Since the March 13th murder of Ms. Breonna Taylor, justice for her and her family have been elusive. Although frustrated by the lack of action from the state of Kentucky or the federal government, protesters from around the world have continued to join their voices in the call for reform and justice. So it shouldn’t be surprising or remarkable that on Saturday October 17th
there was a protest in downtown Atlanta near the state capital against police violence. In a time where calls for increased public police accountability, this may seem to just be a sign of the times in the US. But the green and white flags that waved foretold that this protest was not against the deadly use of police force in the US. Instead the chants and signs spoke against the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) in Nigeria over 5,000 miles away.
Though the country may be foreign to some, the story of Black people protesting police violence is familiar. It has been reported that dozens of protesters in Nigeria have been killed as live ammunition and water cannons have been used against them. The government even responded
somewhat predictably and in reactionary fashion to the nationwide protests that are gaining more global attention, by disbanding SARS and replacing them with a unit that is well known to us in the United States, a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit.
A brief history of the SWAT unit in the US shows that they were formed in large part to combat the Black Panther Party for Self Defense in California and their organizing work. So, the adoption of the SWAT moniker seems like a bad replay of history for the world’s most populous Black nation.
Nigerians and other African nations raised their fists to the sky in solidarity with Black Americans in the months of protests against police brutality in the cases of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and so many more. It seems only appropriate that Africans in the Diaspora be joined by African Americans and others to see and reflect solidarity back to Nigeria. In fact, the call by Nigerians for solidarity is growing larger. This is where institutions must play a role.
As a child of Nigerian immigrants who was born and raised in the USA, all of the continued killing of Black people at the hands of police has been extremely difficult to comprehend to say the least. Having what DuBois called double consciousness, the communal trauma of hearing of
deaths of Black people in the Diaspora or the continent affects me. So the reflexive calls for reverse solidarity that many have demanded to protest SARS is expected, if not decidedly transactional. But to truly build true solidarity that is needed to demand systemic change for Black people globally, we must be in real relationships. This means our interactions can not just be transactional, they must be transformative.
When we started The Imperative, a fund dedicated to the wealth, health and connectedness of Black people, we knew two things. One, The Imperative must be a significant fund, of at least $1 billion, if it is to be something our ancestors and future generations can count on. Secondly, the
fund must be global in scope. As founders, Alexandra Bastien and I are both children of immigrants and we know that the challenges facing Black people in the US are not only similar but connected to struggles of Black people globally.
Seeing the same things happen around the world to Black people has not created a sense of overwhelming disparity in our situation. Instead we echo the rallying cry for unity from the Kiswahili phrase, Pamoja tutashinda, together we will win! And the role of our fund is clear. We will provide funding for solutions targeted to ameliorating conditions of Black people globally. We will convene, connect and communicate with NGO’s, other philanthropies and public sector entities to device equity driven strategies.
As we reimagine the purpose and role of police in the US and how they impact Black people, many of the approaches address shifting away from repressive strategies to more public health approaches. Instead of touting the number of arrests made, statistics directly related to health and
safety that also decrease the incidence of police violence are being advocated. What the SARS protest shows us clearly, are these strategies are just as relevant in Louisville as they are in Lagos. What is also salient, is the reforms directed by Black leadership and designed to improve outcomes for Black people, will benefit everyone through the targeted universalist approach.
The Imperative Fund is designed to lift up strategies that work for Black people and share them with the world. We will fund the work that is severely lacking, but necessary for Black people to thrive. Our giving will necessarily look through the lens of how not having the same access to
wealth having impacts our health and diminishes our ability to connect to each other. Join us November 12 th , 2020 at our launch and make a collective investment in the future of Black people. Learn more about our fund and the launch at www.theimperativefund.org