September 9, 2020

The Allegheny County Black Activist/Organizer Collective Issues A Statement Regarding This Past Weekend's Events

By now, we may have some idea what happened this passed weekend in the Cultural District.

However, we may have missed what WPXI reported:

Activists said what was caught on a cell-phone camera and shared on social media does not represent the protest movement or the message in Pittsburgh.

“Those of us who have been activists, those of us who are leaders in our community, all of us, we want everyone to know that it is completely unacceptable behavior,” said Dr. Kimberly Ellis, the founder of Black Politics Matter. “We do not approve. It does not represent us. This is not about coddling white feelings or respectability politics.”

Or what WTAE reported:

The founder and CEO of Black Young and Educated (BYE), says the Civil Saturday demonstration was never meant to turn into the volatile protest that was caught on video during the weekend.

"I'm disappointed about the behavior," says BYE CEO Nick Anglin. He says others joined in with their peaceful demonstration and turned it into something he did not want to see, as protesters verbally attacked people dining along Penn Avenue and rushed a McDonald's next to the Golden Triangle.

"I was standing right there when it happened, and I was completely disappointed. I just shook my head and just literally walked away because this wasn't the time or place for any of this to happened," Anglin said.

BYE is a part of 1Hood and 1Hood is part of the Allegheny County Black Activist/Organizer Collective. 

The Collective itself has issued a statement on their Facebook Page regarding last Saturday events.

This is the statement in its entirety:

Don’t be in a hurry to condemn because he doesn’t do what you do or think as you think or as fast. There was a time when you didn’t know what you know today” (Malcolm X).

Just as many of you, we have seen the video from the encounter at Saturday’s protest. Yes, we were saddened and distraught by what took place. However, we will not attack our fellow Black activists, we will hold them accountable, showcase a better way of direct action, and remind them that we are not interested in oppressive tactics; these are tactics that have been orchestrated against Black bodies merely walking through this County and State. We understand the fear that organizers and activists may have as we watch our white allies recede into a position of comfort and weaponize every narrative and image they can to tell Black people we're the reason we suffer in this County and Country. We understand the feelings of betrayal as support we knew would fade slowly begins to wane, and although 93% of protests have been peaceful, white gaze has mostly cared about the chaos and violence perpetrated against Black bodies. The takeaway from this should be the fact that this County continues to fail Black people daily. To fully grasp this, one must have an understanding of our values and principles.

Our goal is to achieve black liberation by addressing racism and police violence through the deconstruction of white supremacy. To achieve this, our vision is to work toward Black liberation by utilizing righteous activism, re-centering Black leadership and advocating for positive social change for ALL Black (disabled, mentally ill, undocumented, people with records, queer, trans, non-binary and all Black lives along the gender spectrum) people. Our collective upholds the following principles:

  • We will give Black people grace and hold them accountable in love.
  • We do not strive to be the voice for ALL Black people in Allegheny County. Instead we hope to strive toward building a people that recognize their voices are stronger together.
  • We will work toward a county where Black people are no longer systematically targeted.
  • We believe in bold righteous activism.
  • We believe in centering Black leadership and making a safe space for Black disabled, mentally ill, undocumented, people with records, queer, trans, non-binary, and all Black lives along the gender spectrum.
  • We recognize that to move toward Black liberation this involves holding people accountable, avoiding burnout, building, healing, learning, organizing, and mobilizing.
  • We believe that Black people are the experts in our own pain.
  • We will not use the tools of white supremacy to deconstruct white supremacy.

While the video from Saturday may have made YOU uncomfortable it shouldn’t be the focal point. Let’s not forget that we live in a region that has been proven to be THE worst place for Black people to live. Let’s not forget that Black activists have been targeted for years and some are presently facing federal charges for peacefully practicing their First amendment rights. While you may not agree with the methods, righteous rage comes from a real place.

Furthermore, while we don’t support all the actions on Saturday, we understand the trauma that led to this and how it continues to show up. As Black people many of us come from backgrounds where facing various forms of systemic oppression are common. Moreover, we are fighting to change a system in a period of economic and government failure, a pandemic and now a resistance movement from which things will never emerge the same. Furthermore, in the past, we as members of this collective have made missteps and allowed unmet trauma to lead us as well. It would be hypocritical to not acknowledge that. We also recognize that these activists are laboring without accepting the many attempts we have given at developing a background of political theory to the way they do activism. Despite this we can't ever stop trying to reach out to one another in love; we must because we know this system won't. 

It is our duty as revolutionary freedom fighters to pass on lessons, wisdom, knowledge, and experiences to the next generation of freedom fighters, cultural workers, and activists. It is our enemy’s job to prevent this and isolate one generation or ideology from the other. It is for this reason that we approach this with love. Nevertheless, it’s also our duty to speak out against and hold anyone accountable that is affecting the growth of the movement. 

With that being said we are asking that these Black activists tend to their trauma, as well as ensure that they have a political theory background to their activism before leading further actions. We also recognize that they have a solid following of white allies and accomplices. However, we fear that they have been misled into thinking that attending protests somehow equates to them fighting white supremacy. While their willingness to show up helps the movement, it’s not the only way. We need white allies and accomplishes talking to other white people in their families, neighborhoods, jobs, and the various tables at which their privilege allows them to sit. At this point, it’s not safe for Black people to open themselves up to further system involvement/harm or white accomplices to be derailed from the movement. 

A lack of discernment can be dangerous and misguided actions can lead to false narratives that embolden racist orgs/individuals and make it unsafe for Black people to attend these protests. We must be strategic. We must be organized. We are not making this request lightly but know that it’s necessary understanding our role in movement building.

The collective is made up of people from these groups:
Radical Youth Collective
OKRA Ethics
Pittsburgh Union of Regional Renters (PURR)
Take Action Mon Valley (TAMV)
Alliance for Police Accountability (APA)
1 Hood
PGH Freedom Fund
Pittsburgh Feminists for Intersectionality

Elected Official Representatives:

County Councilwoman Olivia Bennett
State Representative Summer Lee