Black Lives Matter
An abbreviated version of this statement was included in our July 2020 newsletter.
It’s been 46 days since George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis. This has sparked an incredible month of uprisings across the country that have dramatically changed the conversation about policing, and about what kinds of communities we all want and deserve to live in. While I hope this is a wave that continues to change society – and I am personally and professionally committed to doing my part – the painful truth is that this moment of change comes with continued killings and grief. In the Bay Area last month, police killed Sean Monterrosa, a young man from Bernal Heights who was protesting in Vallejo. A few days later, California Highway Patrol killed Erik Salgado in East Oakland. There are many more names we mourn in the Bay Area who have died at the hands of the police and white supremacists – Nia Wilson, Oscar Grant, and many, many others.
All of the staff team at GCC – Ola Jimoh, Philip Verma, Monet Boyd, and I – fully support the protestors and the movement to defund the police. Reinvesting public dollars into community-driven projects is key, and affordable housing represents one piece of that. The question and task before us is how we move from that statement into action.
In the US and in the Bay Area, we know that our built environment – our housing, land use and transportation systems – are a product of hundreds of years of systemic racism. If we don’t transform them, they will continue to produce racist outcomes. We also know that police are used to reinforce these systems: county sheriffs are called to remove people from housing, and transit police carry and use deadly weapons. These systems were created by people — particularly local and regional policymakers — and can therefore be undone.
In 2018, we put together a set of principles to ground the work of GCC in this historical context of systemic racism. In order to create fair and equitable solutions, we must understand our past and intentionally create a different future. If we continue to plan and develop cities without correcting for previously constructed inequity, without accounting for racial biases and without holding a regional vision of equity and inclusion, then we will be guilty of exacerbating segregation and economic and social inequity in the Bay Area.
What that document does not do – and what we need to do now – is determine the actions needed to live up to those principles. As a collaborative, we first try to do that by following our partners who have been doing this work in community for many years. Right now, we believe it is critical to follow the lead of organizations led by Black women. I’ve shared links to two pieces by GCC partners below, as a starting place:
The police state isn’t the only perpetrator of violence on black people. It’s our housing system, healthcare, education – our economy. Yes, let’s defund police. But we can’t end racism without addressing all the places it is. We need holistic solutions. We need a #BlackNewDeal– ACCE
For more from ACCE and other Black organizers in the Bay Area, read/listen to this KQED piece, Why the Fight Against Police Brutality Is Also a Fight for Affordable Housing.
We center housing justice as racial justice in our organizational values for a reason. And this means we must go beyond weighing in on housing issues to advance a new vision of interconnected systems – where our public dollars and the power of governance are used to house and heal, not police and imprison.– EBHO statement on Alameda County Eviction Moratorium
These statements call for holistic, interconnected solutions that go beyond GCC’s usual frame of working at the intersection of housing, transportation, and climate, and push us to connect to anti-racist movements and work. GCC’s work on housing, land use, and transportation – and the interrelations between them – is founded on a set of ideas about where public dollar and resources should go. We can do a better job of connecting our work to the movements to defund the police and advance a Black New Deal, and we need to figure out how to support these movements and center their demands in our work and strategies.
We will develop this path collaboratively with our partners, but here are some ideas I’d like to put on the table as a starting point for our conversations together:
- Talk with our partners about how their work intersects with the Movement for Black Lives.
- Figure out how we partner with and drive resources to organizations doing this work from different starting places.
- Examine the assumptions that underlie our strategies and change strategies if we need to. Equitable and sustainable development has been our core vision for many years, and within that frame, we should dig deeper and consider what kinds of policies, investments, and processes will benefit Black people and communities specifically.
- Increase the number of Black-led organizations we are supporting and the grant sizes to those organizations.
As a collaborative, it’s our partners and the strength of our partners that make GCC what it is. As always — but especially right now — I’m honored and glad to do this work in partnership with you as we move forward together.