#NJRR Live #Black Lives Matter, Whose Message Is It?

Hello and Welcome to NJRR!

Welcome to the NJRR Live Show! #NJRR Live is dedicated to the mission of New Jersey Revolution Radio, which is fostering art and activism. Currently, activists from around the world are stepping up in a way that we have never seen before. Tonight we are honored to welcome guests Kim Meudt and Dr. La’Tesha Sampson! 

We open up with a discussion with Kim about weed. Kim Meudt is an activist from Bellmawr in Camden County, New Jersey who does work for the Green Party. She has been working in the healthcare field for two decades. When medical marijuana was first legalized in California, she did a lot of research on its positive health impacts. She was shocked by how many people didn’t know much about a plant with such huge potential. For example, it’s safer from an addiction standpoint to use cannabis than opiates to treat pain. 

Cannabis Research: What’s The Holdup? 

Many people, Kim recalls, were unaware of the numerous benefits of CBD, a compound found in the cannabis plant that does not induce a high in the user. Unfortunately, due to federal laws that severely limit research on cannabis, not enough solid information is known about the science behind the plant. Due to both strict research regulations and societal taboo, progress on medical marijuana policy and science in America and New Jersey has been impeded.

If one wishes to do research on the medical benefits of cannabis, it is productive to look at research done in other countries. For example, Israel has done a lot of research on the cannabis plant. In America, buyers can often get less expensive yet higher quality flower from casual dealers than from dispensaries. Certain states, such as Maine and Oregon, are fostering local economies by having relatively loose dispensary laws and normalizing retail. However, New Jersey has not followed suit with any proposals for legalization thus far. 

The Situation in Camden

One of the issues that is getting the most attention right now is the call to defund or abolish the police. People have been saying that the police in Camden were defunded, but this is not the whole story. Kim fills us in on what actually happened. Two years before the Camden City police department was disbanded, the police force was cut in half. Crime rates went up and this served as a reason to cut funding to the police in 2013. The defunded force was forcibly taken over by the state, and officers would be paid less and given less training. 

The truth of the matter is that what Camden needs are resources and funding put towards the community: for example, education, employment programs, proper housing, and improved food services. The solution is not simply different policing just as it is not simply more policing. Solutions need to be positive. You can’t arrest your way out of every problem. If somebody’s having a drug overdose, a gun is not what is required. Our country sends armed, militarized police to respond to every call and there is a problem with that. Generally, American cops don’t learn to de-escalate, on the contrary, they are often interested in escalation. This is opposed to people in other professions, who are trained specifically to de-escalate in tense situations. 

Brian shares that he recently learned through his network of organizers of a mutual aid march in Newark. The participants of the march tried to provide food, baby supplies, and diapers, but were intercepted by city officials. Disgustingly, depriving people that were in need of these supplies was an organized attack effort led by the local government. 

Our Special Guest, Dr. La’Tesha Sampson 

Dr. La’Tesha Sampson joins us from her agency, Great Joy Counseling and Consulting Services (@greatjoycounseling) to have a discussion about about the grassroots movement and how its messaging often gets diluted and even lost to co-opting. Brian met Dr. La’Tesha at a protest and was drawn to her by her inspiring energy. She was at the protest because it was important to her to do her part in demonstrating what it is like living as a Black person in Clark.  Clark is historically a mostly white town, as a result of a process called redlining. Dr. La’Tesha used her skills as a counselor to gather everyone at the protest together and create a powerful energy of unity. 

In American schools, we are taught a severe distortion of history. Brian, for example, remembers growing up in Clark and hearing in history class that it “wasn’t that bad” to be a slave in Louisiana because they were allowed to have apartments. History has often been taught through a white, privileged perspective in American communities.

The Black Lives Matter Movement

Dr. La’Tesha has been conducting research into the Black Lives Matter movement. She notes that she is not trying to disparage the movement, but rather comment on the truthful matter of her discoveries.  Something that LaTesha has an issue with regarding the movement is a lack of images of men being used for messaging. It is important to be mindful of imagery and who is leading movements. For example, if you are going to start a Black Lives Matter chapter, the first step is to be Black. 

Black women occupy a uniquely challenging position in society. One of the ways in which this manifests is that they are grossly underrepresented in professional settings. For example, only approximately 4 percent of female psychiatrists are Black, even though 14 percent of the United States population is Black. Black women need to be brought to the forefront of society.

Going Further

Something that almost anyone who has engaged in that uncomfortable conversation with their racist relative at the dinner table has heard is “I don’t see color.” However, this statement is problematic for a multitude of reasons. Erasing color is erasing shared experiences and culture. People should not claim that they don’t see color, but rather should recognize color for its struggles and acknowledge the color for its uniqueness. Especially in the current climate, when people are more open to hear about the unique experiences of Black people in America, it is the time to be having these conversations. It is the duty of anyone who calls themselves an ally.

However, this is not enough. We cannot stop trying to better ourselves and those around us for the sake of the Black community. At this point, Dr. Le’Tesha has led 8 different protests. A lot of people have asked her after a protest: “so what do we do now?” Dr. La’Tesha explains that it is crucial to continually educate oneself. We can’t be vague. We need to give people the tools to bring about change.  Dr. La’Tesha will be running an anti-racism curriculum training starting via Zoom on June 30th and running 4 Tuesday classes in 4 weeks. 

One of Dr. La’Tesha’s go-to facts is that if you attend protests but you are unwilling to have those uncomfortable conversations at the dinner table with your racist uncle, it is a problem. Performative activism is not what is truly needed right now. The movement requires genuine efforts rooted in a desire for positive change and social justice, and these efforts translate into all parts of one’s life.

Destructive Narratives

Voting is not the solution. It is part of the solution, but it is not all that we can do. Some politicians will try to push the narrative that voting is the ultimate effort, and in response, we need to be questioning why this is what they want us to believe. Another problematic narrative is that the solution to systemic racism and poverty is somehow to “stop destroying your own community.” Dr. La’Tesha remarks that another particularly annoying narrative is the All Lives Matter movement, which attempts to erase the fact that Black people are the ones that are disproportionately affected by over-policing and police violence. 

People need to be educated because if they don’t understand these things, it is easy for them to continue being ignorant. Dr. La’Tesha encourages listeners and readers to visit her website, GreatJoyCounseling.org, and connect with her there. She is also on Facebook and Twitter, where you can connect with her and get information about upcoming events.

Thank You Very Much!

Thank you very much for joining us here at NJRR Live. We’ll be coming at you weekly on Wednesday night at 8:00PM EST! Our show streams live on Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter. We can get more done with your donation, no matter how small. We take Paypal, Venmo and more on our donations page. Sponsors are welcome! Run your message on our ticker or have a show mention during our commercial break! Contact info@njrevolutionradio.com for more information. We look forward to seeing you all next week! 

-Leah Giannantonio, for New Jersey Revolution Radio

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