NLEN Response to Philando Castile and Alton Sterling Shootings

“Now, what we’ve been doing is looking at the data, and we know that police somehow manage to deescalate, disarm and not kill white people everyday.” ~ Jesse Williams, (from his 2016 BET Humanitarian Award Speech)

Late last night, as I was still reeling from the loss of Black lives in Baton Rogue, LA and Falcon Heights, MN., I was stunned to learn that five police officers were killed while on duty during a peaceful protest and demonstration led by Black Lives Matter activists and other civic and church leaders in Dallas, Texas. This is heart-breaking, and I agree whole-heartedly with President Obama’s description of the attack as “vicious, calculated and despicable.”

As our community grieves this tragedy, we cannot lose sight of the tragedies happening daily in Black and Brown communities around the country—communities like North Lawndale, East Garfield Park, Englewood, and Humboldt Park. The deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling are two poignant examples of excessive force by the police, but their deaths are not isolated incidents or even evidence of a recent surge in police violence. We can never forget Laquan McDonald, Rekia Boyd and the countless others whose deaths have gone unnoticed. Black and Brown communities have been acutely aware of and have experienced the brunt of police brutality, mass incarceration, and structural poverty long before smart phones and social media brought these painful images into the rest of national consciousness.

As Director of Reentry Policy and Advocacy, and as a Black man and father who has dedicated his life to building our community’s capacity for economic advancement and improved quality of life, my hope is the work we do at the North Lawndale Employment Network today has a meaningful impact on tomorrow. This hope keeps me focused and grounded as we navigate the challenges of today’s environment.

At the North Lawndale Employment Network, we are heart broken, but hopeful, and we will continue fighting the most debilitating barriers that incarceration and police brutality impose. Through job readiness preparation, financial and employment coaching, and customized skills training, we help people find opportunities where others might find a closed door. We also facilitate real conversations between our clients and police officers in our  Building Bridges, Building Connections program. Yet, we realize that our efforts to create dialogue and provide second chances are not enough. We realize that we need to think bigger and fight for a more comprehensive vision of a just world.

Therefore, We seek:

  • An immediate and abrupt end to the use of excessive force by police officers who have been hired to protect and serve our communities
  • Transparency, justice and police accountability
  • A full investigation into the shootings on Alton Sterling and Philando Castille

We are inspired and pleased to be associated with the dynamic and impactful advocacy work of PolicyLink—a national research and action institute dedicated to advancing economic and social equity. For more policy recommendations we are pleased to direct you to this report from an amazing collaboration between Policy Link and the Center for Popular Democracy (http://www.justiceinpolicing.com).

We also encourage you to take the following Action:

With liberty and justice for all,

Mark L. Sanders II
Director, Reentry Policy & Advocacy Programs
The North Lawndale Employment Network