Kristin Richardson Jordan is a 35 -year – old political newcomer District 9 councilwoman who defeated longtime City Council member Bill Perkins. She was unknown by the public. She got mainstream media attention when she sent condolences to family members of two police officers who were gun down by Lashawn McNeil, and she also sent condolences to McNeil’s family. In this essay she sent us, she describes how painful it is to be a black. And she explains why there are guns and gangs’ violence in New York streets and proposes a remedy.
Dear New Yorkers,
Just over a week ago Harlem has experienced a tragic loss. Three families have been decimated and three mother’s lost their son. This sadness and loss are profound for each of these (respective) family members. Our hearts are full of love and aligned with sympathy as this is a tragedy that challenges our humanity where everyone is suffering.
If we apply the wisdom of Langston Hughes’ poem “What happens to a dream deferred?” in this moment – let’s understand the loss and denial of those touched and dreams altered as we all grapple with today’s reality. Violence within – violence on top of – violence in response to – all remedies are Modis operandi “violence”. “What happens to a dream deferred?” These events created by the epidemic of gun violence in our community continue, and the deaths of armed and unarmed Black people by cops and others, continues. So did “the dream explode” in Harlem last week? And what will be the remedy? Ultimately this calls for a new “playbook” where the unseen needs to be seen and our world needs to recognize and treat Black pain. Only when we see and address the full cycle of violence caused by either cronyism or white supremacy (whose victims are any color) will we find a way out of this darkness. All human life is equivalent and the full humanity of my people still remains to be seen…
What is Black Pain?
The year is 1619, from the first enslaved African in colonial Virginia, Black pain has been cultivated and augmented for profit. Black pain is a result of the loss of freedom and disenfranchisement. American values articulated in the phrase life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are replaced with – slave ships, auction blocks, children ripped from mother’s arms, men emasculated and whipped publicly, the intensely physical unpaid labor of Black men and women, the raw exploitation of Black children, segregation, incarceration, the lynching genocide of the Black community whether it be guised as justice for running away or a ceased opportunity for more wealth (including the senseless gaslighting of all Black ( …) people, and the continued rape of Black woman!).
Today’s Black Pain looks like individual heartbreak associated with mental health struggles and dreams deferred. Resulting in mothers without children because their children have “been in the wrong place at the wrong time” due to gun violence, gang violence or police violence… It looks like hunger, houselessness, and a lack of healthcare… It looks like a constant blaming of a powerless Black community while racism and the subjugation of black people continues… and all the while this nation continues to profit heavily off of a panacea of non-white labor chronically and typically trafficked without reparation or acknowledgment for past labor arrears.
How does black pain affect communities?
Joy DeGruy’s Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome sums it up best in her book “In my life and on my block”. The intergenerational trauma of slavery combined with the over policing of black communities produces modern day trauma – all has lasting effects. No one is immune. The legacy of slavery juxtaposed with white supremacy affect us all and puts us all at risk. All violent crime is rooted in a lack of mental and emotional health. All risk is heightened by the racist division of resources, lack of investment, community equity and reparations. Liberally we label Dylan Roof as mentally ill after he executed a church full of Black people (South Carolina), but we have little empathy for those who are Black and engage in violent crime after being subjected to economic deprivation and everyday violence.
We are not excusing anyone’s actions by simply saying that the same rules for Dylan and Leshawn should apply. All violent crime is rooted in the tenuous space between circumstance and mental/emotional health. Black women in particular, who are the mothers, sisters, and lovers of those lost to violence, are so often invisible and their pain unrequited.
What is the remedy for Black pain?
As residents and community stakeholders we can embark on reforms solidifying mindsets to redefine community safety and community care /centering/reinstating “the village motto” and accepting the flaws of who we are. In the ways and means we connect to one another, we can re-program ourselves to be accountable and lift each other up. We can search for new solutions other than police involvement to resolve conflicts and to de-escalate conflicts when possible. We can invest in humane solutions and in connecting to one another recognizing that prioritizing community care is ultimate safety.
Recommended action steps for change
Let’s invest in addressing the root causes of violence. It is no secret and is well documented that poverty and crime are inextricably linked. Black lives matter is not just in the case of police brutality but in housing, healthcare, education, activities of daily living and in balancing mental/emotional health. Before you veto a new approach – open your mind, explore and consider all sides. It is impossible that our only response to harm is a crack down on crime. Please note the innovative and holistic approach of Newark (NJ) Community Street Teams (NCST) led by Aqeela Shirrells. NCST creates model systems of care that the community benefits from including high-risk intervention, outreach, victim advocacy and victim services. I am sure if we drill down on this data, we could learn a lot more about recidivism.
When Black fears and dreams are actualized, we can transform public safety into “working” models of care that transcend race and treat all people equitably. Now, that is the infusion of radical love that I am proposing!
Kristin Richardson Jordan
District 9 councilwoman