Psssst! Black Lives Matter: Organize Some Town Hall Meetings

Okay…momentum for the Black Lives Matters movement is picking up. Media coverage is at the ready. Profiles of the movement’s leaders have been featured on NPR and other venues, and most candidates seem a bit unsure of how to respond. This is probably typical of various movements over the centuries.

Recently I read that some candidates’ campaign stops have been interrupted by members of the BLM movement. Hillary apparently granted 15 minutes for a private discussion with movement members, but what will 15 minutes get you? Personally, I’m not convinced interrupting campaign speeches is useful or constructive. Sure, the media is there to cover the point and show the urgency, but how does the rest of adult society view such behavior? What are such interruptions supposed to achieve…in the long run?

Now, the private meeting with Hilary is perhaps a step in the right direction, but let’s face it. It was nothing but a crumb offering. My unsolicited and admittedly white, Midwestern proposal is this: Organize some town hall meetings and invite candidates and the media. Why? Because real communication has to be taking place, not interruptions. It is doable. It is necessary.

Many societal issues are tied into the Black Lives Matter movement, issues that need examination and discussion by citizens and candidates alike. So how do we find out how candidates stand on the issues raised by the BLM movement? Ask them. Publicly. Civilly.

I’ve been playing with such a scenario in my mind for a few days, and here’s a DRAFT proposal of what might be done. It’s just a draft…but it’s a start. Maybe what actually happens can be completely different; meanwhile, I offer these seeds for thought:
1. The leaders of Black Lives Matter work within the organization to come up with 5-7 key questions they want all candidates to address.

2. The organization finds appropriate venues along the routes candidates will be traveling and invites each candidate to a 90-minute town hall meeting.

3. Candidates are given the key questions at the time they receive the invitations.

4. The invitations should be in writing and delivered certified mail. A limited number of print, radio, and TV reporters should also be invited.

5. The venue should be relatively small and personal: a local school, community center, or church.

6. Each town hall meeting should be no longer than 90 minutes. During that time, candidates can take no longer than 60 minutes to speak on the key questions. At least 30 minutes must be saved for additional questions from the audience. Members of the audience called on to ask their questions will approach a special podium with a microphone to ask their questions.

7. The number of audience members should be limited to a couple hundred. Maybe a free lottery ticket system can help decide who gets to attend. The rest of us can watch or listen via media coverage.

So what would town hall meetings with each participating candidate accomplish? Better communication. Better understanding of the main issues of concern to those of us who support the movement. An interesting look at how various politicians spin their responses. A better look at how they present themselves and what they say when asked questions from the audience. A venue by which all the world can observe what was asked, what was said, how it was said, and how it was received.

Recently I heard someone interviewed on the radio. This person said that if candidates don’t address the issues of importance to black voters, then black voters just won’t vote. Oy! Really?? Please don’t go that route. Instead, make it happen. Create a way in which candidates can respond to issues of importance of black voters…because, truly, those issues are important to all Americans. If candidates refuse the invitation, fine. They’ll be the ones losing the respect of the American people and their votes. Move forward with the candidates who do welcome an opportunity to respond to the key questions of concern to millions. And perhaps among the bunch, you’ll find someone worthy of your vote.

They Say Black Lives Matter

I recently listened to the co-founders of Black Lives Matter interviewed on NPR. I was just driving around town while listening, and I understand there is some controversy. Some people suggest that not only do black lives matter, but all lives matter.

Of course, all lives matter, but aren’t at least some non-black folks appalled at our current state of affairs? The insidious profiling that goes on in far too many American communities needs to stop. If I were the mother of a young black man, I’d be terrified. Our society is sick…very, very ill.

I read about the grim statistics for blacks when it comes to poverty, lack of educational opportunities, police-on-black brutality, black-on-black murder rates, incarceration rates, in-store security targeting blacks, banking inequality when it comes to blacks, landlord racism when it comes to blacks, and on and on … and on.

My head spins with anger and frustration at what I’m reading and watching these days. I vividly remember television news in the 60s recording the history of all the civil rights activities going on. And this is how far we’ve progressed in over 50 years? Shame on us.

Shame on us as a nation. Shame on us as Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Atheists, Agnostics, Pagans, and whatevers. Shame on us as teachers, administrators, directors, business owners, CEOs, managers, doctors, lawyers, artists, entertainers, musicians, mothers, fathers, grandparents, civil servants, elected officials, and all the rest.

We have not done enough. We have failed. To have all these years pass and so much racism, mistrust, and hatred still seeping through our societal veins is just plain wrong. It needs to end.

So start with yourself. Person by person. One by one. Untie whatever shackles of your own you wear and let them go. The next time you pass someone who is a different color, say hello. Give her a smile. Tell him you like his shirt. Make eye contact. Let souls embrace.

The morning after the church shooting in South Carolina I had to take a long drive to visit my elderly parents. Everything on the radio dealt with the unspeakable shootings. I felt heartbroken…so very heartbroken for our society. I just wanted to reach out and say to someone…”I’m so very, very sorry. What can we do? What can we do?”

I stopped to fill up with gas and as I walked back to my car I saw two young black women get out of theirs. I walked up to them and said, “I need a hug.” They did not hesitate.

Yes. Black lives matter, especially black lives. Given the history of our country and the ills of our current society, black lives matter very, very much.

Please be kind. Please be gentle with one another. Please respect each other. Please teach each other. Please share with each other. Please lift up each other. Please cherish the finite time you have on this planet and teach your children to live it with grace and peace and love.