We’ve heard statistics, circulated hash tags, protested, watched body cam videos, watched the nightly news, lashed out on social media, prayed earnestly, cried uncontrollably, prayed some more, vented to loved ones, watched documentaries, read headlines and read the pain on faces after yet another killing of an unarmed civilian. If you’re like me, you often feel like a ship without a rudder in these moments—stuck in troubled water without a way to shore. And that’s exactly where I found myself when I came up with More Birthdays, a fundraiser to end discriminatory and abusive policing.
Police abuse of power is not new. Racism is not new. Gun violence is not new. But for me, a black 90’s baby raised in the safe, suburban town of Foster City, CA, the way I understood my identity began to change when a 17 year old boy lost his life for walking home carrying skittles, an Arizona iced tea, wearing a hoodie, and being black. Four years of age and the nearly 3,000 miles between California and Florida were the only things that seemed to separate Trayvon and me.
My parents had always warned me not to walk around outside at night with my hood on. “It’s not safe. You don’t know what could happen.” They would say things like this, but it rarely registered as more than overprotective comments from parents who grew up on the Southside of Chicago. Foster City was not the Southside. I didn’t have to worry, right?
Every death of an unarmed black man or woman since that time has continued to confirm that my identity is not my own. My reputation would be debated, if not shredded in the media. I’d be guilty until proven innocent. And my right to safety and protection would end when someone else feels threatened. But after the back-to-back killings of Terence Crutcher and Keith Scott, I couldn’t allow myself to feel powerless anymore.
I came up with More Birthdays to reclaim agency over my destiny, honor the lives lost, and ensure a better future. The goal of the event is simple: give people a constructive and positive way to engage the issue of police brutality.
Through speakers, performers and film, we will address gun violence and the police abuse of power with a focus on positive actions that can be taken. This effort is forward-looking and based on compassion and grace. Our differences — race, age, gender, etc. — have too often been used as to divide our efforts.
To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, it is hate and darkness that have torn our communities apart, so it is the job of compassion and love to heal those wounds. We aim to help in the healing process.
A ticket to More Birthdays includes a night of entertainment, food, dancing and inspiring messages, with all proceeds going to support the efforts of local New York social justice organization, Communities United for Police Reform. Please join us on Friday, November 11th to protect life. We all deserve more birthdays.
Date: Friday, November 11th
Time: 7:00 – 11:00pm
Location: Industry City Distillery
33 35th St, 6th floor
Brooklyn, New York 11232
Tickets & donations: morebirthdays.eventbrite.com
Note: 33 35th St is at the end of a row of warehouses and the distillery is located on the 6th floor.