A Black activist speaks: ‘When they ask me about 2020, this will be my story’ | Tuesday Morning Coffee

Angel Rivera, a 20-year old Harrisburg resident, holds a sign in front of the state Capitol on June 1, 2020. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

If you haven’t seen it, progressive activist Kadida Kenner’s Facebook page is required reading if you want to understand the accumulated anger and sadness that’s propelled tens of thousands of Black and Brown Americans into streets across the country over the last three days.

I’ve known Kenner, of the Pennsylvania Budget & Policy Center in Harrisburg, for a number of years, and her writing has appeared regularly on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page since our launch back in February 2019. She’s one of the smartest and most fearless women I know, and it’s been a genuine privilege and honor to publish her work.

She granted the Capital-Star permission to use excerpts from her page, joking that she was “open source,” when it came to sharing her thoughts. It was kind of her to do. And we appreciate it.

One of the most important things we can do is listen — really listen — to what Black and Brown Pennsylvanians are saying to us right now. And then when we’ve absorbed those lessons, we need to do our part to turn the tide of 400 years of history. As I noted on Monday, it’s not easy work. But it’s work that needs to be done.

By the way, some of what you’re about to read may make you uncomfortable. That’s the point.

Harrisburg police chief Thomas Carter kneels in front of angry protesters on June 1, 2020, who riddled him with criticisms of a police conduct during a Black Lives Matter protest Saturday. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

On the anger that’s driven so many into the streets since Saturday and the responsibility white Americans bear to change things:

“I’m not mad or ashamed or disgusted at the black folks out there burning down cities. I’m not. And I specifically say the black folks because the release of decades of pent up rage is a long time coming. However – I don’t understand the white folks who are out there looting and carrying on. I don’t get that. Those looters aren’t mad about black folks’ oppression, they’re just using their privilege to get free goods,” she wrote

“You saw folks lose their minds after two months being stuck in their houses without haircuts and being “asked” to wear masks when out in the public. They showed up on Capitol steps with weapons and raw emotion. And guess what – their demands are being met. Cities and towns are opening up, and opening earlier than they should according to guidelines they themselves set up. That’s power. They have the power. Politicians are fearful of them. They respect their vote and they see themselves in those protesters. They see their humanity. Their show of force yielded results for them and put black lives in further peril,” she continued.

“Every election year, do-gooders drop money in communities to get black people to vote. They swoop in and drop cash. The election happens and they swoop right back out. We get used for our votes because the vote is powerful – but we aren’t powerful. They only see a speck of our humanity during election time when they need us in order to maintain their supremacy. That’s both sides of the aisle. And yet, I vote every time. What else am I supposed to do?

“Black folks can’t fix this. We don’t have the power. We are again at the mercy of the majority to see a glimmer of our humanity and give us liberty and freedom. If they don’t or won’t we’ll never get it in this country. That’s supremacy. They have all the power.

“So we “riot” – what else is there for us to do in a country in which we have no power. It’s the hopelessness that hurts the most. This won’t ever change in my lifetime.

“White people – please do something within YOUR communities to fix this. Have courage – have raw courage. See our humanity. Use your power for good,” she concluded.

A protester yells at Harrisburg police chief Thomas Carter during a June 1, 2020 Black Lives Matter protest in response to the death in police custody of George Floyd. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

On the looting that’s taken place in cities nationwide, including Philadelphia, Kenner wrote on Monday morning:

“I don’t like the looting happening right now, especially to black-owned businesses but I understand it. Black buying power is unmatched! We fuel this American economy. According to The State of Working America,’Black people spend 4 percent more money annually than any other race despite the fact that they are the least represented race and the race that lives in poverty at the highest rate.’”

“These protests and instances of looting (by POC) is the manifestation of the rage felt by the oppressed. It’s been a long time coming. It’s not rational but neither is our oppression. Although I’m not advocating for it, I think this display of outrage has to continue on so that the next time a cop puts his knee on a black man’s neck, he’ll think twice, and if he still does it, white America will punish him within the full extent of the law, and immediately, if only out of fear for their property.

“They don’t fear our votes, but they fear the loss of capitalism. If you want law and order, give us justice!”

Black Lives Matter protesters march through the Capitol complex in Harrisburg, PA on June 1, 2020. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

Her advice for politicians facing the voters during today’s primary:

“If you’re running for office and you’re not at one of these MANY protests happening today and tomorrow across the state, you will NOT get my vote on Tuesday,” she wrote. “I’ll be looking at all your pages – personal and campaign. I would rather leave your race on the ballot blank than give it away during the primary. I will also read the commentary. Pandering is an immediate disqualifier. If you don’t know what to say or what policies are needed, it’s too late. You should have hired a POC to assist you with that months ago.”

The Pennsylvania Capitol building. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

Our Stuff.
Stephen Caruso
 and Elizabeth Hardison  were on the ground in Harrisburg for Monday night’s protest in support of George Floyd and against police brutality. We had continuously updated coverage.

Hardison mapped the spread of protests across the commonwealth. Did we miss any? Email us on [email protected].

Gov. Tom Wolf extended the mail-in ballot counting deadline until June 9 for six Pennsylvania counties, Cassie Miller reports.

A video of an Erie police officer kicking a young woman has gone viral, adding to national debate over police response to Floyd protests, Hannah McDonald reports.

Reform advocates have launched a hunger strike to force Gov. Tom Wolf to release state prison inmates to slow COVID-19 spread, Julia Shanahan reports.

On our Commentary Page this morning, opinion regular Fletcher McClellan looks at New Zealand’s successful fight against COVID-19 and the lessons it holds for the USA. The Pa. Chiefs of Police Association says its profession has failed Black and Brown Americans and must do better. And Jay Bookman, of our sibling site, the Georgia Recorder knows just whom to blame for the violence that’s wracked America’s cities.

Black Lives Matter protesters march down Front Street in Harrisburg on June 1, 2020.
(Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

Elsewhere.
Protesters in Philadelphia were tear-gassed I-676 on Monday, sparking ‘pandemonium,’ the Inquirer reports.
Protesters and police clashed in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood on Monday, leading to 20 arrests, the Post-Gazette reports.
The current protests are the biggest test of Harrisburg Police Chief Thomas Carter’s career. PennLive explains what’s at stake.
U.S Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., has called George Floyd’s death as ‘sickening to watch,’ and described most police officers as honorable, the Morning Call reports.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:

View this post on Instagram

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WHYY-FM has more on the protests in Philadelphia on Monday.
State tax revenues fell by another $440 million in May, Spotlght PA reports, further hammering the bottom line.
Politico 
goes behind the scenes of the White House’s scattered approach to tackling the protests.

What Goes On.
State government offices are closed for primary election day.
Time TBD: Daily COVID-19 briefing.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to Jana Benscoter at PennLive, and James Robinson in the Senate Democratic Caucus, both of whom celebrate today. Congratulations and enjoy the day, friends.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s one from Thievery Corporation that seems appropriate right now, it’s ‘Weapons of Distraction.’

Tuesday’s Gratuitous Baseball Link.
MLB.Com 
runs down every club’s best hometown pick.

And now you’re up to date.

John L. Micek
A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press