Why Life Stations Declined to join protests on #Skid Row

I’m sharing this email publicly to explain why Life Stations declined to March following the death of the man on Skid Row. Our director, Ron Smith has been actively working with officials and residents of Skid Row to improve the quality of life there for more than two years. Our explanation is below.

My dear brother in Christ.

I got your message. I’m writing this email in hopes of explaining my reason for declining your invitation to join the protests in Skid Row.

First, let me say that I am with you in being both outraged and heartbroken to learn of yet another killing. I too am compelled to action and agree that solidarity is necessary to achieve our goals. But it seems that the marches have become a distraction from the very causes we seek to highlight and wipe out.

Much of the nation is in agreement that there exists for black men, a struggle against overt cruelty and excessive brutality. Many are outraged at the indecent social treatment that keeps jumping up in the news. But as we all sit mesmerized by these unopposed oppressive forces of police brutality against black men and our governments unwillingness to punish it, we are at the same time not seeing the big picture of the cancers of second-rate living in urban communities across America where people continue to suffer from hunger and poverty, and unemployment, and drug addictions and abuse and a continual parade of black men being carted off to jail like cattle.

Aren’t these symptoms of the same disease? When do we get to the point that all of these are the conditions that public opinion is incensed by? Why is our righteous indignation limited to the sting of a bullet and when will our collective moral consciences strongly affirm the dignity of every person created in God’s image, the unity of humankind in His plan?

These are not separate but equal issues. They are one in the same. Together they are the right to live. I insist that we cannot oppose one and ignore the others.

In the two years that our director, Ron has been on Skid Row and we have been building Life Stations Centers we have met with many people who claim to be committed to social justice− strong on doctrine but week in action. We have spoken to those who clearly articulate the plight of the black man, but stop short of doing the works, preaching of rebuilding the spirit of the people but lacking the integrity it takes to do it. And none of them willing to put their backs in the fight long enough to make a difference.

Some have even hinted that we are ourselves to blame for the issues that exist within our community; that if we wear khakis and not sag our pants or polos and not hoodies… Yet none of them can recall what Emmett Till was wearing the day he was killed so many years ago. Clothes are not the issue.

And while I do agree that it is the responsibility of every black man and woman to own this battle, it is an outright lie to even suggest that we have not already lifted ourselves up from the muck and mire that was our beginning.

What other people came to this great America in bondage? What other race of man is more hated by other races than the black man? There is no parallel or a more continual opposition of a people and yet, as a people we have progressed so far … and with clean hands.

Since 9.11, God has placed in my belly a determination to help change this world−to make things right for my children and my children’s children. To give back even just a few minutes of sleep to those mothers who lay wait at night on baited breath for their sons to return home safely, and those fathers whose self esteem has suffered because they cannot bring home a decent wage to support their families and those children who go to bed most nights on empty stomachs. And with every shooting, that determination burns in me that much hotter.

Sadly, the brutal killings of our young men are not new to our community. Racially motivated killings have long been the “matter of fact” in our lives like the elephant in the room. And it will continue to be that way until we get to the real heart of the matter and confront the symptoms in their entirety. Indeed this is but one fight!

So, as much as I believe in the cause that you have chosen to fight for, I strongly disagree with the means by which you have chosen to fight. Every time we slow down too long to respond to individual killings, our fight becomes about that particular killing and ultimately our struggle is reduced to ambulance chasing, we become mere eulogists and the conditions within our communities go unchanged.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am all in on the fight for justice and for the improved quality of life for black men and their families. Trust me; I will not rest without it. But it’s time to stop marching and start doing!

Years have gone by and there is now so much more at our disposal. But we’re still using the same strategies that we did in the 60’s. And in the meantime, our sons are dying in record numbers. It’s like bringing knives to a gun fight and hoping for change.
But hope is not a strategy. Nor is it a plan!

I insist that all of us in leadership positions take the gloves off, roll up our sleeves and get this done. Our works MUST be labor intensive, directed, and intentional … intervening in the streets, the courtrooms, the school systems, in our local government and in our own homes. We need to pool our resources of friend’s family, churches and neighbors who believe in the common good to force a society that is humane for all humankind where each of us leads decent lives; attaining the kind of peace that extends outside of our communities and into our world. We should settle for nothing less.

Now is the time and the way has been found for those who truly seek it.

I hope you understand my position.

Be well my brother. And in whatever you decide to do, go with God!

Leslie Haskin
Chief Executive Officer
Life Stations Centers of Excellence
leslieh@lifecoe.org

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