Know Your Foe: Reflecting on Labor Power and the 3rd Reconstruction and the Buffalo Shooting
“I wear hats in the New York State AFL-CIO and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the National AFL-CIO, the Global African Worker Institute, amongst a few others. But the hat that I never take off, sisters and brothers, is that of being a Black worker. No matter my title, no matter my status, no matter the venue that I'm in, I am, and always will be, a Black worker in America. I say that because when I'm walking down the street, driving my car, or shopping in a store, no title matters, no hat matters, no awards matter. I am a Black worker. When I was pulled over driving while Black, I was just a Black worker. When I was followed shopping in the store, I was just a Black worker. When the white ladies clutch their purses as I pass, I am just a Black worker. And as a Black worker, I have seen how this labor movement has helped and hurt my community. I've seen this movement be at the forefront and on the sidelines, when it comes to issues facing my people, my family, and my neighborhood.” Rev. Terry Melvin
When Rev. Terry Melvin shared these words at the Labor Power and the 3rd Reconstruction Truth Commission on May 14, we weren’t yet aware of the horrific act of racist violence that had just taken place in his community of Buffalo. But though we hadn’t yet heard the news, Rev. Melvin’s remarks spoke to the questions our movement must (again) confront as we process the devastating massacre at Tops. We can’t afford for the labor movement - or any segment of the movement for social and economic justice - to be disconnected from the struggle against White Supremacy and for racial justice.
All of our lives are at stake right now, Rev. Melvin reminded us, and we have to be clear-eyed about what we are facing. The truth is that we are losing, but we can turn the tide if we recognize how, as workers, all our fates are interconnected. The same forces that want to destroy unions, roll back voting rights, and decimate social services, are also attacking the bodily autonomy of women, denying the existence of LGBTQ+ people, and stoking the violently racist ideology expressed by the shooter that day.
“We either recognize our common enemy, or die on the hill of tribalism,” Rev. Melvin said. “I know who my foe is, so I challenge all of you to be my friend.”
Our organizing has to address systemic racism head on, and that includes intentionally countering the divide-and-conquer strategy at its root. It would be a dangerous misunderstanding to think that White Supremacy is not connected to all of this nation’s interlocking injustices - even though clearly BIPOC bear the brunt of the violence and the social, emotional, and economic toll. White Supremacy is a tool used to divide the poor and dispossessed, and until we can out-organize its purveyors, it will continue to frustrate progress on any of our issues. There is no simple formula for this difficult work. But as Rev. Melvin reminded us, one of our starting points must be to have clarity about who our foe is, and then to accept the challenge of building unlikely friendships across the lines they have constructed to divide us.
Click here to watch Rev. Melvin’s full remarks and stay tuned for a multimedia report on the Truth Commission coming next week.
As we continue to organize, we also must support and care for one another. The following list comes from our friends at Coalition for Economic Justice of organizations on the ground in Buffalo helping the community to recover. Please consider contributing to their work as you are able.
To donate to Black Love Resists in the Rust: https://donate.keela.co/black-love-resists-in-the-rust-just-resisting/default-donation-form-184
Feed Buffalo: https://www.feedbuffalo.org/
Open Buffalo: https://openbuffalo.org/donate/
African Heritage Food Co-op: https://www.paypal.com/donate/?hosted_button_id=9CVCRVKZAMHN6
Buffalo Mutual Aid Network has a running list of resources and places to donate as they pop up here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/BuffaloMutualAid/permalink/1246383549241158/
Caught Up, a statement by our Digital Organizer.
*Photo by Steve Pavey courtesy of The Kairos Center
This past Monday, I joined The Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice and Repairers of The Breach by marching in The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival’s Memphis Mobilization Tour stop. This was the last mobilization tour stop before the generationally transformative Poor People’s and Low Wage Workers Mass Assembly and Moral March on Washington and to The Polls occurs on June 18, 2022. It was beyond an honor to be there.
Poor and low-wage workers, including the Starbucks 7 and many other communities fighting eminent domain, lack of access to healthcare and more, gathered outside the motel for nearly two hours sharing stories of injustice and struggle. As we all heard about the plight, fight and insight of those living and organizing in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas, I couldn't help but hear remnants of my own family’s story. Somehow against all odds a child born in the 80’s in Boston found herself at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis singing for living wages, healthcare, human rights and a healthy planet. Somehow against all odds a fusion movement that crosses historic lines of division - such as the North and South - lives on. In fact, one might have thought that being in this sacred space while hearing about injustice meant it would have been a somber occasion, but the spirit here overrode the assassination that took place. The spirit here overrode the recognition of abandonment in the midst of abundance. The experience and spirit here was that of resurrection and commitment.
Something is changing. Something is shifting. The people are rising up and getting real clear about who the enemy is, why we don't have what we need, and what we must do to win our rights. The reality is the powers that be have tried to squash a fusion movement such as this from ever taking shape and building power, but 50 years later here we are - organizers of every age, race, and gender - declaring we will fight alongside one another till we win a radical redistribution of resources and transform this nation with a revolution of values.
“When people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
There's a meeting down in Washington and you, my beloved, belong.
#MeetUsInDC on June 18, 2022. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
There are free buses leaving from across New York State! Click here to sign up for a seat on the bus.
Campaign for NY Health, The Struggle Continues
On May 20th advocates and organizers marched to Speaker Heastie's Bronx office, then went care-avaning to Leader Stewart-Cousins' Yonkers office to demand they bring the New York Health Act to a vote now! Every day Speaker Heastie and Leader Stewart-Cousins and the Democratic Supermajority delays, means more New Yorkers die from preventable causes, more New Yorkers suffer from devastating medical debt, more New Yorkers can't get the care they need. The current healthcare system keeps New Yorkers chained! We need the NY Health Act for systemic change.
Click here to watch the entire march’s livestream.
Contact your state lawmakers today: https://p2a.co/n4nekfv
#MeetUsInDC! Forward together, The team at Labor Religion Coalition of NYS