Belfast Co-op’s Statement in Solidarity With Our Black Community
No community is immune to the evil of systemic racism.
The pain and heartbreak that has come to the surface in the week following George Floyd’s brutal murder at the hands of those sworn to protect and to serve is the manifestation of decade upon decade of oppression of Black and indigenous people at the hands of a system built around White privilege. Black Americans have been unfairly targeted and unfairly persecuted to keep power in the hands of those that already have power. It is reprehensible and it has to stop.
The gross injustice caught so graphically on camera is a reminder of how short we have fallen of our goal of a just society. The civil unrest and protests that broke out following the release of the video were understandable, justified, and necessary. When those in power, those who are charged with protecting and leading us, betray our trust and break our social contract, our duty as citizens is to draw attention to that betrayal.
There is a long history of African American communities organizing themselves cooperatively to overcome fear and harassment at the hands of their oppressors. From the late 1800’s through the civil rights era, cooperatives gave voice and economic influence to Black Americans fighting to prosper in their communities. They allowed them to collectively organize democratic societies based on solidarity and justice, which helped to battle the violence and subjugation being forced upon them. From the beginning, cooperatives have risen out of oppression, be it economic, cultural, social, or racial.
The principles upon which all cooperatives are formed include “Concern for Community.” At this moment, our community isn’t just Belfast or Waldo County. Our community is every neighborhood in this country where people of color fear losing their lives every time they stop at a red light or go for a run. Every neighborhood where police sirens mean something other than help is on the way. Our community is every life touched by George Floyd’s murder.
The Belfast Co-op stands in solidarity with Black people everywhere. It would be easy to dismiss the uprisings that are happening in cities across the county as urban problems, not something that we need to be bothered with in rural Maine, but racism is an insidious disease that eats away at us all. No one is immune. No one is untouched. It wears away at our humanity and builds a wall between us and the rest of the world. If we are to truly embrace the values that our co-op was founded upon: equality, equity, solidarity, openness, social responsibility and caring for others, we must illuminate oppression when we see it happen and fight for justice at every opportunity.
We at the Co-op do not have any answers right now. We are listening to the Black community. We are learning and asking questions. We are looking to the future with empathetic compassion for the abuses wrought upon our Black neighbors. Solidarity in thought alone is not enough and we will be seeking out ways to support through our actions. To those being directly affected by the scourge of racism, know that you are never alone.
Black lives matter.
Our friends at Cooperative Maine Business Alliance shared the following Maine and National organizations (and others) that are doing critical work at this time to address racism in our country. Listen, empathize, support, and take action for Black Lives. Now is a time for action and solidarity.
- Black Lives Matter Portland
- Wabanaki REACH
- Maine Immigrant Rights Coalition
- Presente Maine
- Maine Initiatives
- Black Lives Matter
- National Directory of Local Community Bail Funds
- Reclaim the Block (Minneapolis)
- Black Visions (Minneapolis)
- Colors of Change
- NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund