Check out recent community building work in securing a local food supply.
Lexington’s annual MLK day celebration will be different this year due to the ongoing pandemic. Lexington native filmmaker Joan Brannon has produced, directed, and written a documentary “focusing on the African American quest for social justice from the Civil Rights era to our contemporary moment.”
“In the place of a traditional commemorative program held in Heritage Hall, the Committee has partnered with Lexington born film maker, Joan Brannon to create the documentary, Fire and Heart: A Blueprint for Liberation. The documentary examines racial justice and healing discourse for Black people in Kentucky. It includes clips from past MLK Lexington celebrations. It invites the voices of activists and community members currently involved in the movement to share their experiences with direct action, protest, and to discuss the need for healing from racial trauma within the Black community. Featured storytellers are: Jecorey Arthur, Hannah Drake, Chester Grundy, Ann Beard Grundy, Keturah Herron, LeTonia Jones, Sadiqa Reynolds, and Sarah Williams. Additional creators of the film include, LaShelle Allen (music) and Nzingha-Beverley Sweeney-Sheppard (visual art).”
“Fire and Heart: A Blueprint for Liberation will go live for viewing on the MLK Holiday Committee’s YouTube channel on Jan. 18, at 11 a.m. Following the debut, the documentary will be screened across several area media platforms and channels throughout January and February 2021.”
Access the YouTube Channel for debut here:
Watch the trailer for the documentary:
Sign the petition to #DropTheCharges against protest organizers for #LPDAccountability
January 6, 2021 will forever be marked as the day the world bore witness to the complicit actions of law enforcement and police in defending, maintaining, and participating in racism/white supremacy. As hundreds of white people stormed the capital in a riot of insurrection, they were allowed to leave the crime scene without arrest. While the past several days have held headlines of people being arrested from across the country for their participation in Wednesday’s attempted coup, people across the globe witnessed officers holding open barricades, taking selfies, and now reports have emerged from capital officers of fellow police flashing their badges as they were breaking into the capital. Social media and mainstream media have highlighted the stark difference in police response to BLM protests occurring across the country versus their lack of response in using tear gas, rubber bullets, force, and lack of arrests.
Over the summer of 2020, Lexington witnessed the Lexington Police Department target local organizers and arrest 20 people for doing a nonviolent die-in at the police station. A month later, protest organizers were arrested for crossing the street. Unlike other cities across the country, no property was damaged during Lexington’s non violent protests and no police officer faced assault or injury from protest participants.
If you believe in justice, if you believe that America can transcend our historical divisions along racism/white supremacy, join in the call demanding all charges against those arrested June 13, 2020 and July 11, 2020 be dropped.
Follow Cooperation Lexington, Peoples Blueprint, and LPD Accountability for updates on court cases and the continued fight for #LPDAccoutability
Sign the Petition Here: https://www.change.org/DropTheChargesLex
We are preparing to take our Peoples Blueprint to digital media. As we prepare, we are sharing a test video to work out any kinks we encounter.
This first video is simply a song relevant to the revolution with pictures and banners displayed. We want to ensure the comment features work across all platforms as well. Feel free to view the video here (and stayed tuned as our official launch begins.) https://youtu.be/ybkl6BFRExY
As we await election results on a national stage, lets discuss what we need to change locally in 2022. Linda (the mayor) has been largely silent and thus complicit in her failure to directly address #LPDAccountability, still refusing to ban no knock warrants, failing to address Lexington Police Department ‘s complicit actions in the murder of Breonna Taylor through the hiring and lack of discipline given to Brett Hankinson.
Steve (vice mayor) underhandedly introduced an amendment that would prohibit city council from asking questions or seeking further information about police discipline they vote to approve or reject. Instead of adding this amendment as an agenda item for the meeting, he introduced it during council comments. This required citizens to comb through over two hours of video to locate the introduction of this amendment. Find the video here:
While Steve has asserted that community members simply “misunderstand” his amendment – we understand clearly that city council currently has the right to call witnesses and gather evidence according to local and state law. Steve Kay attempted to give away this current right of council. Steve insisted it be voted on immediately, despite several council members suggesting council wait for the recommendations from the Law Enforcement Subcommitee of the Comission on Racial Justice. Steve wanted this ban on the books prior to the recommendations because these recommendations include adding civilians to both the investigative and disciplinary stages of police discipline. We the people will undoubtly add a deeper level of transparency in investigation and discipline of police officers – Steve tried to stop this before it began.
The amendment Steve introduced has been moved to the Public Safety Commmitee for further discussion. This will happen on November 17.
AN IMPORTANT NOTE: The Racial Justice Commission’s recommendations include the addition of community members to the investigation and discipline of officers in a way that DOES NOT REQUIRE STATE LAW CHANGES!!!!!!! The default excuse of local public officials in delaying #LPDAccountability is the need to change state law – this can no longer be the excuse, the commission has charted a way to accomplish civilian participation in police investigation and discipline without changing state law.
ELECTION DAY AND LOCAL POLITICS:
Election Day is gifting a change in our local city council with incumbents Bill Farmer Jr. and Fred Brown being ousted by Liz Sheehan and Christian Motley according to current prescient reporting at 9:17AM 11/4/2020. This is a key first step to ensuring systemic racism is dismantled in this city.
Stayed tuned to People’s Blueprint for further updates.
Find the full report from the Law Enforcement SubCommittee here:
Recently I was asked to participate in a local art project completed by Kremena Todorova and Kurt Ghode. Here I share my written contribution to this project.
The Black Lives Matter portion of this project can be viewed in it’s entirety here:
What the Black Lives Matter Movement Means to Me
Sarah Williams, October 16, 2020
Sharing what the movement means to me has proven to be a difficult undertaking. To find the words I wanted to express, I played videos of our ancestors speaking to guide the way. The words of James Baldwin in a speech given at the National Press Club in 1986, affirmed through divine synchronicities what I had already begun to write.
What the Black Lives Matter movement means to me is caught somewhere between unspoken thoughts mixed with silent witnessing and the trauma that has spilled into the streets, laced with f bombs and ego killing insults. Beyond the anger and contempt at police for the modern day lynchings at the hands of law enforcement aka modern-day slave patrol, there is a deep, burning frustration with a society and culture that has continually failed to address the root of this country’s “racial dilemma.” You see, white supremacy/racism is not simply a few bad apples within local police departments murdering black and brown people, or simply racist prosecutors or judges responsible for the new Jim Crow of mass incarceration. White supremacy/racism is not limited to the targeting of protestors and truth tellers by police. Nor is white supremacy/ racism limited to our schools in our neighborhoods being subpar, designed like detention facilities, and providing money to the prison industrial complex through the school to prison pipeline. Nor is white supremacy/racism simply a difference of opinion in political ideology between Republicans and Democrats in what is supposed to be a democracy.
White supremacy/racism is a system of thoughts, ideas, and beliefs that has sustained centuries of illusion that the ends justify the means. In other words, the myth of progress in this society and culture is so good or important that the “strange and bitter crop” of whiteness as a social construct is justified by the wealth, power, and domination achieved by racism/white supremacy.
White supremacy/racism involves the deceitful manipulation of constructed illusions (veiled with words of freedom, equity, and inclusion)
used to disguise grotesque exploitations
That for centuries
Continues to degrade humanity
What racism/ white supremacy does to me
Is really a curse to those who bring it to be
Those whose entire sense of self-worth is based upon an illusion constructed to create delusions entire cultures believe.
The struggle within this deceitful manipulation of white supremacy/racism to name a reality that remains an illusion in the minds of indoctrinated mindsets across the globe, is where I find myself in writing about what the movement means to me.
What the movement means to me is that the work, the real, hard, spirit-testing work, is to develop a shared vision for which many of us lack the vocabulary and imagination to conceive – the interconnectedness of all life both human and nature, seen and unseen.
Beyond acknowledging the humanitarian crisis of this current Anthropocene, we must envision a future where, “justice is what love looks like in public.” When we have lived for generations upon generations in a society and culture in which love hinges upon a concept of whiteness and white ethnicity that “is buried in the myths that white people have about themselves,” it makes imagining and birthing Love seem like a violent, impossible undertaking that rattles the foundations of racist/white supremacist mindsets. Nothing in history or current events has inflicted such pervasive and grotesque violence and genocide in efforts to defend and sustain its’ illusion than white supremacy/racism. What we lack as a community, as a society, as a culture is the ability to see and Love all life fully.
James Baldwin said, “If my testimony is true, then the American dream is a lie.” It is this truth that many people of all racial and social backgrounds struggle to fully acknowledge. This gap, this “racial delimma” that has inflicted its violence for centuries upon everything it sees as less than them, is an illusion itself. Baldwin also points out in shining the light of truth, “if I know I have black and white ancestors, then so do you and no one in this country can prove they’re white…we are, whether we like it or not, connected. And that connection should be our triumph and our glory instead of our shame.”
In all that has been done in this city to this point following 44 days of sustained protests, none of the responses by public officials or various community organizations has been sufficient in ensuring that we curate, carry, and birth the shared vision and understanding that we are all connected – racism/white supremacy remains a mindset and ideology deeply embedded within the laws, institutions, and the actors within the structures of this society. A shift in the mindsets, hearts, and spirits of those whose ancestors and descendants decided over four centuries ago that anyone and anything it deemed less than Eurocentric whiteness is what this movement means to me. And yet, with the harshness of the aforementioned truth, is the nonviolent, peaceful truth that the revolution is ultimately spiritual. The revolution is not burning buildings, violence, and death. “The revolution will not be televised,” because the revolution must occur in the hearts, minds, and spirits of the people. The revolution is Love.
The moment that sums up what this movement means to me, is the Sunday, May 31, 2020 evening protest when hundreds of people in this community, including many clergy of all faiths, stood together to say “Black Lives Matter” and demand LPD Accountability. Being towards the front of the crowd peacefully marching through the streets of downtown Lexington, I had no idea the vast number of people present until we were marching past the bus terminal and the chants of hundreds of people in unison reverberated off the walls back to us. As I turned around to the crowd, being informed that there were people spray painting at the courthouse, I searched for wisdom to speak to the crowd that would keep us on one accord despite the chaos ensuing around us. As we came to a stop, Spirit reminded me and everyone present, that “we are one collective unit.” This phrase, this understanding, this way of being would be repeated throughout the 44 days of sustained protest in this city.
What has been lost between the daily communal gathering in the streets for nonviolent protests and public officials inadequate and inept response, is the reminder and remembrance that this city is a collective unit. Change begins on the most local of levels, and nothing in this city has shifted towards the acknowledgement of the collective humanity of every person living in this city. “Let Justice roll down like waters in a mighty stream” and let in begin the hearts, minds, and spirits of every person in this city. Drops of water join to create a ripple to become a wave. “Yes, we can” awaken to Love. Beyond the perceived illusions of a construct of love tainted with the blood and hate of white supremacy/racism, is Love that acknowledges and respects everything that is and gives life.
This shift begins in how we see each other and life around us and then shifts our ways of being in this world. The foundation of community meetings I have facilitated in the past 6 years, building on what this movement means to me, begin with acknowledging and moving forward with the concept and greeting of Sawubona, meaning “we see you.” The response, Yebo sawubona, “we see you too.” The context in which this greeting is spoken acknowledges that every person present in this moment is a manifestation of all the ancestors that have come before them, they are all present in this moment, and we, in our interconnected living, are under a mutual agreement to examine and carry out how it is we must live so that we can be free. If we are not free within ourselves, from all the illusions that hold us back from acknowledging Love within each of us, connected to All that Is, then we will remain in this repeated cycle of violence and uprising without the spiritual, transformative change fundamental to breaking the chains of racism/white supremacy and all forms of domination that impede transcending our current ways of being. This, is what the movement means to me.
Visit http://www.peoplesblueprint.org to read more about the movement here in Lexington, KY. We are building The People’s Blueprint for dismantling systemic racism in this city.
 Cornel West
 James Baldwin, 1986, National Press Club Speech.
 James Baldwin, 1986, National Press Club Speech.
 James Baldwin, 1986, National Press Club Speech.
Today was a small victory in the fight for justice in Lexington, KY. The recommendations from the Law Enforcement and Justice Subcommitee of the Mayor’s Commission for Racial Justice and Equality speak life to demands of black and brown people in this community have made for decades. Yet, there is a deeper and darker struggle that went unacknowledged today. Dr. Gerald Smith, the commission co-chair, acknowledged the pivotal role thousands of people played in taking to the streets. He acknowledged that the commission is a result of the sustained protests that began in May of this year.
While we appreciate that acknowledgement, there are leaders in this fight for justice that are still facing criminal charges at the hands of the criminal injustice system. The most serious charges include inciting a riot. In over 44 days of sustained non-violent protests in this city, nothing was destroyed or burned. A fact that should have been acknowledged in today’s press conferences. On such a historic day, hope for the future should include dropping the charges against the leaders pivotal in bringing Lexington to this moment today.
If this city is truly dedicated to justice, then the charges against the people courageous enough to demand this city acknowledge the truth of its’ “racial dilemma” should not be convicted for troubling the waters with “good trouble.” Today’s victory should leave NO political prisoners in its wake. Drop the charges. This should be the cry of the people in this city and it’s leaders, on this day if we are to complete the “difficult work” ahead.
Stay tuned to People’s Blueprint for an in-depth look at the recommendations of the commission and next steps to ensure our elected officials follow through. The “difficult work” is just beginning.
The recommendations of the commission can be found here: https://www.lexingtonky.gov/sites/default/files/2020-10/Final%20Commission%20for%20Racial%20Justice%20and%20Equality%20Report.pdf
Please take a moment to email our elected public officials about Vice Mayor Steve Kay’s proposed amendment to local law that would prohibit council members from asking questions or seeking further information about officers whose disciplinary actions are voted on by council.
Vice Mayor Steve Kay is pushing a vote on this amendment at this Thursday’s city council meeting. The same meeting in which the Law Enforcement and Justice Subcommitte of the Mayors’ Commission on Racial Justice will make their recommendations to council. There is absolutely no urgent reason as to why this amendment needs to be rushed through a vote, especially when this amendment will diminish council members access to information fundamental to oversight and accountability at the Lexington Police Department.
Video of council work session and council discussion of this amendment:
Here is a template to use for sending emails to public officials:
To my elected public officials,
Recently, Vice Mayor Steve Kay introduced an amendment to local law that would prohibit councilmembers from asking the police chief and police officers questions regarding discipline they have been asked to vote on, trusting instead to leave the burden of information-getting and giving to the police themselves, so long as they provide “as much information as possible”. In a time when so many of us recognize the need for greater oversight, accountability and transparency from our police force, this is a grave misstep. We need MORE council oversight and flexibility regarding police matters not less. Especially since who needs “discipline” and why is still left entirely up to the discretion of the police themselves. (Already, an officer’s behavior might only result in “training” or “counseling”, and when this happens, council/the public/the mayor know absolutely nothing about it — not the behavior, not the result, nothing.) The only way the police will ever have to answer to us — the public — is if they have to answer to you, our elected officials. Curbing your ability to ask questions in regards to these very important matters is not at all what we need.
Please vote no, and listen to your constituents concerns on this agenda item at the October 22, 2020 city council meeting.
A concerned citizen
Here is a list of emails for our elected public officials:
COPY/PASTE LIST OF EMAIL ADDRESSES:
By Sarah Williams, 9/25/2020
A timeline of events in people’s uprising here in Lexington, KY.
Following the murder of #MikeBrown in Ferguson, MO, August 9, 2014, concerned citizens formed various organizations, alliances, and initiatives to address police brutality in Lexington, KY. The greatest move towards justice was realized in the local police department being required to wear body cams. View a video depicting a historical timeline of the events leading up to #LPDBodyCams with #HandsUpKY here:
The struggle was not over with this victory. The marathon for #LPDAccountability reignited in February 2019 when former Lexington Police Department chaplain was caught on video repeatedly punching an autistic teen in the upper body. View video here:
Cooperation Lexington assisted concerned citizens in filing a formal complaint against Donovan Stewart for his actions in the preceding video. In May 2019, Cooperation Lexington and concerned community met with several members of city council to present demands for #LPDAccountability. (The most recent version of these demands with a historical timeline of events can be found here:
The last week of May 2020 would bring the nation to a boiling point as black people across the country were being murdered and targeted by police. Here in Lexington, hundreds of concerned citizens took to the streets to protest police brutality, demand justice for #BreonnaTaylor #AhmadAubrey #GeorgeFloyd and #DaezonMorgan and #LPDAccountability. As our community rallied in nonviolent protests for 44 consecutive days, Cooperation Lexington, in alliance with several community groups and organizations, brought their demands to Mayor Linda Gorton, City Council, and Police Chief Lawrence Weathers again.
While the Mayor responded with the formation of the Commission on Racial Justice and Equality, tasked with dismantling systemic racism in Lexington, KY, and we await their recommendations, it is time for the people to develop and implement The Peoples Blueprint for Dismantling Systemic Racism.
To build and implement the People’s Blueprint, we must educate ourselves and our community on local issues, civic engagement, and our history. We are creating a live digital media initiative to create a COVID safe space to educate and engage community. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Twitch, Periscope, and YouTube to tune in to our digital media initiatives.
(Access the initial People’s Assembly for building this Blueprint here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1-9tmmooi24a4H1nyvOuVl1ScpUjo4TPE )
To stay up to date about current civil disobedient direct action, aka protest visit Www.lpdaccountability.com
The follow up to taking to the streets.
“Justice is what love looks like in public, just as deep democracy is what justice looks like in action.” Cornell West
This country is witnessing the most extensive sustained protests against racial injustice and police brutality since the Civil Rights Movement over half a century ago. As a grassroots organizer and community activist who has spent over 20 years fighting for racial justice and an end to the systemic racism, it is of utmost importance that we build the relationships, knowledge, and community fundamental to sustained resistance and complete liberation.
We must forge a “deep democracy” so that justice is not just a concept or and ideal, but an “action.”
Join us for our weekly digital media initiative, sign up for email updates, follow our calendar for upcoming events, livestreams, popular education, and people’s assemblies.