Our African Ancestor’s sacrifices will matter! Only when we have economic and political power!
Life in Slavery
Charles Ball was born as a slave in the same county around 1781. He was about four years old, when his owner died. To settle the debts, his mother, several brothers and sisters and he himself were sold to different buyers. His first childhood memory recorded in the book is his being brutally separated from his mother by her buyer: “Young as I was, the horrors of that day sank deeply into my heart, and even at this time, though half a century has elapsed, the terrors of the scene return with painful vividness upon my memory.”
By way of inheritance, sale and even as a result of a lawsuit, he is passed on to various slaveholders. From January 1, 1798 to January 1, 1800 he is hired out to serve as a cook on the frigate USS Congress. In 1800, he marries Judah. In 1805, when his eldest son is 4 years old, he is sold to a South Carolinian cotton planter, thus separated from his wife and children who had to remain in Maryland.
In September 1806, he is given as a present to the newly wedded daughter of his owner and has to relocate to Georgia to a new plantation. Shortly afterwards, after the sudden death of the new husband, the new plantation, together with the slaves, including him, is rent out to yet another slaveholder, with whom he builds up a relationship of mutual trust. He becomes the headman on the new plantation, but suffers from the hatred of his master’s wife. In 1809, when his dying master is already too weak to interfere, he is cruelly whipped by that woman and her brother. After that, he plans his escape, which he puts into practice after his master’s death. Travelling by night to avoid the patrols, using the stars and his obviously excellent memory for orientation, suffering terribly from hunger and cold, not daring to speak to anybody, he returns to his wife and children in early 1810.
“I stood at my gun, until the Commodore was shot down, when he ordered us to retreat, as I was told by the officer who commanded our gun. If the militia regiments, that lay upon our right and left, could have been brought to charge the British, in close fight, as they crossed the bridge, we should have killed or taken the whole of them in a short time; but the militia ran like sheep chased by dogs.”
According to Ball’s autobiography, his grandfather was a man from a noble African family who was enslaved and brought to Calvert County, Maryland around 1730.
The 1837 edition dedicates three pages (Pages 22–24) to the description of his religion as the old man explained it to his young grandson. This description has some similarities with Islam, but there are also differences, so it is not clear, if his grandfather was Muslim or not. Other Africans whose religion Ball mentions, are explicitly called “Mohamedans” (p. 165).
The precepts of that religion are contained in a book a copy of which is kept in each house, implying that the grandfather’s African society had a high degree of literacy, whereas Charles Ball is illiterate. This may be worth mentioning because contemporary apologetics of slavery often claimed that Africans had been “civilized” by slavery.
Historical Document Charles Ball’s narrative: Fifty Years in Chains 1836
Friday June 19, 2020 at 12:15 at The Spokane Tribal Gathering Place (outside City Hall), SCAR and its partner organizations unveiled their full Platform for Change..
PLATFORM FOR CHANGE— RESPONDING TO THIS MOMENT
RELEASED: June 19, 2020
Spokane Community Against Racism (SCAR) and Asian Pacific Islander Coalition (APIC) – Spokane Chapter, Eastern Washington Progressives, Faith Leaders and Leaders of Conscience, FUSE Washington, Greater Spokane Progress, Hispanic Business/Professional Association, MAC Movement, Muslims for Community Action And Support, Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane (PJALS), Planned Parenthood Advocates of Greater Washington and North Idaho, Progressives of Spokane County, RAIZ of Planned Parenthood, Red Skirt Society, SHAWL Society, Smart Justice Spokane, Spectrum Center Spokane, Spokane Alliance, Spokane Ministers’ Fellowship, Tenants Union of Washington State, demand transformational change.
Spokane has a problem.
American policing tactics are rooted in white supremacy, fear, and violence. Spokane is not exempt from this, even though our mayor, police chief, county commissioners, and sheriff refuse to admit the true nature of the problem. In fact, Spokane has the 5th deadliest police force in the nation. We must end the cycle of fear and violence in our community and seize the opportunity during this tumultuous time to enact structural changes.
Death at the hands of police is not the only measure of racial violence. Here in Spokane, Black and Native Americans are disproportionately arrested, receive higher bail amounts, and are more likely to die in jail than whites. Our city and county officials know this. They have hired several consultants for millions of dollars to tell them so, yet they continue to ignore the good advice we all paid for.
We don’t trust them to understand, because they keep proving they are not listening.
At the invitation of the city and county, community members have spent thousands of hours sharing their testimony and lived experience in the name of community engagement. Yet elected officials have failed to honor this engagement by fulfilling their promises to decarcerate and advance racial equity.The residents of Spokane have fought officials numerous times to avoid building a new jail. Still—despite the wishes of the community—the County Commissioners and the Sheriff’s office continue to pursue a new, larger jail without first enacting the totality of humane, cost effective reforms which have been recommended to them over the past decade.
Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich continues to defend bringing the creator of “Killology,” a method of police training that teaches officers how to “…overcome the powerful reluctance to kill…” to train his deputies. He has doubled down on his support for killology training despite receiving thousands of petition signatures calling for the two-day seminar and workshop to be canceled. Spokane demands transformation. The unwillingness of the Mayor, Police Chief, County Commissioners, Sheriff, and other elected officials to heed expert advice and community lived experience, their stubborn insistence on expanding incarceration and entrenched racist systems, and their failure to listen to the community, convinces us that the elected leadership of Spokane does not grasp—or is not willing to meet—the needs of our community. We do not need more studies, consultants, conversations, forums, or media stunts. We are not interested in incremental change, but in drastic action.
To that end, we present the following Platform for Change. While we cannot hope to provide every comprehensive detail of necessary policy, we know the shape that change must take. This is the product of ongoing work within our community and around the country and is meant to serve as a mandate—it’s up to our leaders to help us all live up to its intent.
PLATFORM FOR CHANGE
DEFUND THE POLICE: INVEST IN COMMUNITY
SCAR rejects the idea that the only way to increase public safety is to increase policing. The power of state-sanctioned force and threat of lethal violence wielded by police is often inappropriate and inadequate to address the diversity of situations they are sent to resolve. Police are frequently tasked with handling homelessness, addiction, mental health, intimate partner violence, and other conditions in which they have no formal expertise; the result is often harm, injury, or even death for those whom the police are supposed to protect. The weight of these injuries and deaths falls most heavily upon people with medical or mental health conditions, people of color—particularly Black and indigenous people—and people with disabilities. This is not a problem that can be solved with more training. Expanding the power or authoritative scope of police in our communities will not make us safer.
Instead, SCAR embraces a holistic vision of public safety, one that accounts for the root causes of crime, and recognizes that shared prosperity and community care are at the heart of a safe and healthy society. When people’s basic needs are met, and experts are empowered to work within their expertise, communities are free to flourish. The City of Spokane and Spokane County will be safer when our leaders follow the advice of their expensive consultants, and the best practices indicated by decades of research in this and other cities. We demand investment in historically underserved communities to create a vibrant and healthy environment where all families can thrive:
Addiction and Mental Health Services
We demand public investment in culturally appropriate chemical addiction treatment and mental health services and diversion programs. These services should include crisis care, long-term in-patient, and out-patient care. Police are not mental health professionals and incarceration should not be a stopgap for healthcare or an underfunded social safety net.
SPS has the largest school policing budget in Washington State at $2.2 Million. That’s $2.2 Million spent to support the School-to-Prison Pipeline, a system which disproportionately funnels children of color from educational settings into the criminal justice system. Using police to address student behavior positions students as potential criminals who require management through the threat of legal and physical force, instead of recognizing them as children who are learning to manage conflict and their emotions.
We demand investment in school counselors, restorative conflict resolution practices, and activity programming which provides youth with constructive outlets and interpersonal learning environments. The ACLU of Washington has been at the forefront of this issue, listen to them.
CHANGE POLICE CULTURE
Public trust in the SPD is broken. It’s the 5th deadliest police force in the nation, and officers have been using the same knee-on-neck restraint that killed George Floyd until June 8th, 2020. We believe it is necessary to start fresh.
Disband the Police
Disband the police department, and hire a smaller group of officers to carry out narrowly defined, law-enforcement duties. In 2016, the Police Leadership Advisory Committee (PLAC) put together recommendations for the hiring of a new police chief. These recommendations, which could have helped revolutionize the culture of the SPD, were ignored. We believe these recommendations should be applied to all officers hired to work in the City of Spokane. PJALS has been deeply involved in this work, listen to them.
De-escalation Training for SPD and County Forces
While we do not believe the fundamental problems with American policing can be trained away, we support the will of Washington State Voters who voted decisively in favor of Initiative 940. Passed in 2018, Initiative 940 requires police receive training in de-escalation and mental health, and enforces the duty of all police officers to render first aid. It is our hope that with these tools police will be less likely to use lethal force, and that when they do, that force is less likely to result in death.
De-escalation and mental health training have the potential to not only act as positive tools in the current policing toolbelt, but to provide an additional standard to which police can be held accountable.
Demilitarize the Police
Our city is not a warzone, and weapons of war should not be used on our streets. This includes tear gas—a chemical weapon which is banned by the Geneva convention—and all repurposed military surplus equipment. Military uniforms, vehicles, and weaponry communicate to the residents of Spokane that the police view them as enemy combatants. Furthermore, militarized uniforms encourage a “warrior” mindset in police, which emphasizes readiness for violent conflict over the relationship-based work of building community trust. Spokane does not need street warriors, Spokane needs public servants we can trust; from their uniforms to their equipment, police should be equipped for the job that is needed.
Independent Oversight with Investigative Power is a necessity at the Spokane Police Department and the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.
No Contract without Office of Police Ombudsman Independence
We demand that the Office of Police Ombudsman (OPO) be empowered to conduct independent investigations and publish public closing reports. We demand that the OPO be free to conduct these independent investigations without fear of reprisal by the Police Guild.
A poison pill amendment to the Police Guild’s contract with the City of Spokane, which is still being negotiated, would allow the Police Guild to preemptively file a grievance against an Ombudsman candidate in an effort to prevent their appointment. It further empowers the Guild to attempt to have the Ombudsman or an OPO Commission Member removed for “exceeding their authority under the collective bargaining agreement.” Police cannot control the fate of the body that oversees them. We demand that the Spokane City Council reject any contract that fails to protect OPO independence.
NO CONTRACT without independent investigative power and public closing report. NO CONTRACT with police guild oversight of the OPO.
Mandatory body cameras for SPD and County Forces
Body cameras should be mandatory for every SPD officer and County deputy as a tool for reviewing police encounters with Spokane residents. Body cameras do not prevent violence, but they can be valuable for holding the police accountable. Turning off a body camera should come with an automatic charge of destroying evidence.
We urgently need to adopt effective, restorative policy solutions that are driven by the needs of those impacted by our justice system.
We demand divestment from the prison industrial complex: NO NEW JAIL; end policies that criminalize poverty, homelessness, and addiction; end cash bail; and end draconian drug charging decisions by the County Prosecutor’s office.
Instead, the city and county should invest in racial equity tools throughout our justice system; release criminal justice system demographic data; and adopt least-restrictive alternatives to jail with fully funded pretrial services. Smart Justice Spokane has been leading on these issues, and we demand our government listen to and collaborate with them.
Impartial judges are the ideal, but we know that their decisions are vulnerable to the forces of systematic oppression and unconscious bias. For this reason we demand that the county, in cooperation with the courts, release sentencing data dis-aggregated by judge and defendant’s demographic information, including race and gender. With this data, voters—and the community groups who help keep them informed—will be empowered to identify racial sentencing disparities, and if necessary, right them at the ballot box.
Establish an Office of Civil Rights
The City of Spokane needs a fully funded and staffed Office of Civil Rights. This office would work within the City government to advance civil rights and end barriers to equity. It would regularly assess the city’s approach to racial equity, and provide education and training to government and local entities. The Office of Civil rights would receive civil rights complaints from the residents of Spokane, address hate crimes, and ensure that laws against illegal discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, and contracting within Spokane city limits are equitably enforced. The Office of Civil Rights Exploratory Committee and Greater Spokane Progress are already working on the structure of this office. Listen to and collaborate with them.
These are just some of the changes that Spokane needs. These demands are rooted in the data-backed reality, and the spiritual conviction, that a punitive approach to public safety has never, and will never, yield a free and equitable society.
Policing can no longer be the bandaid we affix to every social wound. Instead, we must build a Spokane where everyone is free to thrive. The time for incrementalism and half measures is past. This community demands transformation, and will continue to do so in statements, in public meetings, at the ballot box, and in the streets. It is up to our leadership to listen, and to do the jobs for which they were elected. The people are watching.
There are 10% we will never be able to reach. There are 80% who are waiting, for leadership and direction. Maybe waiting to see how the wind blows. There are 10% who have already boarded the train and moved out. While waiting let’s listen to Curtis Mayfield
What does it mean to be a brotha? Is that a term based upon skin color or ethnicity or is it an understanding of common goals? We are in a war that’s being fought on two levels. One is the immediate problem with COVID-19. The other is the systemic problems that lead to a disproportionate number of deaths among people of color and the poor.
If we are brothas we need to support each other in this war at both levels. We need to support each other in measurable ways, not just throw around cultural symbols. We need to start by asking little things of each other.
If you are a friend you will wear a mask because it protects you from me and me from you.
We need to believe in and support the idea of one justice indivisible. If you don’t know what I am talking about a starting point would be The 14 Principles listed at 4comculture.com.
The Spokane School District Board of Education wants to name several new school buildings. It would be nice if two of those schools were named after people of color. You can nominate someone: Nomination Link. I have nominated Frances Scott and Ruben Trejo.
You need to have an online presence. You need to let your other brothas know what it is you stand for. One simple way to do this is to participate in online posting and messaging at Facebook.
Let’s become civic activists. Participate in local social justice organizations or engage in new methods of non-violent action that include physical, virtual and hybrid actions.
We each need to develop a social justice budget. It would be nice if you would donate on a regular basis to the things that you believe in. Let me suggest that you make a donation to anybody or any group that you choose, but do it in the name of Spokane Brothas. The reason I suggest doing that is to build a power base that would be respected. I would suggest a budget that would express your volunteer time as well as your cash contributions. For example a budget of $100 a month could include:
Volunteering: 7 hours a month at the national minimum wage of $7.25 per hour would be about a $50 in-kind contribution. What if you showed up to volunteer in a Brothas T-shirt?
Send a check to the Black Lens. About $4.00 a month buys a subscription.
Contribute to an informational issue campaign. For example about $16 pays for a MailChimp service that will send your message to a mailing list of thousands that you have built. In times of quarantine and isolation you have to find ways other than community meetings to deliver information about your issues. You could buy a yard sign with your message or issue or candidate.
Give $20 to local and/or regional progressive organizations or blue political parties – to the same organization/s every month so they can feel your presence.
Give $10 to national progressive organizations or blue political parties – to the same organization/s every month so they can feel your presence.
If we only had 14 brothas contributing at this level this would be $1400 per month or $16,800 per year. Imagine what would happen if we had 100 brothas.
Your comments are welcome. If I haven’t heard from you by June 12, I will assume you are not interested.
I am asking all of our Black ministers to ask their choirs to learn and sing this song. White folks in Spokane are lacking your soul when they sing this song. Please come to our next social justice event prepared to teach white folks how to sing and swing this song.
If you looked through the archives you will notice an absence of the African American Community at the marches, at the rallies, at the demonstrations, at the social justice community organizing meetings but at the Spokane Black Agenda Summit July 30, 2011 over 100 African Americans built a plan to action. What do you think happened after that? Click the above link to see what they planned.
My folks – those that are showing up for social justice.
Subjective-romantic best defines Stephen Pitters’ style in this collection. He uses long poetic forms to convey the powerful, uninhibited, and at times, heartfelt actions and reactions that play out in the lines of his poems. He is a self-taught language artist in the vein of other artists who embrace and articulate the emotion and the spirit of loves and lives. He explores the physicality of relationships as Walt Whitman does in his poem, “I Sing the Body Electric.” At times, Pitters’ poems speak to the raw yoga of love, and at other points, he transcends the tangible, the touchable to weave through the less sure pathways of the heart.
The narrative he uses in these passages are not half made-up composites, but rather, they sketch real-life events in the weighted style of the romantics with a heavy dose of melancholy and with a small measure of sarcasm baked into his work. His expressions stem from his experiences as a man in the middle of his passion and not a detached observer. The central inspiration for these offerings surrounds a genuine need to share unique, postage-stamp accounts of relationships of hearts and of heartbreaks lived by one man, one African-American man in the middle of the tumultuous Sixties and Seventies when he endured the racism and the discrimination of the era.
Stephen Pitters is a poet, educator and author residing in Spokane, Washington. He has had three volumes of his work published by Gribble Press: Bridges of Visions, 2009, Walks Through the Mind, 2011, and Currencies of Life…Enlisted Behaviors, 2013.He started a new series of poetry with the 2017 title “Conversations on Altered Roadways” and 2018 title “Prerecorded”. Besides publishing, Stephen has hosted The Spokane Open Poetry Program on KYRS, Thin Air Community Radio, since 2004. He is also a long-time member of the Fairchild community.
Visual and Performing Arts, Literary Arts, Media Arts
I would like to thank all of those that are helping us to develop a database of African Americans involved in the Spokane and Inland Empire in the visual, performing, literary and media arts.
Steve Pitters and I have been discussing how to bring about a change in mind-set infusing overall community opportunity for African Americans in the Arts in Spokane. The individuals listed here are being asked to consider the following ways they can enhance the cultural scene for each of us by doing the following:
Develop a community who will commit to attend each others functions and events. This will help to ensure our visibility at these events.
Use this list to notify us of our activities.
Use this list to make others in the community aware of our activities.
People in other cultures and communities in the United States and elsewhere insure the development and growth of talented individuals and businesses.
We need to change the “me for myself” attitude. Spokane is small enough for us to be able to sustain and support the talents of those who wish to share it with others.
Send us your thoughts and calendars of events and let’s collaborate with each other in support of like-minded interests and events.
Below are the names and contact information we have located so far. Please continue to send us names and contact information on other artists you might know. We would like to know the medium they operate in, email address, street address, phone number, web address, and whether they are on Facebook