Supporting Community Leaders in Louisville

Shit is getting real…

There is really no other way to say it. The U.S is crumbling from the compounded effects of Trump’s leadership, the legacy of three decades of Neo-liberal imperialism and the festering rot of its original white-supremacist-settler-colonialism. Its all coming to a head in a way that scares the racist powers that be. It is clear that Trump’s chances for re-election are dwindling and that the only thing that save him is all out authoritarianism.

Fortunately it is not just Trumpism on its last gap. White nationalism is also on its last gasp as the U.S is hurdling towards a People of Color majority. Basically the Nazi’s are on the ropes throwing wild haymakers. This time every community is getting body blows. But not every community has the resources to easily treat these blows.

In the communities that are outside the usual coverage of the mainstream media, the Movement for Black Lives looks very different than it does in D.C. In Louisville, Kentucky BLM organizers face a much more personal backlash. In smaller cities known activists are targeted, followed and messed with in ways that are hard to describe. BLM leaders in small cities have to be brash and loud because the social habit of going along to get along is so strong. Particularly in the South.

To give you a sense of the struggle, a local film maker and activist was arrested by the police for graffiti. The police then posted information about the woman on social media and tied them to other politically tinged graffiti. Days later their house was fired bombed by white supremacist while they were inside. Luckily they got out fast.

Now the police in Louisville have started using live ammunition on crowds even those aren’t protesting. Being the person that all points out that shit is racist doesn’t win you any personality contests but, over time, it can win your community power and breathing room to articulate your liberation.

Organizers in BLM have used that breathing room to literally put Black women and their families in homes. They have been on the front lines of many protests. But, perhaps most importantly, they do silent, draining work for walking with Black people through the daily tragedies that we face. They meet with the families of people killed by violence, both inter-community violence and the police. The host healing sessions for their community. The get resources to where they need to be.

Inevitably, the power and prominence in their community means that they are blamed for everything. It’s like being the old woman in the woods who know which plants are poisonous and which can heal. People come to you because you give them medicine when they are sick but they also blame you when they stop you toe, saying it was you giving them the evil eye. The news and political opposition go out there way to blame anything they can on BLM regardless of how connected to it BLM actually is. I don’t have the words to talk about how emotionally stressful and draining this can be.

There are two people in particular I want to highlight. Chanelle Helm and Reece Chenault. Chanelle has worked tirelessly as the leader of BLM Louisville for Black Liberation. Chanelle is my sister April’s best friend and I first met her when she supported an action that BLM DC had organized (back in the day when I was CORE organizer for BLM). I am not sure I have ever met someone who lived, breathed and died with movement with more passion and authenticity than Chanelle (except for maybe my sister.)

Now, Chanelle is prominent and well known but like most full time BLM activists that prominence doesn’t pay the bills. Chanelle is quick to point out that Black people should get paid for their labor and very generous with paying others but I really see her send out appeals for herself. I know, from my own experience, that its hard to be organizing even if you are “getting by.” Always being on the go makes it hard to plan finances not to mention all the security concerns that activists have. Volunteering full time has a cost. While I don’t have access to Chanelle’s budget, I know that like many of us, her getting by is sometimes a challenge.

Now, usually I believe that it is more strategic to give organizations. I would encourage us all to give to BLM Louisville. But I also just want to say that there are some leaders who move whole cities and supporting those leaders is strategic. Chanelle is that kind of leader. We need leaders who are willing and able to be uncompromising in the face of oppression. We need leaders who are able hold a deep care for their community while also willing to rock the boat that many in community are afraid to rock.

To put it bluntly, we need trusted voices who always keep an eye towards revolution while being willing to meet young people where they are at. It is crucial for our movement that she is supported in being sustainable through our this whirlwind moment. So please join me in donating to Chanelle (paypal) or here (venmo).

The second person I want to highlight is Reece Chenault.

Reece is one my best friends and my co-conspirator of the WildSeed Society Project. We also are collaborating on Justice Before Peace, the organization that sent me to Korea, Hong Kong and South Africa. Reece has put in his dues as visible leader, first a union organizer and then as the executive director of US Labor Against the War and now mostly works behind the scenes. Part ferryman getting people where they need to be and party Griot sharing the wisdom that arises from what we do when we arrive, Reece plays an invaluable support role to many movement spaces.

Reece also does that slow, unsexy work of sitting with organizers at our most righteous, stubborn, wounded, angry, line stepping and fucked up selves. We cares for spirit of many Black organizers across the country while at the same time sharing his own wisdom and struggles with mental illness through Bi-Polar Dispatches. If you are reader of the blog then understand how profound it is for me say that I don’t quite have to words to express the impact that Reece has had on my life and the lives that all that he touches.

I think that Reece is a force multiplier for movement work. Like Chanelle, he is the kind of rare organizer that you can’t really train someone to be. It’s just the sort of diamond that forms naturally over time, one-fucked up high pressure situation at time. You can support Reece’s patreon here. You can give to his paypal here.

What Reece and Chanelle share, and why I am using this moment to try and get some additional support to them, is that they are exactly the kinds of leaders we will need for what comes after. You know I am nothing if not a futurist, I am concerned for the revolutionary potentials of the future. We live in moment of deep uncertainty which also means its a moment of great generative potential. Donating what you are able greatly increases the chances that we actualize the most liberatory potentials possible.

Let me know what you think

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