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With the nation in turmoil following several protests in the wake of the murder of an unarmed black man in Minneapolis, a local organization invited the community to come together and listen.
Craft Cultura, a Chicanx community organization, invited members of the community to participate in Black Lives Matter on the Border: A Community Discussion in Edinburg.
The event, held Thursday, June 4, occurred in response to the murder of George Floyd, who was killed after a police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly 9 minutes. For Craft Cultura Founder Misael Ramirez, the tragedy came as a stark reminder to stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
“This event wasn’t even planned two days ago. I was just so numb and didn’t know what to do after George Floyd,” Ramirez said, noting that Floyd’s murder came a few weeks after the deadly shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed black man who was killed while jogging in Georgia, and Breonna Taylor, a black EMT in Kentucky who was shot by police in her home.
All three incidents have led to protests across the world calling for police reform and disbandment and justice for victims of police brutality.
“We see another incident of state-sanctioned violence and you just become numb to it,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez served as moderator of the discussion to allow attendees to check in with each other, vent on the current events, and create network opportunities for attendees to mobilize changes that can be made.
“There’s 1.3 million folks in the RGV and if we mobilize and organize, we can also create the change we want to see,” Ramirez said. “The liberation of our black brothers and sisters means the liberation for all of us. It’s important to understand the history of the historical violence that has been forced upon us on the border and the rest of the country. It’s important to have that information and be active in our communities.”
More than 50 people showed up to the discussion with a dozen of them speaking. The speakers included people who discussed their encounters with racism in and out of the Valley.
The discussion preceded three Black Lives Matter protests over the weekend in Edinburg and McAllen which, with the exception of a counter-protestor arrested for charging at protestors in McAllen on Friday, were reportedly peaceful.
Among the speakers was Edinburg resident Nathaniel Mata who said prior to the event that a community discussion stood out for him at a time of unrest.
“Hearing someone else’s perspective could give you some new ideas that you haven’t thought about. It’s something productive and I wanted to be part of it,” Mata said. “ Protests around the country are happening and sometimes people see them and don’t understand what the message is, but once you cut through the anger and the discussions of ‘should it be peaceful or not’ you could really get down to the issues: There is a lot of pain that black people have felt and Latinos and brown people have also faced.”
Mata, who described himself as “Afro-Latino,” recalled moments of racism he encountered such as being made fun of for his natural hair and having to pretend to be Puerto Rican with his then-girlfriend’s racist father.
“I want to say this is what I went through and these are some things I want people to hear,” Mata said. “Even though this is an area that is mostly Latino, black people and Latinos have gone through a lot of things that are similar from suppressions, there are common struggles and once you find them it’s easier to connect instead of divide.”
Ramirez said he is hopeful the crowd of people willing to listen to each other is a sign of much needed change.
“We’re not as patient as past generations and we’re here to say that we won’t tolerate any more oppression, “Ramirez said. “We’re going to make sure that in 10 years, the kids that are eight right now will have a better life… we’re going to keep the ball rolling, keep letting our black brothers and sisters on the border know we got their backs. Whatever they need, black lives are welcome in the Valley.”