Speech read at our Juneteenth event on June 19th 2019 by BLM B-town Core Council Member Amrita Myers
Happy Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth Independence Day or Freedom Day. On June 19, 1865, enslaved men and women in Texas finally learned that they were free — several months after the end of the Civil War, and more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all slaves in the rebelling states. Of course, it didn’t free those enslaved persons in states that remained loyal to the Union, like Maryland and Delaware, or those which remained neutral, like Kentucky. And since the Confederacy considered itself a sovereign nation and ignored the Emancipation Proclamation, the enslaved in those states had to become fugitives, running away from captivity to free themselves from bondage. Freedom was a long time coming. Some might say it still hasn’t fully arrived.
Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. It commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement. It is a day, a week, and in some places a month marked with celebrations, guest speakers, picnics, and family gatherings. It is a time for reflection and rejoicing. It is a time for assessment, self-improvement and for planning the afro-future.
Every June 19th since 1865, African Americans across the nation have held celebrations commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. For many African Americans, it is a more significant celebration than Independence Day.
Black Live Matter Bloomington believes that we should make Juneteenth a national holiday so that we can truly celebrate everyone’s freedom! Making Juneteenth a national holiday would go a long way towards recognizing not just the history of slavery in this country, but also the struggles freed Black folk endured during and after the Reconstruction, including the fight for civil rights and against the marginalization, incarceration and brutal state violence we still face today. We call for the city, county and the state to help to support and recognize efforts to establish Juneteenth as a national holiday and to promote collective celebrations by funding them as well as other black events and cultural festivals.
Our celebration of Juneteenth is a part of our community outreach and coalition initiatives. We seek to educate, engage and enjoy our town and community. Thank you all for coming out to eat, drink, dance, and engage in community discussions in our Speak Out area. Please remember that the space we are in today, as with all BLM events, is a Black Space. Open your ears and minds to what Black folks are telling you so that you can affirm their truth.
~Core Council of Black Lives Matter Bloomington
On June 1st 2019 BLM B-town send the Farmers' Market Advisory Council a letter detailing our concern about the Schooner Creek Farm that is run by Sarah Dye a KNOWN white supremacist with ties to Identity Evrope a tracked terrorist and hate speech group. Since then many more groups and organizations have joined together to request the removal of this farm and its owner from our local farmers market.
Below a copy of our letter to the Advisory Council that has YET to be answered.
Additionally we submit the following recommendations to the Farmers' Market Advisory Council:
1. If you have a mechanism in place to remove them based upon known terrorist or hate speech group affiliation then PLEASE do so immediately
2. IF you do not PLEASE create this policy with the quickness. It is similar to other policies out there and we can help with resources.
3. Once you've done that REMOVE Schooner Creek Farm from the Bloomington Farmers' Market.
4. Additionally PLEASE revise your policies and procedures for handling protest at the Farmer's Market. Calling the police on peaceful non-violent protesters is an intense overreaction and potentially dangerous and fatal IF Black people and other People of color are the ones protesting. Also given in this situation it was the protesters being attacked by violent racists removing the protesters with police force shows a surprising lack of care for Bloomington community members.
5. IF you feel more public comment of this is warranted please let us know and we can and will orchestrate public comment for you either at one of your meetings OR at the Farmer's Market itself.
Dear Farmers’ Market Advisory Council,
The Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market in Showers Common is an icon of Bloomington culture. Visit Bloomington promotes this popular Saturday morning attraction as one of our city’s “most beloved traditions.” Access to fresh, local foods as well as art and entertainment should provide common ground that brings the Bloomington community together. It is not a venue we expect to find promoting racial hatred and bigotry.
Consequently, we were surprised to learn that the Farmers’ Market Advisory Council has continued to allow Schooner Creek Farms to maintain a booth at the Market despite the white nationalist positions promoted by owner Sarah Dye. Beyond simply holding views that ought to be abhorrent to any Bloomingtonian, Dye has publicly advocated for her bigotry via her YouTube videos posted under the moniker “Volkmom.” Further, Dye has connections to the known and tracked white nationalist hate group known as “Identity Evropa.”
More disturbing still, concerned local residents who attempted to confront Schooner Creek Farms over their racist affiliations *LAST YEAR??were met with violence and hate speech by the booth staff a man named Doug and by Dye herself. Again, such behavior is clearly antithetical to the city’s professed values. And yet, Farmers’ Market officials responded by calling the police to have these concerned citizens arrested and banned from the Market while allowing the avowedly violent racist farmers to remain.
Certainly, you can understand why this matter is of great consternation for Bloomingtonians and to Black Bloomingtonians in particular. As such, Black Lives Matter Bloomington would like an explanation from the Farmers’ Market Advisory Council on several points.
First, we are curious about the value the Council sees in keeping Schooner Creek Farms at the Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market given their active promotion of hatred for large swathes of the Bloomington Community? Are these also the Council’s values?
Second, why does the Council feel that Schooner Creek Farms’ presence is a benefit to the diverse culture of Bloomington and its mission of inclusion and safety for all? Or does the Council share their belief that Bloomington would be better without non-white residents?
Finally, why does the Council feel that the forcible removal of peaceful activists is more in line with Blloomington’s values than the removal of the racist business whose employees physically and verbally assaulted them?
Given the increase in hate crimes nationwide, the explosion of white supremacist organizations like Identity Evropa, and the horrible acts of violence against Black People and other People of Color every day, we and many others in the community are unclear WHY our local Farmers Market should be a venue for a farm that promotes racial hatred.
Please respond to these inquiries as quickly and as completely as you are able. We would also like to know what actions you plan to take on this issue. As news of this situation travels, we are certain that more Bloomingtonians will be contacting you with these concerns in the near future.
Black Lives Matter Bloomington
#Black Lives Matter B-town Calls for the Resignation of Amanda Barge from the County Commissioner’s Office.
#Black Lives Matter B-town Calls for the Resignation of Amanda Barge from the County Commissioner’s Office
We call for her to admit her actions and engage in restorative justice as outlined by her accuser Brandon Drake. We are also calling for the city and county to revise their policies about protections for contracted employees.
Bloomington, IN: On March 25, 2019, the Indiana Daily Student (IDS) newspaper released an article outlining sexual harassment allegations by Brandon Drake against the former Mayoral Candidate and current County Commissioner, Amanda Barge. In this article, Brandon Drake and the IDS writer provided overwhelming evidence of Ms. Barge’s sexual harassment over the course of a year. Black Lives Matter B-town believes Mr. Drake because we as an organization always believe survivors, and we are especially invested in supporting and protecting survivors of color.
Due to our belief in supporting survivors; the preponderance of evidence; the power differential between them; the poor manner in which Ms. Barge reacted to, handled, and addressed these allegations; and the fact that it appears that Ms. Barge is using her position as County Commissioner to attack her victim and defend her egregious actions, we, the Core Council of Black Lives Matter B-town, are calling for her immediate resignation as County Commissioner. She has broken trust with the residents of the county and has misused her office. She must step down and allow others to fulfill her duties.
Additionally, we are calling for the Monroe County Government to revise its policies to include protections for contracted employees. All employees, including contracted employees, should be protected from any form of harassment. If Mr. Drake had legal recourse and procedural outlets outside of those of his harrasser’s direct co-workers and friends, it is far more likely that this situation could have been dealt with after the first incident. We ask the Monroe County Government to strive to protect all of its employees from harassment and assault by extending protections and coverage to its contracted employees.
The IDS article clearly outlines a strong power differential between Ms. Barge and Mr. Drake, but what is not made clear is the racial power differential that adds to the gravity of these allegations. #BLM B-town made a strong statement on March 26th connecting the historical connection of white womanhood and its power to racial oppression. Mr. Drake, due to his history of trauma, addiction and recovery, as well as his racial background, is a vulnerable person in our society. Ms. Barge, as a licensed, clinical social worker, a so-called advocate for people in recovery, and someone claiming to be an advocate for racial justice, had knowledge of all these things. She had racial power, supervisory power, educational, and professional power over Mr. Drake. She should have known better.
See #BLM B-town’s message about the historical issues of abuses of power here. https://www.facebook.com/blacklivesmatterbtown/posts/2586137214761509?__tn__=K-R
Additionally, once Mr. Drake disclosed the abuse, Ms. Barge’s response has been to deny his claims, attempt to discredit Mr. Drake, and blame her former political opponent, Mayor John Hamilton, claiming politically motivated timing. It is a matter of public record that Mr. Drake has protested the city and Mayor Hamilton’s administration for its response to the opioid epidemic and local opioid overdoses. He has been an active #BLM B-town member and supported and engaged in protest over the administration’s purchase of the Lenco BearCat military assault vehicle. This particular attack is a spurious overreach on the part of Ms. Barge’s supporters and team to discredit her accuser.
The County Commissioner’s office also recently attempted to discredit Mr. Drake by releasing a “job performance” timeline in a letter seeking to publicly shame Mr. Drake. #BLM B-town wishes to state that his job performance is 100% IRRELEVANT to the credibility of his disclosure of sexual harassment. Moreover, given the depths of the harassment, it is entirely unsurprising that an employee would underperform in such a hostile work environment. We ask for a comparative analysis of the County Commissioner’s letter detailing Mr. Drake’s job performance against the emails, texts, and other forms of communication Ms. Barge used to repeatedly harass her subordinate, not to mention an inquiry into why the County Commissioner’s office chose to release this information and on whose orders. Frankly, it appears as if Ms. Barge is using her office, yet again, to harass and discredit Mr. Drake.
#Black Lives Matter B-town would like to reiterate that Restorative Justice involves an admission of wrongdoing, a clearing of the air, and an effort to make amends. Ms. Barge clearly has not, and is not, engaging in Restorative Justice, and instead appears to be victim blaming as well as encouraging others to do the same. We are asking all progressive political and community-based organizations to call for her resignation from the County Commissioner’s office and for the city and county to revise their policies for contractual employees. If you are friends and/or colleagues with Amanda Barge, please help bring her to the table for productive conversations about community accountability.
If you have experienced sexual harassment or sexual violence, there is always a nonjudgmental and compassionate, listening ear on Middle Way House’s 24-hour, 7-days a week Crisis Line: (812) 336-0846.
If you would like to learn more about #BLM B-town, please check out our website for more information on upcoming projects and how you can get involved:
or email firstname.lastname@example.org for direct contact with BLM B-town.
#BLM B-town’s State of the City Rebuttal
The state of the city from a black lives matter perspective
To Whom it Concerns,
Over a year ago, BLM B-town and other local activists as well as concerned residents interested in protecting black and brown lives, right to protest, harm reduction, confronting white supremacy, and de-militarizing the police, came together to disrupt Mayor John Hamilton’s State of the City address to insist he stop the purchase of the Lenco BearCat militarized assault vehicle. This was a catalyzing moment for BLM B-town, as well as a chance to speak out forcefully about larger issues related to policing, city funding, and the failure of our current mayor to seek out feedback from marginalized communities here in Bloomington about how this purchase would affect them.
We spent the months following seeking direct dialogue and action from the mayor and city council. We asked for the decision of the purchase to be reviewed and taken to the people of Bloomington, we offered alternatives, and we provided detailed information in our People’s Report (link here) about how the BearCat military added to the militarization of the police and contributed to disproportionate arrests, imprisonment, and even deaths of people of color, especially black people around the country and locally.
During several private meetings and a number of public protests, we consistently asked for public oversight of the purchasing process and future public oversight of the police and mayoral spending. Many of our concerns, questions, and demands were dismissed, publicly challenged by the mayor’s office, or met with tone deaf rhetoric from the city council.
As a result, we spent the rest of the year focusing on the political landscape of Bloomington by talking with, evaluating, and questioning those politicians who were seeking office in 2018. Our “A Seat at the Table” round-table discussion with Midterm candidates made a significant difference in opening a dialogue about race relations as they impact Bloomington politics. That event, along with our Midterm Voter’s guide, exposed the vast amount of work that local, regional, and state politicians still need to do in order to address the needs and concerns of black people and people of color (POC) in the Bloomington community and across Indiana.
As part of our 2019 reboot and efforts to align ourselves with BLM’s national guiding principles, BLM B-town will continue to shine a light on the lack of diversity and inclusion that permeates the political actions and policies of our current mayoral administration, city council, and 2019 primary candidates. Using the data collected by the NAACP and the Racial Justice Task Force of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington’s longitudinal study of Race and Criminal Justice in Monroe County, we will continue to provide empirical evidence of the militarization of the police and bring to light the Bloomington Police Department’s abysmal arrest record and history of racial bias against Black people in Bloomington.
We will continue to question the need for a quarter-million dollar purchase of the Lenco BearCat by Mayor John Hamilton when many other programs that promote the public interest could use that funding. We will seek oversight in the use of the BearCat military assault vehicle, and any future spending related to it or the further militarization of the police. We will continue to call out, protest and use direct action when issues arise that threaten the freedom of Black people, POC and other marginalized communities. We will continue to dismantle patriarchy, white supremacy, homophobia, transphobia, ableism and other oppressive structures within the community.
In short, one year out from a major protest, we acknowledge that at once nothing has changed, and yet everything has changed.
We still see institutionalized racism in the decisions of the current mayoral administration, city council, and the state and federal governments. We still see no need for acquiring the BearCat military assault vehicle, particularly in light of the fact that the deployment of the vehicle thus far has not even remotely justified its purchase. Additionally, we charge that all of the “public comment” sessions held by the city last year served as a platform for propagandistic responses by a mayor who never intended to seek public comment, and a city council who refused to check the power and authority of the mayor. Their actions lead us to conclude that our town needs to create a pipeline for new, progressive candidates of color to who will shape our local government by re-populating it with persons who have marginalized voices.
Our efforts to draw attention to these issues have truly resonated with many in our community, resulting in engagement from more people of color in local politics as well as in activism and social justice. We have shown that change is needed in our local government, and through our efforts to educate and inform the Bloomington community, we’ve had a powerful impact on the cultural landscape. Our participation in community outreach, donation drives, and establishing partnerships and information exchanges with other local organizations has also furthered this work. We see that when we use our many voices to represent different perspectives and speak up for Bloomington, we prove that the Black community is not monolithic, and that many of us wish to change the status quo in order to improve the quality of life for all Black folks. Moreover, our issues are intersectional, and our pursuit of freedom benefits other POC and marginalized folks as well. We have demonstrated that we can change our beliefs and culture locally, and in the coming year, we will continue to put pressure on our local government to promote progress and dismantle hierarchical systems of control.
We invite members of the community to email us to learn more about upcoming projects for 2019 and for more details about how to get involved.www.blm.btown-in.org, www.facebook.com/blacklivesmatterbtown or email email@example.com for direct contact with BLM B-town
Black Lives Matter Bloomington Core Council
This message is in response to some questions regarding the recent reorganization of BLM B-town. Please see our recent press release for more complete details: https://blm.btown-in.org/blm-b-town-blog
In general, we are rebooting this organization in order to bring it closer to the Guiding Principles outlined by the National BLM organization. Those principles can be found on our website here: https://blm.btown-in.org/about.html
In this process, we removed Vauhxx Booker not only from his role on the BLM Core Council but from our general membership for violating our internal agreements. As stated in our recent press release Mr. Booker has organized meetings on behalf of #BLM B-town to garner support from local organizations, politicians, and prominent public figures against the express wishes of the former and current core council. As a reminder, #BLM B-town does not endorse candidates for office. #BLM B-town wishes to remain a politically independent organization and looks forward to continuing to bring voters accurate, non-partisan information about local politics. Thus his actions and his bid for Bloomington City Council are at odds with the organization’s mission and goals.
Additionally, in response to emergent security concerns, we have shut down our Facebook Group page. We will continue to share information with the public through our Facebook main page and our own website.
All of our current efforts are to ensure the continued growth of BLM in Bloomington and to support the wider black and diverse communities in our city.
-BLM B-town Core Council
For Immediate Release
#Black Lives Matter B-town
#Black Live Matter Bloomington Rebooting with New Core Council.
New Goals and Objectives for 2019 and Beyond.
Bloomington IN: Today, #Black Lives Matter B-town is announcing its reformation and reboot with new core council members as well as an amended structure and new goals for the 2019 calendar year. This new #BLM B-town consists of many progressive black activist leaders supported by progressive activist non-black identifying people of color and white members. The local chapter of #BLM is committed to bringing the group in line with the Guiding Principles outlined by the national #Black Lives Matter organization. To that end, they are creating new working agreements, projects, committees, and ways of looking at local issues that concern #BLM and the black, brown and progressive communities. All of this change comes out of a desire for the new group to learn from past mistakes.
“We are excited about our reboot and looking forward to engaging the community in a way we haven’t been able to do before. We have more local philanthropy in the works, 2019 Primary candidate questionnaire and reviews, more and expanded police and court oversight, education watch committees, and more community building and engagement events as well. Our commitment to confronting white supremacy, our commitment to one another, and our firm belief that black lives do, should, and always have mattered will become the ground for our new foundation to the community we wish to build."
#BLM B-town is particularly excited about their highly anticipated “Make the Right Call Campaign” that urges everyone to consider alternatives to dialing 911 and to utilize the local organizations specially geared to help with a myriad of issues facing Bloomingtonians daily.
As a reminder, #BLM B-town wants to reiterate that they do not endorse candidates for office. They want to stress that they are no longer affiliated with Mr. Vauhxx Booker, candidate for city council. Mr. Booker has organized meetings on behalf of #BLM B-town to garner support from local organizations, politicians, and prominent public figures against the express wishes of the former and current core council. #BLM B-town wishes to remain a politically independent organization, and looks forward to continuing to bring voters accurate, non-partisan information about local politics.
"From now on WE, the core council and at-large membership of #Black Lives Matter B-town, speak with one voice united in all of our endeavors, and we will continue to grow and change together, not hampered by the past, but looking forward to the Afro-future."
The newly reformed group is looking forward to welcoming new members in the spring, and in the meantime are actively seeking progressive black activists to serve on the core council. With respect to general membership, they are in particular looking for people of color to sign up, especially those whose intersectional issues can foster new collaborations and new ways to engage the Bloomington community. In the era of #metoo, #timesup, and #blm it is important that #BLM B-town ensure they are a safe place for all identities, genders and sexualities, as well as a progressive place and a black-led space.
Check out their website for more information on upcoming projects and how you can get involved. www.blm.btown-in.org, www.facebook.com/blacklivesmatterbtown or email firstname.lastname@example.org for direct contact with BLM B-town.