Manasota BLM chapter moves meetings to NCF

Photo credit: Jasmine Respess
Photo credit: Jasmine Respess

Black Lives Matter has been active for years now, but with a new school year comes the chance for members of New College, as well as the greater Manasota community to get involved. The Black Lives Matter of Manasota mission statement is “Black Lives Matter Alliance #MANASOTA is a community action organization intended to oversee advocacy, and the implementation of restorative and social justice within the black community.” The meeting took place in the Harry Sudakoff Center. It was a meeting not solely focused on hearing stories and raising awareness, but a place where plans for action could begin to take shape.

“I went because I was honestly surprised that Black Lives Matter was meeting on the New College campus,” Alum Paula Cooper (‘12) said. “I think it’s important that it is happening there. I expected a small group. I thought we would just be talking about raising awareness.”

At the meeting, headed by Shakira Refos, the story of Rodney Mitchell’s murder was presented by his mother Natasha Clemons. He was pulled over for an alleged seatbelt violation and was shot under suspicious circumstances. by Sarasota police on June 11, 2012. Clemons said that since this event she has been active is getting justice for her son, as well as justice for all black and brown people in the United States. She invited all of the people at the meeting to join her in her efforts.

Then, those present went around and explained why they had made the choice to be a part of the Black Lives Matter group.

“I want to listen and learn [about] how I can be a better ally,” second-year Kaelyn Hartley said. “I want to work to educate myself and do what I can to help an important cause.”

New College alum, Cristina Harty ‘12, was the person who forwarded the groups information to the forum.

“I started getting involved through Answer Suncoast,” alum Cristina Harty ‘13 said. “The people who answered are a lot of the same people that helped organized Black Lives Matter.”

“It was great to see so many people at the meeting but I hope they stay active,” Harty added.

The meeting then broke up into separate focus groups that concentrated on different, but important issues, affecting black and brown people. Those issues included, education, health initiatives, participating in local politics, holding police accountable and economic development.

People were encouraged to join groups that they were interested in, or groups that they believed they could use their resources to advance. Some of the projects that were discussed included assisting in the Newtown farmers market, providing materials so that teachers would be more prepared and able to teach about black history, and organizing united fronts to attend school board meetings and advocate for students of color.

“I wanted to go and listen,” alum Daniel Anderson-Little ‘12 said. “ It was emotional to hear about terrible things that have happened to members of our community right where we live. If any of my resources or skills could help, I wanted to make them available.”

“I was glad to see them calling for action immediately and got people into groups,” Cooper said. “My goal for the group is for people to stay involved and really get to help the community without taking over the organizations that exist in the community already.”

Some of those actions would include volunteering for Eat Local Week and attending rallies for fair pay in Tallahassee.

The focus group leaders were asked to create Facebook groups and keep in touch with one another via email, so that efforts could continue in and out of the meetings.

Although the group is based in Black Lives Matter, it exists to address injustice on a broad scale. The group is involved with the Fight for 15, a group working towards a higher minimum wage. Black Lives Matter is also working with Answer Suncoast to address the Sarasota County School Board’s position against students rights to use bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity.

The next meeting of the Manasota Black Lives Matter chapter members will be at New College on Sept. 14. The group will meet biweekly in Sudakoff.

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