Supreme Allah is an organizer for the Sherman Park Community Association, reflects on what a “movement” is.
I am extremely proud of the work being done around holding police, elected and other officials accountable surrounding the murders of Dontre Hamilton and Corey Stingley, standing in solidarity with Ferguson and bringing to light issues of police brutality and the value of black life.
There is a large coalition of people coming together to do this work, from progressive groups, unions, frontline on-the-ground folks, clergy, local elected officials, college students, etc. The coalition includes those who are wily veterans and those who are just cutting their teeth. There have been several actions at Red Arrow Park, the scene where Dontre had a full magazine emptied into his body by a still-unknown Milwaukee police officer. The chants of “Hands/Fist Up, Don’t shoot!” have electrified the streets over the past weeks.
Red Arrow Park has served as “Ground Zero” and a uniting space for all of the actions. The first action was on Aug. 17 at 3 p.m., where 75-100 people rallied and then marched over to District 1 police station on State Street. This was followed by an occupation of a Highway 43 on-ramp.
The second action was on Friday, Aug.22. A rally was held at Red Arrow Park, which was followed by a march to the Safety Building that was detoured to the District 1 police station, which was occupied by 100 people for four hours until Captains Gordon and Jackson came out to address the group and promised a sit-down with the family of Dontre Hamilton.
On Aug. 25, the day of the funeral of Michael Brown of Ferguson, Mo, a candlelight vigil was held on the steps of the federal courthouse and was joined by a group that marched from Red Arrow Park. On Tuesday, Sept. 2 , the action served as a funeral service for Dontre Hamilton and others killed at the hands of Milwaukee police officers. A procession was led from Red Arrow Park to the doorstep of Mayor Tom Barrett’s office, where Dontre’s mother and brother were given an audience with the mayor.
I am compelled to write this piece because of what seems from my perspective to be misunderstanding about what a “movement” is and the importance of the roles in it. Those who are on the front lines (doing the marching, protesting, sitting in, etc.) are just as important as those who are behind the scenes (setting up the tactics, doing the long-term strategizing leading into next steps, utilizing relationships in order to make sure actions are successful).
The events in Ferguson and police brutality raise the passion of the members of our community. We are compelled to march, compelled to protest, compelled to voice our righteous anger on these injustices. Once we come together and rally, then what? How do we channel this passion towards long-term action? This is the epitome of why we need to utilize the principle of Ujima, collective work and responsibility.
Neither side is more important than the other. Everyone brings particular gifts and talents to a collective action. It is important that any movement has patience, discipline and a reduction of the ego at its core. I fast and pray that we keep this in mind as we move forward, recognizing that we all have a common goal and that we utilize all of our talents and resources in order to win.