It has been time. It has long been time.
Over the last week, small towns and rural communities across North Carolina have taken to the streets, demanding justice for George Floyd and articulating, insisting, and demonstrating that black lives matter.
Protests, vigils, and demonstrations have been held in Graham, Eden, Asheboro, Sylva, Boone, Waynesville, Marshall, Concord, Lexington, Walnut Cove, New Bern, Lenoir, Haw River, Burlington, and so many other towns– and this should come as no surprise. Not only are our rural communities filled with powerful people and powerful organizers, but even our state’s most iconic, pastoral places are subject to over-policing and white supremacy.
In this moment, Down Home recognizes it is not enough to “stand against racism” but instead to speak out, act out, organize against and actively resist the entire strategic system of white supremacy that continues to exist, including racist vigilante violence and state violence in all its forms.
Racial violence is designed to enforce power arrangements that benefit white people and it is written into the history of our nation, and, perhaps especially, into the history of North Carolina and the South. This is not incidental. Racial violence has been and continues to be calculated, methodological, and violently abusive. It is used to undermine, destroy, and divide the power of poor and working people all to protect the riches of a ruling class. This intentional, systematic looting of our communities far exceeds in violence and in impact any fire set this week.
It was this history and how today it continues to divide poor and working class communities that led to the founding of Down Home North Carolina. Down Home has been built intentionally to organize multiracial working class power. We organize in small North Carolina towns and rural communities that the rich and powerful have carved up and divided for too many years, taking advantage of the division to maintain power. From the mountains to the Piedmont, our Down Home chapters are intentionally diverse and are creating bottom-up power across race. As an organization, we are not perfect but our intent is unwavering: To win power, we must work and be together.
Because of this, Down Home stands in unflinching solidarity with all those protesting the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Marcus Smith, David McAtee, Tony McDade, Sean Reed, James Scurlock, and many, many, many others. Down Home has and will continue to move money into bail funds throughout our state to protect the revolutionary spirit of our people and to sustain these movements in the streets.
The protests are a demand. They are a call for change that people in power have ignored for far too long. In addition to showing up to support community actions that create pressure, we are also taking these demands to the ballot box. In 2020, Down Home is unequivocally supporting Black and Brown candidates in rural areas across North Carolina. We will show up for them. We will mobilize for them.
We know that if we show up for local Black, Brown, Indigenous, and People of Color candidates, they can then show up for us and be responsive to our demands. Our demands are many: When Down Home began knocking on doors in rural communities, over and over again we heard that local folks were concerned about housing, education, the environment, and, overwhelmingly, about access to healthcare. Over the last few months, we have been reminded all too clearly that structural racism is absolutely a public health crisis, and its effects are detrimental to the physical and mental health of all people and communities. Not only are black and brown people the targets of brutality and violence, but also of racist and classist policies here in North Carolina that have purposefully left folks vulnerable and unprotected. Because of this, and because we believe that everyone should be able to access healthcare (not only during a pandemic, but always), we are doubling down against the dog-whistle politics of the Right and getting people who represent our communities into power in order to pass Medicaid expansion in North Carolina.
Down Home believes strongly in the heart and emotion in this moment where COVID-19 and police violence have converged and we believe in all the communities that are uprising against white supremacy. From Waynesville to Mebane, Down Home members have responded with urgency to this moment, but we also know this powerful moment must be sustained if we are going to enact the change needed to keep us all safe.