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  • erinschrode

Take Action

TAKE ACTION HERE AND NOW! Our Mill Valley mayor dismissed Black Lives Matter as an issue that is “not of immediate local importance” during Monday's council meeting, which underscores just how much work we have to do, all of us, everywhere. There should be no tolerance for anything but anti-racist leadership, as well as comprehensive police reform to protect all residents — and that begins with our own cities, towns, mayors, counties, communities. Like this very place, where I have long benefited from white privilege, while my black friends, peers, colleagues, classmates and neighbors have been oppressed by failures of systems, leadership and citizens.

I spent yesterday calling, waiting to hear back from and speaking with our local police department, sergeants, colonels, county sheriff, and more law enforcement — using data, the specific #8CantWait framework, and other tools from my friends at Campaign Zero to raise informed questions, make concrete asks, and take notes to follow up for real policy reform in my hometown and beyond. They asked, “Are you just gonna keep calling?” when I kept requesting call backs and being routed to central dispatch. "Yup," I said, “because black lives matter.” I eventually had the opportunity to engage in multiple meaningful, informative, seemingly honest conversations with officers. While I was far from shocked at the answers, we do NOT have all of these eight policies in place. But we can and we must. Please read, act, dial, write, share, do more!

If you’re local, call the Mill Valley Police Department at 415-389-4100, the County Sheriff in Marin City at 415-332-5422, any every other branch. If not, look up your local police phone numbers. There is no excuse to object to or fail to act on these simple demands.

• • • [Do that please, but if you want more of the big picture and my thoughts on the issue, read below] • • •

Mill Valley Mayor Sashi McEntee’s dismissive comments that Black Lives Matter is an issue “not of immediate local importance” are shameful and appalling, as are both of her feeble, misguided attempts at written apologies. That would be true at any moment in time, though especially right now.

1500 people gathered for a peaceful protest on Tuesday in Marin City to stand for black lives, for police reform, for justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and too many names and stories of black people we will never hear, nor see killed at the hands of officers and violent systems of oppression. The predominantly black Marin City community directly borders Mill Valley, yet faces consequences of historic marginalization, institutionalized racism and systemic discrimination daily. Those of us in Mill Valley, Marin City and Marin County stand in solidarity, not only on one day, but every day through meaningful hands-on programs and advocacy with specific calls to action.

Our Conscious Kitchen teams are proud to partner to serve children, families, seniors and the community amid these challenging times, in the face of the viruses of the pandemic and racism alike, as we have done with our school food program since its launch in 2013 in Marin City. “Get involved with one of our programs!” were our PLAY MARIN partner and powerful community leader Paul Austin’s words before the crowd at the protest, a moving gathering that was spurred and driven by youth (a text message from a 16-year-old to Paul!). Our movement is in the streets, on the phone, at the ballot box and across the web, requiring every one of us to be brave, proactive and committed enough to do what we can with all we have wherever we are: through work, through advocacy, through voting.

I was born, raised and reside in Marin County, going to pre-school in Marin City and living in seven towns throughout childhood and now in Mill Valley. I co-founded our non-profit Turning Green in 2005 to work with young people around climate justice and public health — and our organization launched Conscious Kitchen at Bayside MLK Academy in Marin City seven years ago, a fresh, local, organic, nutritious school food program firmly committed to food equity, education, access and the health and wellbeing of people and planet.

While working to combat hunger and meet rising feeding needs during Coronavirus, we serve people of all races and backgrounds. But black community members are disproportionately affected by economic downturns, chronic disease and systemic injustice and thus, more vulnerable. It should be abundantly clear to all that black lives are of "immediate local importance.”

After being asked by a Mill Valley resident what the city is doing to show that black lives matter, following a sign he posted in downtown saying “White Silence is Violence” being torn down, the mayor quipped that it is "council policy that we do not take action on issues that are not of immediate local importance,” before promptly moving on. I, like many, wholeheartedly reject the idea that black lives are not of immediate local importance. In response to rightful outrage across our community and nationwide (thanks in part to W. Kamau Bell tweeting out the video and non-apology), as the irony of the mayor’s words from one of the most progressive regions in the country were not lost on the masses, Mayor Sashi McEntee's lackluster initial non-apology and subsequent revised ‘apology’ were entirely inadequate and insufficient, demonstrating a disappointing and unacceptable grasp on the issues that plague the place and people she is supposed to represent. In her first written statement, the mayor claimed to be ‘acutely aware’ of racial injustice as a ‘person of color.’ However her behavior in the moment and in follow up make it clear she is not.

This is about black residents of Marin County and black Americans being threatened, arrested, targeted, oppressed, imprisoned and killed — which continues to happen right here, where black friends, neighbors and family members are pulled over with alarming frequency and without cause; where black students get detention for their hair products or styles and are routinely subjected to racist slurs by classmates; where black people are questioned for their whereabouts after dark; where racial income disparity is among, if not the highest in the state; where diversity is grossly lacking. White privilege is alive and well in Mill Valley, in Marin County, in this nation. I know, because I have benefited from it for all of my 29 years.

Today and every day, I will use my voice, body, platform and resources to stand for justice. And right now, that means not only calling upon the Mill Valley mayor to resign (…), but to engage politically and civilly to demand police policy change that saves lives. Fellow activists and brilliant friends at Campaign Zero launched #8CantWait yesterday with specific practices that can reduce violence by up to 72%, including:

– Banning chokeholds and strangleholds – Requiring deescalation first – Requiring warning before shooting – Exhausting all alternatives before shooting – Ensuring the duty of other officers to intervene – Banning shooting at moving vehicles – Establishing use of force continuum – Requiring all force be reported

These are not all in practice in the Mill Valley police departments, Marin County Sheriff, or other departments across the county, which I confirmed in phone conversations just yesterday. If you’re local, call the Mill Valley Police Department at 415-389-4100, the County Sheriff in Marin City at 415-332-5422, and every other branch. If not, look up your local police phone numbers. There is no excuse to object to or fail to act on these simple demands.

Our collective movement for equal justice is about both policy and protests, about advocacy and activism, about small cities and sweeping societal shifts. As President Barack Obama reiterated while addressing the nation in a virtual town hall by My Brother's Keeper Alliance yesterday, there is no tension between voting and protesting. We need it all: grassroots activism, next generation leadership, implementation of solutions backed by data, voting in elections, mobilizing against discrimination and for justice.

Increasing safety and preventing tragedy, building community and decreasing division, choosing love and countering hatred all start within our selves, in our homes, throughout our communities, across our cities and towns. If we want change, if we want to see policy reform, if we want commitment to progress, we must hold those in power to account. Our local mayors and elected officials can enact policies that translate practical solutions into laws that not only protect us, but also ensure more safe, just, healthy, equitable communities in which we live, work, learn, eat and play.

As I recommit to listening, to learning, to allyship, to elevating black voices, to thriving black futures, to concrete police reform, to doing the work for justice on the ground in Mill Valley, Marin City, Marin County and beyond, I reaffirm: black lives ARE of immediate local importance.


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