Updates & Announcements

UPDATES & ANNOUNCEMENTS: JUNE 3, 2021

Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality. Updates & Announcements. A service of the Virginia Defender newspaper. Editorial Board: Ana Edwards and Phil Wilayto. Editor: Phil Wilayto.

Updates & Announcements are emailed to subscribers each month. To subscribe, click here.

MAY 31 – JUNE 1, 2021

On these dates in 1921, thousands of white people attacked the Greenville district neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma, one of the most prosperous Black neighborhoods in the country. At least 300 people were killed in what became known as the Tulsa Race Massacre. Hundreds more were wounded and 10,000 left homeless. No one was ever punished for the attack, and the victims were never compensated for the lives and property lost, not even by their insurance companies. Today the struggle for reparations continues.

EDITORIAL: MEMORIAL DAY

This Memorial Day, your editor banged out a few thoughts and posted them on Facebook. They got a reaction, so we thought we’d post them here: “Some Thoughts on Memorial Day.” Your comments are always appreciated. – PW

COMMUNITY NEWS

COMMUNITY COMES TOGETHER TO SUPPORT BELT ATLANTIC MOTHERS

Community members serve dinner to families at Belt Atlantic Apartments to support them in their time of grieving. Photos by Phil Wilayto.

Families, neighbors and strangers all came together May 8 for a community meal to support the Belt Atlantic community, which had been traumatized by a mass shooting.

On April 27, two women, two girls and a 3-month-old baby girl were shot when a group of young people opened fire across an open courtyard where children were playing. A 30-year-old mother, Sharnez Hill, and her 3-month-old daughter, Neziah Hill, were killed. A 29-year-old woman and two young girls, ages 11 and 15, were wounded. Police say all the victims were innocent bystanders to the violence.

Sharnez Hill’s aunt has set up a GoFundMe appeal to help pay for their funerals.

The tragedy took place at the Belt Atlantic Apartments on Midlothian Turnpike on Richmond’s South Side. A community vigil was held the following day to remember the victims and call for an end to violence in the city. Five young males have since been arrested, ages 18, 18, 19, 22 and 23.

On May 8, the day before Mother’s Day, local community organizers put together a buffet-style meal in the courtyard where the shootings took place. The idea was to give the community’s mothers a day off from cooking so they could help their children deal with their feelings.

The Defenders were invited to set up a literature table. The conversations we had that day will be part of a special report on street violence that will appear in the Summer edition of The Virginia Defender.

Across the country, gun violence has risen dramatically during the pandemic. Poverty, racism, drugs, the lack of decent-paying jobs for our youth and a sense of utter hopelessness about the future have combined with the pressures of the pandemic to produce tragedy after tragedy.

Please, sisters and brothers – we need you to take care of each other, not take each others’ lives. Your lives matter. Please.

VIRGINIA DEFENDER POLITICAL ENDORSEMENTS

The Defenders are opposed to the two-party stranglehold on the progressive movement. Both the Democratic and Republican parties are controlled by the same 1 percent that has always dominated electoral politics in this country. The Democrats are better on most labor and social issues, but are faithful stewards of the American Empire, willing to carry out genocidal, criminal wars for the benefit of their corporate sponsors. The Republicans do the same, but rely on pushing hot button social issues to keep some workers, especially whites, in their corner. Most other capitalist countries have a left alternative – but not here, where the mainstream media is very good at shutting out alternative voices.

When it comes to elections, the Defenders will support trustworthy progressive candidates on the local level, no matter their party affiliation, while encouraging a left break from the Democrats.

For our political endorsements – and non-endorsements – in the June 8 Democratic Party primary, click here.

INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY LEADER NEEDS YOUR SUPPORT

Vanessa Bolin is a longtime and much-respected Indigenous elder, artist, activist and healer who is a founding member of the River City Medic Collective, Richmond Indigenous Society and Community Roots Garden. She recently was the victim of a robbery that cost her her life savings:

“As Indigenous people, we have known poverty. Myself and my partner have been saving money for over a year so that we can get new glasses and a full set of much-needed dentures. Some time in the past 8 days someone entered our room and took $2000. This has devastated us and has set us back an entire year. I really hope the person who took that money will replace it, but it’s not looking promising. If they had asked, we certainly would have helped them, but instead they took our money that we have sacrificed for. They also stole our trust. Both are equally painful.”

Folks in a position to help can support Vanessa in one of the following ways:

Venmo: @Spitfire17 (last 4, 5014)

CashApp: $Spitfire1medic

PayPal: vanessabolin29@icloud.com

COPS, COURTS, PRISONS

BLM PROTESTER FACING YEARS IN PRISON HAS CHARGES REDUCED

Photograph of Michaela Hatton and five others at a press conference in front of the John Marshall Court building in Richmond. Hatton is speaking.
Michaela Hatton speaks at the Defenders’ press conference on July 22, 2020, demanding all charges against all Black Lives Matter protesters be dropped. Also speaking, from left, are a representative of the Richmond Bail Fund, Defender Joseph Rogers, Ana Edwards (partially hidden) and Princess Blanding of Justice & Reformation. Not shown is Breanne Armbrust.

Black Lives Matter protester Michaela Hatton, who had been facing years in prison after being charged with inciting to riot and assault on a police officer, has had the charges reduced to misdemeanors, with no jail time. Read the Defender story here [pending].

XZAVIER HILL’S DETERMINED FAMILY CONTINUES TO DEMAND JUSTICE:

Text: On the morning of January 9th, VA State Police murdered Xzavier Hill while his hands were in the air. He was only 18 years old. His mother, LaToya Benton, is demanding: police release the dash-cam footage to the public, the identities of the two officers be released, the two officers be fired and arrested. Contact D. Michael Caudill, Commonwealth's Attorney. Email: mcaudill@goochlandva.us. Phone: 804-556-5345. Hours: Mo-Fri, 8:30am -4:30am. The family is also accepting donation via CashApp at $crystalcleanva. Please call/email the Commonwealth's attorney and share Xzavier's story with the hashtag #JusticeforXzavier.

RECLAIMING OUR SACRED GROUND

FRIENDS OF EVERGREEN CEMETERY FIGHT FOR BLACK CEMETERIES

Photograph of a cemetery in the woods, the gravestones barely visible among the tall grass and underbrush.
These gravesites, nearly hidden by overgrown grass, illustrate the neglect of East End Cemetery, one of several Richmond-area Black burial grounds owned by the Enrichmond Foundation.

Even as progress is being made on reclaiming the sacred ground of Shockoe Bottom, more and more Black cemeteries in the Richmond area are coming under the sole ownership of one white man: John Sydnor, executive director of the Enrichmond Foundation. The nonprofit now owns the Evergreen and East End in Richmond’s East End, as well as Forest View on South Side. It’s believed to be looking to buy other Black burial grounds.

Above is a photo we took a few weeks ago at Evergreen. The grass is overgrown, headstones are knocked over and groups of cyclists were passing by as if this were a recreation area.

The Defenders have been supporting Friends of Evergreen Cemetery, an all-volunteer organization that for years has been conducting clean-up operations at Evergreen and East End. Many of its members are descendants of the people buried there. Our support efforts are led by Ana Edwards, chair of the Defenders’ Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project. Look for more information about this issue in the next edition of The Virginia Defender.

In other Sacred Ground news, Ana was invited to present on Shockoe Bottom at the May 29 meeting of the Reimagining Monument Avenue commission. She also took the opportunity to explain the Defenders’ opposition to the state spending millions of dollars to “reimagine” the street that owes its fame to the Confederate statues that once lined its median strip. (The Lee statue, the largest, has yet to be taken down.) Our view is that Gov. Northam proposed spending $11 million on the avenue only to assuage the white, upper-middle-class homeowners who fear their inflated property values would drop without something like the statues. The money, which has as of yet only been proposed, could be much better spent on affordable housing and a permanent, 24/7 indoor shelter for the city’s houseless population.

Ana will also be presenting at a Juneteenth event to be held at Richmond Hill, an “ecumenical Christian fellowship and residential community” in the city’s East End.

TO ARRANGE A TOUR OF SHOCKOE BOTTOM CONDUCTED BY MEMBERS OF THE SACRED GROUND HISTORICAL RECLAMATION PROJECT, CALL OR TEXT 804-644-5834 or EMAIL DefendersFJE@hotmail.com.

INTERNATIONAL & ANTIWAR NEWS

VIRGINIANS SAY: ‘WE STAND WITH PALESTINE!’

More than 1,500 people turned out May 19 in Richmond to declare their solidarity with Palestinians under attack by the Israeli military. Here Adeeb Abed, president of the Arab American Association of Central Virginia, addresses the crowd. To his right is Nancy Wein, co-chair of Richmonders for Peace in Israel-Palestine. The massive protest was organized by these two organizations and the Virginia Defenders.

On May 19, as the Israeli military carried out its 11-day genocidal bombing of the Palestinian Gaza Strip, more than 1,500 people turned out in Richmond to say “We Stand with Palestine!” The mostly youthful and Arab crowd took over Broad Street, blocking traffic, waving Palestinian flags and chanting “Free, Free Palestine!”

Other Virginia cities where protests have been taking place include Blacksburg, Roanoke, Harrisonburg and, significantly, Norfolk, home to the world’s largest naval station and the largest concentration of U.S. Navy forces, which operate in the Mediterranean Sea and Persian Gulf, among other areas. Northern Virginians have been attending protests in Washington, D.C., including the national march held on May 29.

INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY WITH ANTI-FASCISTS IN UKRAINE

Photograph of 19 people with signs, roses, and black balloons gathered in front of a federal courthouse in Richmond.
Defenders and allies hold a vigil outside the Richmond federal courthouse to remember the Odessa Massacre of May 2, 2014, support the demand for an international investigation and declare their solidarity with anti-fascists in Ukraine. The event was one of 20 actions held as part of an international day of solidarity initiated by the Odessa Solidarity Campaign, which is coordinated by the Virginia Defenders.

On May 2, the 7th anniversary of the Odessa Massacre, Defenders and allies gathered outside the Spottswood W. Robinson III and Robert R. Merhige, Jr. Federal Courthouse in downtown Richmond in a display of solidarity with the people of Odessa, Ukraine, and anti-fascists everywhere.

At least 19 other vigils took place across Europe and North America as part of an International Day of Solidarity with Odessa & Anti-Fascists in Ukraine initiated by the Odessa Solidarity Campaign, which the Defenders founded in 2016.

Also on May 2, Virginia Defender Editor Phil Wilayto participated in an online roundtable discussion about the Odessa Massacre sponsored by a trade union federation in the People’s Republic of Lugansk in Donbass.

On May 2, 2014, just a few months after a right-wing coup supported by both the U.S. government and openly neo-Nazi organizations overthrew the elected president of Ukraine, a fascist-led mob set fire to Odessa’s House of Trade Unions, murdering at least 42 people trapped inside who had opposed the coup. In 2016, the Defenders organized a delegation of U.S. activists to travel to Odessa as International Observers at the city’s second annual May 2 memorial, which the fascist organizations were threatening to attack.

The message this May 2 was to commemorate the 7th anniversary of the Odessa Massacre and support the demand for an international investigation into this tragedy, something the Ukrainian government has yet to allow.

For more information, visit the website of the Odessa Solidarity Campaign.

WEBINAR ABOUT THE CURRENT STRUGGLE IN COLOMBIA

More than a month ago, massive protests broke out in the South American country of Colombia. What began as opposition to a new tax and the way federal authorities have mishandled the COVID-19 crisis soon expanded into a challenge to the right-wing government itself. Many people have been killed by security forces, and the military has now been called in to suppress the protests. (See “Amid escalating violence, Colombia sends in troops” – June 1, CNN.) Last year the U.S. government earmarked $267 million in “security” aid for Colombia – which means that U.S. taxpayers are now paying for the repression.

“Rebellion in Colombia” is a webinar with news and analysis about the current struggle taking place in Colombia. The Presenters are Charo Mina-Rojas, a human rights organizer and activist in Colombia’s Black community; William Camacaro of the Bolivarian Circle of New York; Ajamu Baraka of Black Alliance for Peace; and James Jordan of the Alliance for Global Justice. The webinar is moderated by Margaret Kimberley of BAP and the Black Agenda Report and is sponsored by the United National Antiwar Coalition.

Free, on YouTube here.

UPCOMING EVENTS

FRIDAY, JUNE 4 – CUBA: CONFRONTING COVID & THE U.S. BLOCKADE

An online presentation on Cuba’s successes in fighting COVID at home and abroad; plus, information about the upcoming 31st Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba, which will be bringing COVID-related medical aid to the island. This online event is being sponsored by the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization/Pastors for Peace and the African Awareness Association; All-African People’s Revolutionary Party (GC); Plowshare Peace and Justice Center – Roanoke; Roanoke Friends Meeting; and the Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality. 7:30 pm, EST. Registration is required to receive the connection information. You can register here.

SATURDAY, JUNE 5 – 3rd SACRED GROUND MONTHLY CLEAN-UP

Photograph of a mixed-race group of ten people posing with several bags full of trash in front of Richmond's African Burial Ground.
Defenders and friends at the end of the 2nd monthly Sacred Ground Clean-up of Richmond’s African Burial Ground and the nearby Devil’s Half-Acre. On this day we were joined by Princess Blanding (third from right), 2021 candidate for governor of Virginia on the independent Liberation Party ticket.

On the first Saturday of each month, the Defenders and friends pick up the trash that accumulates at the Devil’s Half-Acre (site of Lumpkin’s jail) and Richmond’s African Burial Ground, because the City government isn’t doing its job. In fact, it doesn’t even provide trash barrels in the area. Join us for this community effort. Dress for the weather, bring gloves and water and stay masked and socially distanced. We’ll provide the trash bags. More information about the cleanup here.

THURSDAY, JUNE 10 – THE PREMIER OF ‘HOW THE MONUMENTS CAME DOWN’

“‘How the Monuments Came Down’ is a timely and searing look at the history of white supremacy and Black resistance in Richmond. The feature-length film — brought to life by history-makers, descendants, scholars, and activists — reveals how monuments to Confederate leaders stood for more than a century, and why they fell.” Produced by Field Studio in association with Virginia Public Media. This premier showing is presented by the Afrikana Independent Film Festival in partnership with The JXN Project, VPM and Maymont.

Film showing at Maymont (entrances at 2201 Shields Lake Drive and 1700 Hampton Street.) Doors open at 7 pm, with the Richmond jazz group Butcher Brown performing at 7:30, a pre-screening discussion starting at 8:30, and the film starting at 9. $10 per pod (holds up to 4 people). Ticket sale proceeds benefit Afrikana. For more info about ‘How the Monuments Came Down,’ click here.

SATURDAY, JUNE 12 – RICHMOND TO HOLD FREE COVID-19 VACCINATIONS & JOB FAIR

The City of Richmond, along with partner agencies Virginia Restaurant, Lodging and Travel Association; Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; and the Richmond City Health District will hold a community event at Southside Plaza to provide a walk-up vaccination opportunity and job fair for all Richmond citizens. The event will provide all three available Covid-19 vaccines.

Free rides to the event will be available through Uber and Lyft.

If attendees help protect the community by getting vaccinated, the city will buy them lunch from local, on-site food providers.

For more information on COVID-19 vaccinations in Richmond, see this link.

SATURDAY, JUNE 19 – JUNETEENTH FREEDOM WEEKEND EVENT

Several organizations have announced Juneteenth events in Richmond this year. The Defenders will be participating in the Freedom Weekend Event, to be held from 11 am to 4 pm on Saturday, June 19, at the Supreme Flea Market, 3302 Williamsburg Road. Drop by, look for our table and say hello!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s