Like our ancestors did so courageously, I hope you will ‘defy convention and serve as a lasting role model for us all.’
You have made it possible for the state of Louisiana, the city of New Orleans, and large and small business owners there to reap millions of dollars in profits-primarily from Black people– by holding the annual Essence Festival there.
On top of all the other biased practices toward Black people that have been reported about Louisiana, read: Katrina, but also read (Unequal Under the Law), it has recently been reported that the state has made resisting arrest a ‘felony hate crime’ law. In which the “Present law provides that if the underlying offense is a felony, and the victim is selected in the proscribed manner, the offender may receive an additional consecutive sentence of imprisonment with or without hard labor for not more than five years, a fine of not more than $5,000, or both.”
Does the law target Blacks? Perhaps “no” and perhaps “yes”. There is a history of biased racial profiling and targeting for ‘police interaction’-often leading to arrest.
To make resisting arrest a felony hate crime is at the very least a slap in the face to the true racial, transgender, religious and sexual orientation motivated hate crimes that occur. It is a slap in the face to Blacks in particular, and the legacy of lynchings, murders, sexual assaults, burnings and bombings they were subjected to under the auspices of “the law” and that were/are motivated purely out of racial-hate.
It has been proven time and time again that some in law enforcement have no desire to serve and protect all citizens and that Blacks are disproportionately arrested compared to any other group. (See: Racial gap in U.S. arrest rates: ‘Staggering Disparity’)
This new law seems to be an evolution of the Runaway Slave Act. It will give some in law enforcement a free-pass to harass any citizen, but as noted particularly Black citizens. It can literally handcuff innocent citizens from being able to resist unwarranted harassment. Harassment that we know all-to-well is occurring disproportionately in our communities across the nation and in Louisiana.
Yet, Law Enforcement is not the only entity that has a duty to serve and protect its constituents.
I believe you have a duty to serve and protect your constituents as well.
I believe you have a duty to ensure that they are not contributing their hard-earned dollars to a place that is happy to take Black people’s money but has little-to-no regard for their livelihood otherwise.
I believe you have a duty to protect them by not leading them into what is quite realistically a trap-a place where they could very well be unjustifiably harassed and put in a defenseless position-a position in which unquestioned compliance or felony charges are the only options.
I believe you have a duty as a publication which caters to a Black audience to shed light on the implications of the law and what it would mean if it were replicated throughout the country.
I believe you have a duty to ensure that you use your political and economic power in such a way that you are putting the best interest of your readers and supporters on the streets of LA, before your corporate interests which rest safely behind the glass doors of an office building high above the streets.
I believe you have a duty to your constituents to take the Essence Festival out of Louisiana.
It is a sad state of affairs, that many of the states and indeed much of the world seems united in colluding against the ability of Black people to have life and pursue happiness unencumbered by institutionalized racist practices and laws.
It seems to be coming to a point where Blacks have to go where it is least racist, rather than be certain that they can go anywhere freely and not expect any form of racism.
But, it is also an opportunity for us as Black people and our allies to strategically align to combat such racism-inspired collusion.
Some of us grew up reading our mothers and grandmothers copies of Essence each month and so your content and longevity garner respect-but also demands an acknowledgement that they and new generations of their daughters and granddaughters have helped keep you a relevant voice in the Black community. That relevance has afforded you a certain political cache outside of it, that you must use to our collective benefit.
Thus, you shouldn’t stand alone in taking a stance against the outright racism that certain law-makers in Louisiana seek to promote and affirm. There are many who should stand in solidarity with you-including the upstanding law enforcement around the country that makes up the majority of those sworn to uphold the duty to serve and protect.
Indeed, all of the artists that have shared your stage and magazine covers and that have profited from the Black dollar should be called on to stand with you in taking a stand.
All the Black media outlets, printed, televised or internet based should also raise their class and join you. Any media outlet that claims fair and unbiased journalism should do the same.
Much has been said about the recent women’s march, which has been billed as the largest in U.S. history. That march called for solidarity in addressing biases and inequalities in gender, race, sexuality and class. Was that march just for show? It would be very telling if those same marchers lined up behind you and essentially Black women and men to protest this latest overtly racist and abhorrent law that does anything but promote solidarity.
All of the people of color “allies” that we stand up for should make their voices known as well.
However, we know that it is often a rugged path to justice that Black women forge alone- paving the way for others to travel the route much more comfortably. So, while others should join in, we have knowledge of history to wager our bets if they will.
It is a sad indictment of those who say they are not racist, but who have not and do not use their voices and economic power to help uproot racism wherever it exists. Those seeking a different history and seeking to do more than provide lip-service, will act accordingly in the present.
In this age, it does seem ever-more difficult to find a state that upholds the tenants of love, liberty, equality and the Declaration of Independence for all U.S. citizens. Realistically though, we have never stopped going through what our Ancestors went through, it has just changed shape or form.
While they had the promise of the “North” to look to as a storied safe-haven, we know from the racism-related death-tolls across the country, that there really is no such thing as a “sanctuary city” for Black people. Indeed, no one has even mentioned us in that regard.
However, perhaps more states and territories will become visible as such, if you put out a call to them and provided them an economic scorecard that shows how Louisiana has enormously benefited from the Essence Festivals over the years.
Perhaps those considering adopting a similar law, will reconsider with the understanding of the economic loss to their state-in addition to the stain the law will bring to it. If not, you could take the festival to a predominantly Black Caribbean island-whose citizens could surely use the financial boon.
There is nothing wrong with spreading the economic and cultural wealth that Essence- along with its constituents can offer States, cities, businesses, venues and citizens.
Collectively Blacks have over one trillion dollars of economic power.
However, we have incalculable power when working together for our best interests.
We need to ensure that our money, time and effort are put in places and placed with people who show glee for Black people’s well-being as much as they show glee for acquiring Black people’s green dollars-or green-blacks.
Black media in general has a duty to take a stand. The good ones do anyway. They have a duty to use their voices to ensure their reader’s self-care and community-care, as a matter of our survival, so they can survive. They have a duty to promote activism-not just consumerism.
I’m not just pushing this on you.
I believe that as a member of the Black community, I also have a duty to serve and protect my community as best as I can, utilizing the resources I have available.
That is why I won’t put my dollars toward anything or anyone that contributes financially to the state of Louisiana until such time as the law is repealed. Nor, will I (knowingly) put it anywhere else where our best interest have no regard.
That is why I am making this appeal to you to withdraw the Essence Festival from Louisiana and move it somewhere else until such time as the law is repealed.
I’d like to know if and how you plan to address concern about the Essence Festival being held in Louisiana.
Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.