Letter Writing Campaign to End Violence Against Black People

The Letter Writing Campaign to End Violence against Black People began as a response to lynching, incarceration and other forms of violence against Black people. It is a collaboration between the Transformative Action Network and Freedom Inc. Black people in Madison and beyond face a wide spectrum of violence in schools and in the wider community Precious life is lost everyday. Most recently we are reeling from the murder of George Floyd. In December of 2019 a 14 year-old was arrested at gun point at his middle school here in Dane County, it could have been him. It is up to us to make this violence unacceptable. Seventy-eight percent of the children incarcerated in Wisconsin are youth of color. Why is it acceptable for any children to be locked behind bars? We need to decriminalize Black people. We need to connect with each other's humanity. Break the silence about this violence and the role white privilege plays in keeping it going. You can break the silence with action: Write a letter. Our goal is to write and send 2000 letters to aldermen, state representatives, county supervisors, school staff and administrators, other elected officials, editors, police, community organizations and others. 

As of November 3, 2020:

Letters sent Total = 2265

13 Dane County Criminal Justice Circuit Court
16 Dane County Housing
75 Dane County Newspapers
17 Dane County Officials
811 Dane County Supervisors
4 City of Kenosha
603 City of Madison Alders
8 Black Leaders of Madison
15 Madison Community Centers     
17 Madison High Schools
25 City of Madison Housing
8 Madison Legislative Delegation
26 Madison Mayor
17 Madison Mayoral Staff
180 Madison Neighborhood Newsletters
8 Madison Parks Commissioners
1 Madison Police Chief
10 Madison Police and Fire Commission
10 Madison PDPSRC
101 Madison Religious Leaders
171 Madison School Board
8 Middleton Alders
4 Middleton Cross Plains School Board
7 Monona Mayor and City Council
1 Monona Police Chief
4 WI Governor Evers
4 WI Housing & Development
93 WI Legislators
2 WI Prison System
6 University of Wisconsin – Madison
1 WI Writers
3 WI Congressional Leadership
2 US Representatives
7 US Senators
1 US President

Total: 2265

Letter Campaign Writer Addresses Senior Government Leaders

  • Posted on: 5 November 2020
  • By: Elizabeth Arco

We are highlighting powerful letters written through the Letter Writing Campaign to End Violence Against Black People which ended on November 3rd. Look for a final tally of letters sent to come soon! Thank you to all who participated!

 

Dear Senior Government Leaders,

It’s a hell of a thing to get old.  The world seems to be changing at warp speed and our appliances, devices and habits are suddenly and irrevocably discontinued, obsolete and outdated.  Our passions gradually get dampened as our faculties and energy levels flag. It takes humility to realize we need more and more help.  Out of necessity we learn to pace ourselves and put energy into fewer and only the most important things:  family and our bucket lists to name two.

We went to school in the 60’s and are dismayed that suddenly, we are finding there are gaps in multi-cultural history we have only vaguely noticed before.  Now we are expected to “unpack” and unlearn ideas and beliefs we were never even conscious of having.  Thinking I know the “right way” to do things turns out to be white supremacist.  Oh dear.

But don’t despair!  The good news is we can move to the back seat.  Let the young drive.  They are capable, willing and chomping at the bit for us to get out of the way!  Our driving terrifies them, and we aren't even aware of our mistakes.  We as those with the most lived experience still have a role to play:  supporting and championing the new leaders.  Here are ideas from our young Black leaders for example:

  1. Remove all harmful punitive policies, practices and people from school environments, including police, suspension, and expulsion.
  2. We want public institutions to engage in 360 degree accountability through abolitionist restorative justice.
  3. Support and fund a Black-lead committee with decision-making and implementation power to remedy the deep patterns of harm caused by racist violence in all its forms.
  4. Using recommendations of said committee invest in a campaign to decriminalize and humanize Black people.
  5. Provide reparations to said committee to create educational initiatives for the Black community.
  6. Provide reparations for Black land trusts and other remedies for gentrification and hyper-segregation.
  7. Create a truth and reconciliation process to replace the punitive criminal justice system with abolitionist restorative justice.
  8. Adopt the demands developed by the Movement for Black Lives.

Government leaders, ask yourself: Is it time to move to the back and let the youth drive? Trust, and enjoy the scenery? It’s a humbling and sometimes daunting process- this getting old. Our very worldview may in fact, be obsolete.

Sincerely,

E.M.

 

West High Alum with Demands for Racial Justice

  • Posted on: 28 October 2020
  • By: Elizabeth Arco

We are highlighting powerful letters written through the Letter Campaign to End Violence Against Black People. Please join us in writing letters! An information and writing session is being held on October 29th from 7:00 - 8:30pm on Zoom. You can RSVP here

Our goal is to send 2,000 letters to elected officials, government agencies, schools, nonprofits, local businesses, community organizations, and more, by Election Day (November 3rd). So far, we have nearly 1,600 letters.

 

Dear West High School Administration,

As a senior at West High School, 8 years ago, I performed in Multico. When I think back on those times, I remember the friendships made, the camaraderie, the collaboration, the feeling of being a positive inspiration for youth. I remember learning things from my peers that I never encountered before: why the words Latino and Hispanic are not interchangeable, what wearing the hijab meant to one of my classmates. It was because of Multico that I ended up taking classes about race in college, and continue a process to challenge my privileges and unlearn the racism I was indoctrinated in. 

What I also remember when I look back now are all the things about my school that I didn’t notice at the time. How almost none of my teachers in high school were Black, Latinx, Indigenous, or Asian. How it was strange that what we learned in Multico was exclusive, that all students didn’t have access to the curriculum. Why was African American history an elective rather than a requirement? Why was it that I never met most of the People of Color in the group until Multico, but I had classes with all of the white students? You know West High School has a segregation issue when the only classes I took that reflected the diversity of the school were gym classes. The honors classes I took were almost all white. I valued the space of Multico so much because I valued the depth of learning that happens in a diverse classroom.

During this pandemic, I know students, teachers, and administration are all facing enormous challenges. I know everyone has a lot on their plate, simply trying to keep things functioning and help young people learn. I know there is an awareness about how this pandemic is amplifying racial disparities in terms of access to resources, and I know that there are people working on finding solutions so that students living on low incomes have equal access to their education. I also understand that there are a lot of people working in education who wish for things to go back to normal. I am writing to you today to amplify the words of Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, who said "We do not want to go back to what we had pre-pandemic... normal is the place where the problems were for the kids I’m talking about. Their families don’t need to go back to normal. In normal they were in lower tracks, being suspended and expelled [at higher rates]" (source).

West needs to reckon with the segregation that has allowed deep harms to happen to children of color. This is not a quick and easy fix; it even goes beyond integrating classrooms and developing more culturally relevant curriculum, which should also very much be prioritized. The education system has done harm against Black people for decades, and I am saddened and sickened by the continuation of this legacy through increased surveillance and hyperpolicing of Black bodies in schools. Black children are regularly seen as a problem to fix, rather than being full of creativity, ingenuity, resourcefulness. The knee-jerk reaction within schools is to treat all problems with discipline, rather than seeing the humanity in these children and listening to their whole story. I feel ashamed of the ways I looked the other way when walking quickly between classes and I noticed Black students constantly being stopped by security guards. 

What is West High School doing to repair the harm that Black children have been forced to endure through the education system, and the extensions of the carceral system within it? What is West High School doing to validate Black students’ experiences, to see both their joy and humanity while recognizing their pain and stress of living in a society that does not value their lives? What is West High School doing to support these children, to listen to their needs, and respect their leadership? And as a Multico alumni, I ask, how are Multico and other classes adapting to reflect the times and conversations about race? 

We are living in a transformative moment. I have immense admiration of the years-long organizing efforts to remove School Resource Officers from Madison high schools, thanks to courageous students and activists. I do believe this is a big step in the right direction. I want to see West High School, which gave me an education I deeply value and I have many good memories from, embrace the transformative times we are living in and invest in deeper support for its students of color. I ask you: what did you all learn when reading Dr. Bettina Love’s ‘We Want to Do More Than Survive’ for professional development? What did you all learn from the racial reckoning of 2020? What did you all learn from the 20+ years of having a class called Multico in your building, without seeing much change to racial equity and justice in the school? 

I am in full support of these demands, written by Black leaders in the Madison community. I implore West High School to take a moment to pause and reflect about what is within your powers to better support Black youth and other youth of color. Thank you. 

  1. Remove all harmful punitive policies, practices and people from school environments, including police, suspension, and expulsion. Do not support politicking or policy decisions that put property over Black people's lives. 
  2. We want public institutions to engage in 360 degree accountability through abolitionist restorative justice. 
  3. Support and fund a Black-led committee with decision making and implementation power to remedy the deep patterns of harm caused by racist violence in all of its forms. 
  4. Using recommendations of said committee, invest in a campaign to decriminalize and humanize Black people. 
  5. Provide reparations to said committee to create educational initiatives for the Black community. 
  6. Provide reparations for Black land trusts and other remedies for gentrification and hyper-segregation. 
  7. Create a truth and reconciliation process to replace the punitive criminal justice system with abolitionist restorative justice. 
  8. Adopt the demands developed by the Movement for Black Lives.

Sincerely, 

Ryan Eykholt

Class of 2013

Letter Campaign Writer Sends Powerful Letter to County Supervisors

  • Posted on: 16 October 2020
  • By: Elizabeth Arco

We are highlighting powerful letters written through the Letter Campaign to End Violence Against Black People. Please join us in writing letters for the campaign. Information and writing session are held on Thursdays from 7:00 - 8:30pm on Zoom. You can RSVP here for the Zoom invitation

Our goal is to send 2,000 letters to elected officials, government agencies, schools, nonprofits, local businesses, community organizations, and more, by November 3rd, 2020. So far, we have nearly 1,500 letters.

July 24, 2020

To: county_board_recipients@countyofdane.com

Subject: End Violence Against Black People

Dear Dane County Supervisors:  

My husband and I will be welcoming our first child this fall. And while the usual anxieties and worries are ever-present, I cannot help but reflect upon what we, as white parents, don’t have to worry about. I think about Black parents who have had to see their children’s lives taken at the hands of police. I think of Black fathers who don’t get to see their children due to policies and practices that disproportionately incarcerate Black men. I think of Black children who are taught to be hyper-vigilant about everything from where they put their hands when confronted by law enforcement to what they wear and how to speak—not as a lesson in manners but as a matter of survival. And I think of Black mothers who have to fear for their lives and the lives of their babies, with statistically higher rates of maternal and infant mortality.

And while we as a nation and a world bear witness to explicit acts of violence and murder perpetrated against Black bodies, I also think of the deadly weathering effect of living a life of constant, chronic stress and subsequent disease. How could it be otherwise when racism is built into the fabric of our institutions? Let us not forget that this, too, is violence.

As a white woman, I believe the time to stand with the Black community is long overdue. I have not always believed this, having been complicit in violence against Black bodies. In many ways, I know I am still complicit, as I have many, many blind spots; such is the insidiousness of a white supremacist culture, as I am learning and feeling in my body and spirit. But now, standing in solidarity and supporting the demands of the Black community, is something I can do. 

May we someday live in a society where the voices of Black people are heard and believed. Until then, I will try to use my action when I can to elevate these demands of the Black community: 

  1. Remove all harmful punitive policies, practices, and people from school environments, including police, suspension, and expulsion. Do not support politicking or policy decisions that put property over black lives.
  2. We want public institutions to engage in 360 degree accountability through abolitionist restorative justice.
  3. Support and fund a Black-led committee with decision making and implementation power to remedy the deep patterns of harm caused by racist violence in all of its forms.
  4. Using recommendations of said committee, invest in a campaign to decriminalize and humanize Black people.
  5. Provide reparations to said committee to create educational initiatives for the Black community.
  6. Provide reparations for Black land trusts and other remedies for gentrification and hyper-segregation.
  7. Create a truth and reconciliation process to replace the punitive criminal justice system with abolitionist restorative justice.
  8. Adopt the demands developed by the Movement for Black Lives. 

In solidarity with the Black community,

M.B.

Ways to Connect and Participate

  • Posted on: 29 June 2020
  • By: TimeBank Restorative Justice

WAYS TO PARTICIPATE

Attend a letter writing session:

During the session you will learn more about the issue and our demands, get support getting your ideas out, hear sample letters and meet other people doing this important work to end violence. We have a set of 4 demands we want every letter to include and are keeping a tally of the letters sent so we are asking people to attend a zoom gathering to get the details. If that's not possible, you can also write to Damita Brown at the Dane county Timebank to get important details and she can send you a Co-conspirator tool kit for wrting a letter.

Host a Zoom letter writing session:

You can get our Co-conspirator toolkit that shows you step by step how to host your own letter writing party. We want folks to invite friends, neighbors, colleagues, family co-workers and others to join them in writing a letter to help end this violence. The tool kit has sample letters, ideas about where to send the letters, and graphics containing more information you can show people in your zoom party.

Letter Writing Sessions will be held every other Thursday from 7 pm to 8:30 pm.

PLEASE USE THIS LINK TO REGISTER FOR THE ZOOM SESSION

Please contact our restorative justice director,  Damita Brown if you have any questions: damita@danecountytimebank.org