Black Collective Voice forms in Seattle to educate and empower the people

Jun 25, 2020, 2:47 PM
Black Collective Voice...
(L-R) Jesse Miller, Naudia Miller, and Marcus Henderson, who are Black organizers within the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP), speak during a press conference in the CHOP zone on June 25, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. The three represent the Black Collective Voice, which they say comprises organizers and protesters coming from a wide variety of backgrounds. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

Seattle Black Collective Voice is a new group of organizers and protesters formed out of the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP). The group intends to reclaim the narrative of the movement, focusing on education and empowerment.

Naudia Miller (Nas) introduced the Black Collective Voice at a press conference Thursday. Nas was joined by her mother, Jesse Miller, who together are the co-founders of the Harriet Tubman Foundation for Safe Passage, and Marcus Henderson, the leader of Black Star Farmers in the CHOP.

A recent survey of protesters in the CHOP, Nas said, showed that people overwhelmingly wanted to know about ways to volunteer their time and resources to end systemic racism, starting by ending police brutality. Respondents also indicated that they wanted to follow Black voices and were looking for Black leadership. From this, the Black Collective Voice was formed.

“We are the people of Seattle,” Nas said about the collective.

The group is made up of students, educators, bartenders, parents, business owners, and residents. While it is Black led, Nas said they recognize the importance of their allies and fight for the rights of all people.

The response to the survey was 90% white, which Jesse Miller says reflects the population of the CHOP.

“This is … pretty much a 90% white place,” she said. “But we are very happy to be here sharing the space because we need you, you need us.”

Nas also clarified that taking the East Precinct was, and is, not the end goal in this movement.

“Today we want to be clear: The East Precinct was never the goal of the Black Collective or our allies on the ground at the CHOP,” she said. “We did not choose the East Precinct or Cal Anderson Park as the epicenter of our work.”

Rather, Nas says the location was chosen by police when they stood in front of protesters on Pine Street.

There are gardens, food, medical aid, and security at the CHOP, and it provided a space for the Black Collective Voice to meet, organize, and grow in the movement, Nas said.

However, the group rejects the false narrative that protesting caused the crime as violence, homeless issues, and drug use have always been a problem in the area and the city.

“Governing bodies have continued to fail at resolving these issues,” Nas said, despite clear communication from Black, POC, and community leaders who are among those impacted the most by these issues.

CHOP streets quieter after shootings, but protesters vow they’ll remain

There have been attempts to dismantle, threaten, and undermine the CHOP, Nas said, and the actions of protesters and organizers have been mischaracterized in order to justify excessive force.

“We will not be bought off,” she said. “We will not attend meetings where the goal is to buy us off. We are here to dismantle systemic racism.”

The shared experiences of police brutality and misrepresentation has brought the community closer over the past few days and weeks, Nas added.

Even if officials or police force activists out of the CHOP, Nas assured that the movement will not stop.

“We now prepare to mobilize,” she said.

The Black Collective Voice plans to take action through education and collaboration in public spaces everywhere. The group also wants the demands of the people to be met, including to defund SPD by at least 50%, use that money to fund restorative justice, housing, and health care, and to release all protesters.

Until the demands are met, Nas said, they will continue to organize and strategize, and will keep strategizing even after the demands are met. The group plans to continue exercising their first amendment rights.

Nas said as long as the people of Seattle hold the space at the CHOP and want to be there, Black Collective Voice will be there as well to educate and empower.

“Our movement to liberate black lives is not limited to one space,” Nas said.

Future of CHOP ‘fluid’ as as protesters mull next steps

Henderson and Nas both said collaboration with other people and organizations is essential to the group’s mission moving forward.

“We are a collective, we are representing the Black voices and the ally voices in this space,” Henderson said. “We are looking to collaborate and bring all voices into the collective.”

Read more about the Black Collective Voice on their website here.

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Black Collective Voice forms in Seattle to educate and empower the people