Tag Archives: Racial justice

Darnella Frazier is a racial justice hero – we all need to learn how to hit ‘record’

By bearing witness — and hitting ‘record’ — 17-year-old Darnella Frazier may have changed the world

Darnella Frazier is seen third from right in this image captured by a police body camera as she records the arrest of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year. (Minneapolis Police Department/AP)
Washington Post, by Margaret Sullivan, April 20, 2021

Her motivations were simple enough. You could even call them pure.

“It wasn’t right,” said Darnella Frazier, who was 17 last year when she saw George Floyd pinned under a Minneapolis police officer’s knee. She said that to the jury last month as she testified in the murder trial of that former officer, Derek Chauvin.

No, Darnella, it wasn’t right, a Hennepin County jury agreed on Tuesday, finding Chauvin guilty of second- and third-degree murder as well as second-degree manslaughter.

After so many previous instances in which police officers were acquitted of what looked to many people like murder, this time was different. And it was different, in some significant portion, because of a teenager’s sense of right and wrong.

Call it a moral core.

On May 25, while taking her younger cousin on a stroll to get a snack, the high school student observed a struggle between a Black man and White police officer. After ushering the child into the convenience store, Cup Foods, Frazier stayed on the sidewalk and started recording.

We’ve seen the images of her there on the scene in her loosefitting blue pants, her hoodie and her flip-flops, eventually joined again by her little cousin in a mint-green shirt that read “Love.” Frazier just stood there, resolutely, holding her phone. Later, she posted a video clip of about 10 minutes to Facebook.

That video clip, now seen millions of times around the world, was a powerful, irrefutable act of bearing witness.

The video, showing most of the nine minutes and 29 seconds of Floyd gasping and ultimately drawing his last breath under Chauvin’s knee, was something that couldn’t be explained away.

The video became what one network legal analyst, Sunny Hostin, called “the star witness for the prosecution.”

In conversation with ABC’s David Muir last week, Hostin called it “the strongest piece of evidence I have ever seen in a case against a police officer.”

How right-wing media keeps smearing George Floyd with the racist ‘no angel’ narrative

Over the months that followed Floyd’s death, Frazier hasn’t given any speeches. But she gave an interview or two. And every time I’ve seen or heard her quoted, I’ve been struck by a few things.

She is soft-spoken and understated, not trying to draw any particular attention to herself. She may have been troubled by the experience but remains clearheaded about what she saw and what it meant.

On the witness stand late last month, she also had this to say about Floyd, whom she did not know:

“He was suffering. He was in pain. . . . It seemed like he knew it was over for him. . . . He was terrified.”

And like so many of the other young Black people who took the stand in the trial, Frazier could see in him her own family members. In some way, he represented them: They were, she said, her father, her uncle, her brother.

A few months ago, Frazier found herself accepting an award from PEN America, the free-speech advocacy organization. Filmmaker Spike Lee presented it to her in a virtual ceremony noting that the award was given to recognize courage. Luminaries including Rita Dove and Meryl Streep offered kind words to the young woman from hundreds of miles away. Law professor Anita Hill — famous for accusing a soon-to-be Supreme Court justice of sexual harassment nearly 30 years ago — spoke to Darnella Frazier, too.

“Your quick thinking and bravery under immense pressure has made the world safer and more just,” Hill said. Like the others, Hill added: “Thank you.”

Again, Frazier was quiet but centered when she spoke: “I never would imagine out of my whole 17 years of living that this will be me,” she said. “It’s just a lot to take in, but I couldn’t say thank you enough.”

But it was Frazier’s early interview with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that has most lingered in my mind, even more than the testimony she so movingly delivered from the witness stand. She explained that she felt compelled to hit “record” because she was seeing something completely unacceptable.

She may have felt helpless. She couldn’t pull Chauvin off Floyd’s neck, but this was something she could do.

“The world needed to see what I was seeing,” she said.

We saw it, Darnella.

Biden calls for confronting systemic racism after Chauvin convicted of murder in Floyd’s death

Washington Post, by Reis Thebault, Hannah Knowles, Timothy Bella, Abigail Hauslohner, Paulina Villegas, Keith McMillan and Silvia Foster-Frau and Meryl Kornfield, April 20, 2021 at 5:20 p.m. PDT

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd on Tuesday, the conclusion of a closely watched trial that came nearly a year after Floyd’s killing catalyzed an international protest movement for racial justice.

After just over 10 hours of deliberation, a jury returned guilty verdicts on all three counts: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison and will await his sentencing, in eight weeks, from jail.

“It’s not enough. We can’t stop here,” President Biden said in remarks at the White House after the conviction. The verdict is a rare example of punishment after a police killing. Advocates embraced it as an overdue measure of accountability but said they will continue fighting for justice and police reform.

“I’m going to miss him, but now I know he’s in history,” Floyd’s brother Terrence Floyd said Tuesday.



Here’s what you need to know:

INVITATION: Six-week study and action series on racial justice in Benicia

From Progressive Democrats of Benicia, December 2, 2020

Members and friends of PDB:

In Chief Erik Upson’s recent City of Benicia News update as Interim City Manager, he announced that the Benicia Library is partnering with Benicia Black Lives Matter and the Bay Area Chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) for a six-week series of classes on racial justice. This course is free to the public but classes are limited to 30 members for each of the two sessions available – one to be held on Tuesdays beginning Jan. 12, and a second session on Saturdays beginning Jan. 16. (See REGISTRATION, below.)

ABOUT SURJ AND THE STUDY/ACTION SERIES:

SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) Bay Area is part of a national network of groups and individuals organizing white people for racial justice. Through community organizing, mobilizing, and education, SURJ moves white people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice, with passion and accountability.

SURJ Study & Action is a community of learners committed to examining the histories of white supremacy and resistance movements and building our abilities to effectively take action in support of Black and Brown-led organizations fighting for racial justice.

…We are responding to Black peoples’ long-standing call for white people, in large numbers, to talk, study and take action with each other so we can confront white supremacy in our workplaces, schools, with our families and throughout our lives.

Learning in community makes our movements strong. We train up, so we can show up!

FROM RALPH DENNIS, PDB CHAIR: I strongly recommend that white PDB members and friends look in a mirror and consider the benefits that attending these classes will provide. No matter how much we who are white think we are “aware of” and fight against racial prejudices and discrimination, and/or that “I’m not racist,” none of us can know how it feels to be black in a white-dominated culture. And, all of us need to acknowledge the history and systemic nature of racism in our country, and here in Benicia, and learn how to address it and become anti-racist in actions and deeds. These classes are a path towards beginning that journey in Benicia.

Here’s more information from Chief Upson and how to register for the classes.


Showing Up for Racial Justice – Study & Action Course

(From City of Benicia this week, Message from the Interim City Manager 11/30/20)

The Benicia Public Library and Benicia Black Lives Matter are teaming up to offer a free series of classes for the community, cosponsored by the Bay Area chapter of Stand Up for Racial Justice (SURJ).

Participants are asked to:

  • commit to attending all 6 sessions of this intensive program in order to hold accountability to the group, build community, and get the most out of the series;
  • allow enough time in your schedules to read the weekly assignments, about 2.5-4 hours per week;
  • commit to participating in at least 3 racial justice actions during the course of the Intensive. Facilitators will suggest actions to be a part of at each weekly meeting.

Two six session courses are available, one series held on Tuesdays beginning January 12 (registration deadline Dec. 29), the other held on Saturdays beginning January 16 (registration deadline Jan. 2). Please choose either Tuesdays or Saturdays. There are 30 spaces available in each series. All meetings are held on Zoom.

REGISTRATION

For Tuesday Classes: Register Online

For Saturday Classes: Register Online

Questions? Please contact Nancy.

More information is available at https://benicialibrary.org/standing-up-racial-justice.

Year of calamities taking toll on mental health

Mental health professional: “In the past two weeks, my practice has exploded.”

San Francisco Chronicle, by Steve Rubenstein and Nora Mishanec, Sep. 11, 2020
Michael Waddell, a professional dog walker, out in Alamo Square Friday. He said the loss of dog-walking business has caused him more stress than the recent meteorological calamities.
Michael Waddell, a professional dog walker, out in Alamo Square Friday. He said the loss of dog-walking business has caused him more stress than the recent meteorological calamities. Photo: Nora Mishanec / The Chronicle

In a year of wondering what could possibly come next, the next things just keep on coming.

After eight months, they’re starting to add up, say mental health experts. And there’s lots of 2020 left, plenty of time for more next things.

“I’ve been hearing the word ‘apocalyptic’ a lot,” said San Francisco psychiatrist Scott Lauze. “I’m doing a tremendous amount of hand-holding these days. You can’t even rely on the color of the sky anymore.”

Lauze, in private practice for three decades, said he had never seen the call for his services take off like right now.

“In the past two months, there was a significant uptick in demand,” he said. “In the past two weeks, my practice has exploded.”

Pandemic, social unrest, heat waves. Wildfires. Smoke. Mass evacuations. Therapists call them stressors, and there has been no shortage of things to get stressed over.

And this just in: ash raining from the heavens, and darkness at noon.

“I couldn’t fall asleep,” said San Francisco nurse Valieree MacGlaun, who works the night shift and was walking home Friday on Divisadero Street from the VA hospital in her scrubs.

She said she feels overwhelmed, though her job is to help other people overcome feeling overwhelmed.

“This is my calling,” she said. “But you have to take care of yourself.”

Connie and Michael VonDohlen flew from their home in Tennessee to San Francisco on Wednesday to attend their daughter’s wedding, just in time for the dark orange daytime skies that made some locals say it felt like living on Mars. Streets were deserted. The VonDohlens, who don’t seem to shock easily, said they were shocked.

“We thought we had gone into the Twilight Zone,” Michael VonDohlen said. “I was expecting zombies to jump out from every doorway.”

“The fires, added to the pandemic, and the inability to escape — all that adds to the potential for hopelessness,” said emergency room psychiatrist Yener Balan, head of behavioral health services at Kaiser Permanente Northern California.

Calamity and malaise are part of the human condition, he said, and pondering the world wars endured by prior generations can put a virus or a wildfire in perspective.

Coronavirus live updates: SF urges people to stay inside due…
“As a species, we are resilient,” he said. “Many generations have seen this level of calamity.”

Taking care of oneself, living in the moment, checking in with family and friends, getting enough exercise and sleep — those are the keys to coping, Balan said. And turning off the TV and the computer when enough is enough — that helps, too. It also reduces exposure to the added stresses of a national election and its apocalyptic nuances.

“Just when you think you’re beginning to deal with one disaster, another one comes along,” said David Spiegel, a psychiatry professor at Stanford University. “Patients who have been stable are experiencing an exacerbation of depression and anxiety.”

The year 2020, he said, is turning out to be a “remarkable test of everyone’s ability to cope.”

Trying to cope in Alamo Square, while holding three dogs on a leash, was professional dog walker Michael Waddell. He used to wear a plain mask, for the virus. Now he wears a mask with an air filter, for the virus and the smoke. Different disaster, different mask.

Two in 5 U.S. adults say they are “struggling with mental health or substance abuse” since the pandemic hit, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the “prevalence of symptoms of anxiety disorder” were triple those of last year, the report added.

Even if psychiatrists are doing more business these days, Waddell said, dog walkers aren’t. Business has largely fallen off as people staying home can walk their own dogs.

Waddell’s usual complement of dogs is six. Losing half his income, Waddell said, “has added more to my immediate stress than the smoke or the wildfires.”

Dogs, who have no problem living in the moment, help. So do hobbies, said Melissa Smith, who was waiting for 5-McAllister bus. She said her therapy was to try “old lady hobbies.”

“This is the perfect excuse to take up knitting,” she said. “It’s a good outlet for the frustration. You need something to channel your energy.”

Smith was on her way home, where the knitting was waiting.

“What better place to practice peace than the middle of a storm?” she said. “I just think, after this, we are all going to be so resilient.”