The Rapidian

Local Black Lives Matter chapter brings learning home from international retreat

I went to an international Black Lives Matter retreat this summer, intent on bringing what I learned home to create encouragement and community building strategies to Grand Rapids.
Black Live Matter's international retreat at Wayne State University

Black Live Matter's international retreat at Wayne State University /Erica Kane

Underwriting support from:
Chaka Holley, early leader of BLM GR and the author, Kyd Kane

Chaka Holley, early leader of BLM GR and the author, Kyd Kane /Erica Kane

Chaka Holley and Anita Moore, early leaders of BLM GR

Chaka Holley and Anita Moore, early leaders of BLM GR /Erica Kane

Black Lives Matter hosted its first international retreat on the Wayne State University campus in Detroit, Mich on June 18, during the Allied Media Conference. Twenty-six chapters, including Black Lives Matter Grand Rapids (BLM GR), were in attendance in a space intended for black lives, black freedom fighters, black leadership, black love, black unity and black healing, among so many other things.

Anita Moore, co-founder of BLM GR, was the driving force behind many actions and the development of our local chapter. She has since relocated to Texas and is now apart of Black Lives Matter National Team as the National Chapter Coordinator. Anita worked diligently to get all the chapters to Detroit safely. Working around the clock to book flights, arrange housing, order food and to create the agenda for the retreat as a part of of the development team. Throughout the retreat people could not stop thanking her for all the hard work that she put forth to plan and make sure everything went smoothly, and it did. Although she is no longer here in Grand Rapids, her dedication to the growth of our chapter is ever present. She takes so much pride in all she does, and I've been privy to have her guidance as I continue my work with BLM GR.

Patrisse Cullors and Alicia Garza, two of the three founders of Black Lives Matter, were present leading us throughout the retreat with a host of other extraordinary visionaries. I felt so privileged to be in the presence of such strong black women leading this movement. I am constantly in awe of the way Black Lives Matter has been taking the world by storm nonstop since the killer of Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, was acquitted in 2012. The fight for black life and liberation doesn't stop, and everyone present at the retreat was a testament to that. 

So frequently women and members of the LGBTQ community are excluded from leadership and opportunity, but not here. As a woman and member of that community, I feel loved, accepted, understood and cared for. In a world that takes so much from us daily,  we were able to gather among black excellence and leadership that values all black lives, with no exceptions.

It seems this event occurred at an opportune time- a time when love, support and an understanding of the grief we all feel as a result of the constant attack on black lives was needed the most. We all gathered in excitement, with open minds and heavy hearts as we were faced with the harsh reality of nine black lives lost during an act of terrorism at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, just one day prior.

As emotions ranged from joy and happiness to pain and agony, the healing justice group from New York called Harriet's Apothecary was present to offer health and healing resources as well as support through rituals, herbalism and mindfulness practices. Harriet's Apothecary is a village of Black cis women, trans and queer healers, artists, health professionals, magicians, activists and ancestors that are continuing the liberatory work of the great freedom fighter Harriet Tubman. Black Lives Matter is truly a movement that centers around us caring for each other as we fight for freedom and justice.

As an active member of our local chapter here in Grand Rapids, I went to this retreat with an open mind, an open heart and a notebook- ready to bring as much as could back to strengthen the foundation of our local movement. The retreat exceeded my expectations 10 times over. Skill building, training, community outreach, action safety and strategies were just a few things we focused on during this interactive and reflective retreat. I'm eager to see how everything I learned will assist in the prosperity of BLM GR.

Overall I'm proud to be a part of such an amazing movement. Understanding that black people are denied basic human dignity and rights leaves no room for passivity. In the words of the Assata Shakur, "It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains."

The Black Lives Matter Grand Rapids chapter is alive and well. If you are interested in being a committed member or ally, hit us up on Facebook.

We must all understand that all lives will matter, when black lives matter.

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