SHIFT the Narrative with Dr. Damita Brown

Dr. Damita Brown, a community-based educator specializing in racial justice work who has been teaching leadership, anti-racism, and allyship workshops for over 12 years. We will be discussing the George Floyd uprisings and the essential role of Black leadership during this time. We will also talk about how to work in solidarity to overcome systemic white supremacy within our government and all its institutions. Will these uprisings incite people to vote in November or are we ready for a much more radical shift?

Seeding Sovereignty

Today, June 11, 2020, was the fifth episode of Seeding Sovereignty’s SHIFT the Narrative. SA Lawrence-Welch and Christine Nobiss engaged in an online discussion with Dr. Damita Brown. Following are my notes from the discussion related to the opportunities for change stimulated by the public lynching of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Dr. Brown spoke about how white supremacy is at the root of what needs to change. It’s time for change.  So many generations have suffered what George Floyd suffered. Lynching, which was always meant to terrorize black communities.

Communities need to find ways to reach across boundaries. Black lives and indigenous lives.

The reason this murder sparked such a large reaction is evidence of how tired we are. Not just outrage at this incident, but because these things have been going on for so long.  People can’t take it anymore. Won’t compromise.  Work to defund police.  Respect autonomy of communities to decide what justice looks like.

Many people need to understand how much of this comes from long history of oppression. This is a good time to educate and liberate at the same time.

The movement is many generations old. What started at Standing Rock is still happening. When Water Protectors said stop polluting, recognize our autonomy. When people in Iowa created the Little Creek Camp.

People in Flint are still drinking poisoned water.

Black and Native oppression so intertwined.  Apartheid.  Separating us.  How do we bridge the divisions? We are physically separated.  We need address consciousness divide.

Christine—We need to get over divide and conquer. I feel so lifted up spiritually and emotionally by the current movement.  Its like back in the day, the 1960’s, without the civil rights movement there would not have been the red power movement. This is a time for building bridges and identifying intersectionality.

Dr. Brown—when I was 13 mothers took kids out of public schools.  Went to Freedom School.  Consciousness.   Got involved in NAACP.  Anti-apartheid movement. Intersectionality-queer, African American women’s liberation.

If we are going to have sustainability of the movement in future, we need to find who has not been heard.  Restorative Justice.  Make radical democracy.  Restorative Justice real.  No one owns restorative justice.  Has to be defined by communities impacted.  Not defined by or coopted by White culture..

Replace police with community-based justice. Must be created by us. Trust us to love ourselves, our kids, our future.  Our self-determination and liberation.

What say to people who think of “my” fight? How can have our needs of human rights met and bridge gap between us? About inspiration and understanding now.

Dr. Brown-when I go to native lands I’m always struck by how little resources are there. People, despite community, have incredibly high rates of suicide, Missing and Murder Indigenous Women. White people have taken the resources out of communities black/red.

Each of us must ask, “is it just me?”  “Master” culture wants us to remain ignorant. When I look in the mirror I need to see ALL people.  What do I need to do to make these bonds to connect our communities?

Why not create Freedom Schools that educate all our communities. Need to learn what it means to be citizens of the world.  Native kids learn black culture. Black kids learn about natives. We need to break barriers that have kept us from talking with each other.

Christine-lately find myself without words. We’ve been talking for years. What do we do now?  Create Freedom Schools?

Dr, Brown—We’re making plans for a Freedom School (Madison). Our kids being forced to schools that don’t teach them what they need.

We need institutions to replace White supremacist culture. What would a school like this look like?  Not in building. Education international. What does it mean to live in Appalachian communities devastated, coal mining? Educate for citizens of the world.

We’re in a transitional moment.  We won’t bow down. We’re not going to quit, give up on each other.

We’re not focusing on specific outcomes.  Warriorship is about bravery to touch your own heart and what it means to share that. Conversation should always be open to all ideas.

Voting/political system.

Dr. Brown-I hope what happens now will get people to vote. Need to have conversations who think to vote is enough.  We must vote even though gerrymandering, suppress voting many ways.

To vote is one small piece to bring about change.  Radical democracy is about us deciding what we need. We’ll make vote count because it is one step in our total justice work.

We know the battle is in the streets as well.  Let’s get good candidates.  Let’s make democracy real, because it hasn’t been, yet.

Voting is about much more than voting for president.  Voting for all levels of community.

Our responsibility is to get people into these positions at all levels of government. Power move.  Let’s take that power back.

Christine—COVID could either deter people from voting, or get them to want to get out to vote. Discouraging because there has never been a president who was there for us–indigenous and black.

Haven’t used resources to help with things like MMIW. 

Colonial, capitalistic, Christian regime.

Invest in indigenous media.

Dr. Brown—Voting is a conundrum.   Correlation between concentration of wealth—and power in democratic process.

Whose votes really count?  We should vote. On the other hand we have to create ways to impact the corporate structure.  Privatization of every institution. Making money off our distress. Failed loans and schools. Every structure is reaping benefits from a non-democratic structure.  They find ways to make money off disasters.

Money is becoming obsolete.  What replace it with?  Where are our public banks, pooled resources?

Greed has destroyed.  Not about what you don’t want, but what you do want.

Land trust, community run banks, indigenous health care, midwives, wisdom from our traditions. Find hybrid use things from past to work today. Build what we want.

Christine: Vote, do that. Now the hard work has to start. We can be building and doing good work despite government.

SA Lawrence-Welch:   reiterate something said yesterday. We have less oppression than our White counterparts.

Brown—at base of all this work is our unshaken faith in human dignity. We know where wisdom comes from-our ancestors, lived experience, part of community. This is where our love, our beauty, our strength comes from.  Listening to the wind and the trees.

White supremacist culture-part of a culture of complicity that destroys their humanity. Their silence.

The awareness and decolonization of OUR minds, using on daily basis, is a privilege of a higher order.

Crimes against love.  If you can’t stand up against that, you are broken and dead.

This movement is about the deciding to stand up and become a community.

A divide. A hate. The real problem lies in the reality of structures of power. Complicity.

Everybody carrying some White supremacy

White folks might get into this work for the wrong reasons.  White people need to look to the truth, and find “what harm have I caused?”  Looking at White history and privilege is going to hurt. But you have to look inside yourself and teach your colleagues and spheres of influence. What can you teach to bring resources to black/native peoples?

It is vital for each of us to look at other communities. The problems and needs there.  How can we support? What more do I need to learn about the communities around me?

Christine: As we talk about black and indigenous solidarity I think of Land Back / reparations.

Dr. Brown: Land trusts. How talk about those things with both communities. Maybe create a council with people from black/indigenous communities to work together.  Have been in these struggles together for 500 years. How solve problems with people who have been enslaved and had land stolen.

Solidarity. Have been times when black/indigenous at odds with each other.

Now is a fertile time for these solidarity opportunities.

“What can you say to black POC individuals who say should not vote, no good choice.”

Brown—VOTE A lot of this nation is so ill-educated about how this government works. So many more options, levels of government.  Don’t let the vote be all that you do.  We need that vote. All the blood in the soil from what our ancestors did to get us our vote.


This entry was posted in Black Lives, decolonize, enslavement, Indigenous, Native Americans, solidarity, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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