. In association with the Memphis Grassroots Organizations Coalition, we would like to encourage Memphians to continue to put pressure on the system and city officials. In order to affirm Black lives, we must affirm the experiences and frustrations of Black people.
It is important to remember that this is a movement, not a moment, and our goal is to challenge and dismantle systems that are unjust and oppressive. We encourage those who attended yesterday’s meeting to commit to this work for the long haul. All concerns and questions were not addressed yesterday, and we will continue to hold city officials accountable. We want to be clear that the onus cannot be placed on the backs of the Black people who are most affected by these conditions. As Jesse Williams said, “the burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander.” We hope that community members will stand with us in continuing to press for sustainable change in Memphis, which includes police reform, educational resources, job security, a living wage, reproductive justice, and adequate housing, especially in Black communities.