A local group of African-American students, artists and community representatives kicked off a GoFundMe campaign on Friday, Aug. 22 to raise funds to send five people to Ferguson, Missouri as part of a national effort called the Black Lives Matter Ride done in conjunction with the National Weekend of Action.
So far $1,940 has been raised for the group's $2,500 goal. While five people from Tucson are part of the ride, the group hopes additional riders from Phoenix will join them. Upon return, the group plan to organize a Black Action Forum, and additional funds from the campaign will help cover facility, childcare and material costs for the event.
Tonight at 6 p.m., the group will hold a send-off and press conference at Cafe Desta, 758 S. Stone Ave., but over the weekend I had a chance to meet with some members of the group, including Matice Moore, UA's African American Student Affairs program director, who said the local campaign allows representative from Tucson to participate in a series of non-violence training workshops in Ferguson—important training they can bring back to teach Tucson and share as part of a Tucson Black Action Initiative they want to develop to create a network and address the needs of Tucson's black community.
With the UA Gender Studies Department, a Black Lives Matter conference takes place on January 15-17, with scholars, writers, artists and leaders from throughout the country and locally taking place to talk about "s WHY Black life matters and WHAT can be done about sustained racialized state violence." For more on the conference, go their page here.
All good reasons to keep giving to the group, even once they reach their goal. Go here to their GoFundMe page.
Moore said the goal, while the national call is short notice, is to encourage people with many different skill sets to come to Ferguson and help the affected community, as well as improve organizing skills to take back to their own cities and towns. Youth organizing, and bringing people to work with youth, is one area, as well as those familiar with theater of the oppressed and medial and photography. Those with medical experience are also needed, she added.
Joining Moore for the trip is Thomas Martin a marketing senior at the UA Eller College, said that anytime a community gets a call like this is is "an obligation to respond to the call and work to stop these things from happening in the future."
Poet Jada Boyd, who works at Bicas, had planned to join the group, but decided to stay in town to read at Words on the Avenue, on Sunday, Aug. 31, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Cafe Passe, 415 N. 4th Ave. The focus that evening is on Ferguson, Michael Brown and his family, and donations collected at the reading will go to the Brown family. Suggested donation is $5 per person.
Boyd said if she was going on the ride, she'd participate in local voter registration efforts. "Right now this community wants to change it's representation. That's something we should all get behind."
Sitting next to Boyd is Beverly Makhubele, a South African emigre, who works in community planning and development, who said she hopes to learn in Ferguson. Not sure what particular skill she brings, but what's important, too, is "learning as much as possible on how to use what we learn in Tucson when we come back."
Javetta Clemmons, also leaving for the ride, said she agrees. The community in Ferguson has done a good job facilitating a conversation locally, but those going to Ferguson for this ride from across the country, like Clemmons, want to learn how to have that conversation in Tucson when they return.
One of the goals of the ride is to support the Ferguson community demands that their Missouri legislative representatives introduce anti-police violence laws that work to address excessive force and the militarization of police. The idea, Martin said, is to shrink the police force by half and put that money toward under-funded school and in the community."
"When we come back we want to establish a training," Martin said. "Part of the problem is that we might be treating this as an isolated incident. We need to be prepared for any response as a community and as a nation."