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Charlene Carruthers Testimony

Charlene Carruthers Testimony

The conditions of Black people in America are as diverse as the conditions of the African diaspora. The tie that binds us is the reality that our bodies are constantly at risk of being violated by state supported actors and systems. Black people who are poor, women, LGBTQ and gender non-conforming, currently or formerly incarcerated, undocumented and/or differently-abled are among those who are particularly vulnerable.

To be Black in America is connected to what it means to be Black in Palestine, in Cuba, and in France. Our stories are not the same, yet they are deeply connected. Just last week I, along with over 66 young activists, participated in a mass civil disobedience to shut down the International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference in Chicago. We called on local governments to de-fund the police and invest in the futures of Black people in the United States.

Over 14,000 law enforcement agents, police chiefs and supports from around the world convened to share best practices, which for us translates into how they can strengthen repressive and violent tactics worldwide. They convened in a place where the Chicago Police Department receives 40% of the city’s budget, this amounts to about $4 million a day spent on things that do not keep us safe.

According to the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, a Black person is killed by a police officer, security officer or self-appointed vigilante every 28 hours in the United States of America.

Two years ago, the city of Chicago closed over 50 public schools in one of the nation's largest public school systems, primarily impacting Black students. I grew up on the Southside of Chicago and attended public schools that prepared me to be the leader I am today. Too many of our children today do not have that same opportunities and investment in their futures. Instead, local, state and federal governments are investing in policing, hyper-surveillance and mass incarceration.

America is full of young, Black human rights defenders. Far too many Black people are only able to fight this battle through the fact that they have chosen to survive. Their work goes unnoticed and unvalued. They are the young Black people who set stores and gas stations on fire; they are people who demand to receive a fair wage for their hard work; they are the ones who refuse to die in prison cells, lose all dignity in welfare offices, and do not give up in the wake of their child or partner being gunned down in the streets by a neighbour or by a police officer.

I am one of many who recognise that our survival was never guaranteed and that we have to take up the long-fight to not only win our liberation, but to also build institutions to protect and secure it.

Our work continues because we want to live in a world where Black people are not automatically deemed less than full human beings. We want to live in a world where our lives are protected, valued and one where we are encouraged and allowed to flourish. Black community organising is necessary because this reality is unacceptable and we believe that there is a different and better way forward.

Charlene Carruthers

A Black person is killed by a police officer, security officer or self-appointed vigilante every 28 hours in the United States of America.