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Black Lives Matter: Voices from Skid Row

I recently moved to Los Angeles, where I live and work close to Skid Row, one of the largest concentrations of homeless, or un-housed, people in the U.S. Black men make up the largest population in Skid Row (though the number of women and children are growing). As I've been spending some time in Skid Row, I wonder: in this area that where daily living challenges are so apparent, how does #BlackLivesMatter fit in? I've been asking some of the people I've been meeting, how can I stand on the side of love with you? One of the most important things I have heard is the imperative for people who live on Skid Row to feel heard, in their own voices. Suzette Shaw identifies as a poet, a feminist, and a resident of Skid Row, who is becoming increasingly involved in the Black Lives Matter movement. Below she shares poetry and a call to action with us.

 Jennifer Toth, Campaign Manager, Standing on the Side of Love

Photos taken and shared with permission

Standing Tall for Dignity & Equality

I am not a liberated woman as I am just a woman who yearns to be free... I wish to live free from the bondage of inequality...longing for equality that is yet to be.... We've come far but how far we've yet to come. Women are still striving for their equal sum.

Whether we are sitting in the White House. Donald Trump Plaza or up in Beverly Hills. To the lows of the Appalachians, run down sawmills or the Catskills. Whether your zip code is Manhattan, New York or here in Skid Row; human dignity should not come at the price for only those who can pay concierge prices and can afford exquisite means.

I humbly tell you... My voice is my power. It fuels me each day. Gives me the strength which surpasses none. Instead...allows me to be more of my equal sum.

Please know...I'm just one voice. I've won no battles. The battles have yet to be won.

This voice is just another gift God gave to me, so I can stand tall for dignity and equality....

Suzette Shaw

Poet, Feminist, and Skid Row Resident

 

#BlackLivesMatter: A Call to Action

On Saturday, February 21, 2015, I marched alongside hundreds of others in the March for Justice and Unity, which began at the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Southwest Division on Martin Luther King Blvd, in Los Angeles. How symbolic and purposeful of a start point. It was an honorable way of bridging Dr. King and the past movement as it relates to NOW, especially close to the memorable celebration of Dr. King's birthday. Although Dr. King was savagely taken from us decades ago, his legacy and the spirit of his message still lives in the heart of many. On a recent evening last week, I attended the planning meeting of the Black and Brown King Legacy March, which is scheduled to take place on 4/4/15, the anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s death.

 

It is here on this corner of Skid Row that Pastor Cue Jn-Marie leads the Church Without Walls.

The meeting was hosted by Pastor Cue Jn-Marie of Church Without Walls, a street ministry in Skid Row. He is also an organizer for Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) which Dr. King founded and was president of at the time of his assassination. I was honored to meet the current Southern California SCLC President, Reverend William D. Smart. The assassination of Dr. King still resonates with us today as black and brown people continue to be brutally murdered far too many times at the hands of law enforcement, where excessive force appears to be prevailing over protect and serve. In addition, there appears to be a systematic criminal justice bias of mass incarceration, unjust criminal justice policies and a society where income inequality is still a plight for many who are stuck in low wage jobs that do not allow an individual to be self sustainable, nor care for his family and even her family, given that many households are now run by single mothers. In a land of the "free and the brave" appalling living conditions appear to be more and more commonplace.  

These are some of the various topics and rallying points for this April 4, 2015 event, where they expect thousands. For those of you in Southern California, we hope you all will get involved in this call to action from the Black and Brown Clergy Coalition. And wherever you live across the country, how are you showing up for this movement? I hope you will join us as we commemorate civil rights anniversaries, and look forward to a future where, truly, #BlackLivesMatter.

Suzette Shaw

Poet, Feminist, and Skid Row Resident