A MESSAGE TO OUR COMMUNITY AND STAKEHOLDERS FROM URBAN LEAGUE LEADERS
The Leaders of the Urban League Movement, including National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial, Urban League of Greater Atlanta President and CEO Nancy A. Flake Johnson and all affiliate presidents, hereby issue the following statement in response to the civil unrest sweeping the nation:
Our communities are overwhelmed with grief and people are angry. We are heartsick over the inhumanity we have witnessed in the recent deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and so many other unarmed African Americans whose names we call out in our families and communities each and every day – all of whom will not be forgotten nor will their loss of life be in vain. We are appalled by the callousness of law enforcement authorities across the nation who continue to shrug in the face of evil.
Cities across the nation have erupted in anguish over the last few days. As civil rights leaders who are committed to racial and economic justice, we share the protesters’ pain and the heartbreak of the communities where uprisings have turned violent. We advocate for spirited but non-violent protests out of deep concern for the safety of our citizens and law enforcement and for the destruction of communities and businesses that may take decades to rebuild.
Most of the demonstrators have been engaged in peaceful protest, but others have incited violence and fostered destruction. We refute any attempt to discredit the just cause for which Black people and indeed people of all races are marching, based on infiltrators often from outside our communities who are bent on sabotage. We support the right of citizens to engage in nonviolent protest and thank all who have joined our non-violent protests and movement. And we equally condemn any and all use of excessive force by law enforcement to dispel demonstrations or retaliate against protestors. This is a time to listen to the voices of our community and craft plans for urgent action together.
The protests represent what Martin Luther King Jr. famously called “the language of the unheard.” When George Floyd begged for his life as Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin cavalierly pressed his knee into a handcuffed and subdued Floyd’s throat for almost 9 minutes, the handcuffed man cried out but his voice was ignored and unheard by law enforcement, who had been sworn to “protect and serve” all citizens. The onlookers pleading with Chauvin to “stop” were unheard.
Cries for justice have gone unheard long enough and at the Urban League we say, “Enough is Enough. “
The long-overdue arrests of Ahmaud Arbery’s killers and finally all four of the officers involved in George Floyd’s death are merely first steps in a long journey toward justice. We join in the calls for swift justice in all pending cases that involve the unjust death of unarmed African Americans across this nation. Day by day more cases are uncovered magnifying the systemic racism that all too often is embedded into police and law enforcement agencies in large urban and rural communities. We call for immediate fundamental and systemic changes in policing and the institutional racism that permeates every pillar of our society throughout the country.
The Urban League Movement pledges to work diligently and collaboratively across generations with all who seek racial and economic justice and a world that respects, honors and protects Black people and the diversity our country represents. We must LISTEN to each other and learn from each other and respect each other’s viewpoints without putting each other down. We must find our common ground and then UNITE in the struggle with an agenda of ACTION.
COVID 19 Community and Small Business Support
We will continue our work to support our community through the COVID-19 pandemic with financial supports, re-employment, connections to other community resources, financial empowerment education and support for small businesses to access loans and technical support to reopen. We also extend our helping hand in support of small businesses that have been negatively impacted by demonstrations throughout our region with help to access loans, grants and technical assistance to help them recover and reopen.
We will continue and expand our work with our elected officials, civic, business, faith-based, civil, community organizers and young leaders in the fight for our rights to build the pathways to positive, sustainable and actionable change in the weeks, months and years to come.
Our Focus: Police Reform and Accountability
Our immediate focus, as a National Movement and the Urban League of Greater Atlanta locally, will be reaching out to work with our local, regional and state agencies of law enforcement, community partners and respective elected officials of these jurisdictions to collaborate and advocate for specific recommendations under our New Day Police Reform and Accountability Initiative. The focus of the initiative will include but not be limited to:
- Creating new systems, laws, practices of accountability and transparency to fix a broken law enforcement and criminal justice system through unified efforts and voices that make clear that law enforcement departments and their officers will be held accountable for their actions that will lead to dismissals and swift justice in the form of criminal charges when laws and department protocols are broken.
- Collaborate to conduct a legislative environmental scan of State of Georgia and other jurisdiction laws to target for abolishment those that are antiquated and unjust that are rooted in racial profiling, oppression and racial bias as well as work with legislators to draft new legislation that protects the lives of Black people.
- Secure commitments for the widespread use of body cameras and dashboard cameras.
- Eliminate use of excessive force with harsh consequences for officers that engage in that practice to include charges and firings.
- Public access to the records of officers’ excessive force complaints.
- Officer training, hiring and background check verification standards to include social media platforms.
- Review provisions of police union/collective bargaining agreements to identify obstacles to police accountability.
- The immediate appointment of independent prosecutors to investigate police misconduct when encountered.
- Establish Citizens Review Boards in jurisdictions where they do not exist with investigative, subpoena and accountability power.
Even more than these measures, we will advocate for an across the board reset of our culture and commitment to civility. Our culture today is fueled by divisiveness, racism, explosive rhetoric and, all too often, hate. Ours is a culture that teaches a white woman walking her dog in Central Park that she can weaponize racially motivated police brutality to enforce her own preferred social code. It is a culture that allowed a policeman to murder a suspect while he was recorded on video and we watched in horror – as the victim begged to breathe and onlookers stood by pleading for his life. The examples of incivility are too many and too common, and we will work to change that narrative and behavior across cultures, religions, generations and systems for good together.
As we pursue measures to reform policing in our communities, we call upon all across our communities, organizers, community leaders, elected officials, and social institutions to join us in setting policies that promote racial reconciliation and equal justice.
Calls to Action Now
Along with our focus on law enforcement policies and practices, we will fortify our efforts to tear down the systems of institutional racism that are deeply rooted across all sectors of American life (housing, workplace, health, criminal justice, small business development and civic engagement).
We support our young leaders for justice and their fearless commitment to change. We seek to listen to their concerns, views, strategies and techniques and collaborate to craft the way forward. We know we will learn much and experience growth from our collaborations together.
And we voice a “Call to Action” through continued non-violent protests and actions we can take NOW that are time sensitive to effect change that will advance our families and communities by:
- Completing your Census Form Today my2020census.gov so we can bring vitally needed resources to our communities;
- Exercising your right and duty to run for office and vote in our upcoming
Georgia Primary Election being held this Tuesday, June 9th and all federal, state and local primary and general elections starting with completing and submitting absentee ballots or early or on-site voting. Research the candidates for President, District Attorney, Judges, councilmembers, commissioners, representatives, senators, school board members and more;
- And last but not least, we must UNITE and hold our elected leaders and law enforcement officials accountable and work TOGETHER to undertake sustainable institutional and systems change to ensure civil and economic justice for all.
We WILL fight to rebuild a society and AMERICA that tears down racism everywhere it exists and reflects mutual respect for all people. The Urban League is grateful for and supports the brave and steadfast protestors across our nation and the world and pledges to advance an action agenda for systemic change TOGETHER.
About the Urban League of Greater Atlanta
The Urban League of Greater Atlanta (ULGA) is a non-profit civil rights organization dedicated to the economic advancement of African Americans founded in 1920. The ULGA operates as a Financial Empowerment Center that supports youth, adults and families to become financially empowered through education, career pathways, youth development, affordable housing and homeownership, entrepreneurship, financial empowerment education, asset and wealth building and civic engagement. For more information call 404-659-1150 or visit our website at www.ulgatl.org.