January 19, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
The #LetUsBreathe Collective Honors the Legacy of MLK by Issuing Call to Action
January 19, 2015 CHICAGO, Il. – For activists who have been organizing on the frontlines in Ferguson since the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, the imagery of Selma was all too familiar. “Watching scenes of protesters marching with Dr. King being teargassed, hearing police proclaim that a peaceful march was an unlawful assembly,” says writer and organizer Kristiana Colón, “it was a visceral reminder that though we’ve made some progress since we lost that great leader, we’re deluding ourselves if we believe we’ve achieved his dream.”
Inspired by demonstrations in Oakland and New York, the #LetUsBreathe Collective is leading a Black Brunch action in Chicago to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the holiday commemorating his birth. Demonstrators will visit several brunch establishments and hold space to lift up the names of unarmed Black people who have been killed by police, security guards, or self-appointed vigilantes. “Textbooks paint the Civil Rights era as a fairytale where the hero Dr. King prevails and racism is defeated,” says #LetUsBreathe co-director Damon Williams, “and that’s just not true. The criminalization of Black lives means that institutional racism just looks different than it did in the 60s; we dishonor King’s legacy if we celebrate him while turning a blind eye to the injustice Black people still face every day.”
Black Brunch demonstrators in Oakland and New York were met with mixed responses. Some brunchers were annoyed by the disturbance; one ex-NYPD officer even tweeted a threatening selfie with gun aimed at the camera and the caption “I'm really enjoying these Eggs Benedict so move along now. #BlackBrunchNYC.” However, many brunchers were moved by the demonstration and stood in solidarity during the ritual. #BlackBrunchCHI organizers hope the 4.5 minute demonstration -- a duration that symbolizes the 4.5 hours Mike Brown’s body was left laying outside after his death -- will inspire people to take action. They’ll offer brunchers ten ways they can get involved with the movement to decriminalize Black lives and end police violence, all from their smartphones.
“Oprah criticized the Ferguson movement for not having clear leadership, effective strategies, or tangible goals, and that’s a problematic misconception,” says #LetUsBreathe Executive Director Kristiana Colón, who has been organizing in Ferguson and Chicago since an August 2014 fundraising campaign to bring tear gas protection and remedies, medical and hygiene supplies, and water bottles to frontline protesters. “Our goal is to disrupt business as usual and provoke an uncomfortable, but necessary, dialogue among those who have the privilege to ignore how discriminatory policing affects Black and brown lives. But also to educate folks on the many youth-led organizations with dynamic group-centered leadership, clear policy demands, and innovative tactics.” Demonstrators will hand out QR codes that brunchers can scan to link to “10 Actions You Can Take Before You Get the Bill from Brunch.”
“The first one is ‘Educate yourself,” Colón says. “We know that civil disobedience isn’t the only strategy, but it is a valuable one, and today we honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a peaceful demonstration that disrupts the status quo. Silence is dangerous, so we’re here to insist that an honest conversation about justice happen at your table.”