Letter to the editor: Backing and donating to Biden, but hoping for more

This letter is an edited version of the original, which Patricia Heather-Lea sent to Joe Biden on June 29 with her $15 donation. 

LET US ALL BREATHE AND BUILD COMMUNITY.” That was my message on the sign I held at a Black Lives Matter vigil in our town of Bristol, Vt. I listened to you talking with Trevor Noah on his “Daily Social Distancing Show,” posted June 10, entitled, “Reforming the Police.” Trevor asked some very pointed questions: “How do you plan to undo systemic oppression? How do you plan to undo systemic racism? How will you address the needs of the African-American community?”

I was very surprised that you never mentioned the Community Safety Initiative CAHOOTS in Eugene, Ore. Here are some of the program’s main ideas. “The Community Safety System includes police, fire, 911, municipal court, prevention and social services, which are interdependent and work together. They plan on providing faster, more efficient safety response, deter crime, connect people to services, engage and help at-risk youth.” I believe this program is a model to consider when solving this immense problem of “Reforming the Police”.

Frankly, I want more from you, Mr. Vice President Joe Biden. I want you to act presidential. Act as if you have some power, because you do. Use your power. The time has come for our nation to heal through community building. If you do become president of our United States, consider a new cabinet position, Secretary of Community Building. Actually, there already exist many workers developing and working with communities to enrich the lives of all who live in those communities. Right now, you can acknowledge that work. Do not wait. You can also find ways to financially support this vital work. 

In these times, I have been led to listen to three people who have changed my life. Those three people are Dante Barry, Kimberly L. Jones, and John M. Perkins. Dante Barry is a Black writer, grassroots organizer, and Executive Director of the Million Hoodies Movement for Justice. Kimberly L. Jones is a Black activist, author and filmmaker. John M. Perkins is a Black Evangelical preacher, civil rights activist, author, and community developer. I invite you, also, to listen. I hope their words guide you into some form of action.

Dante Barry collaborated with MoveOn.org and made a two-minute video, “Police violence is gun violence.” Go to YouTube and watch it. Here are some of Dante’s words. “We have to get to the root of understanding how Black communities have been criminalized and how other people of color communities have been criminalized. And if we actually reimagine what safety looks like, just think for a second and imagine what makes you feel safe. Preventing gun violence is about having healthcare. It’s about having affordable housing, quality jobs, and livable wages. Preventing gun violence is about having a social safety net that’s actually going to keep us safe and free. Safety is freedom. And safety is power.”

John M. Perkins tells his story in the 21-minute documentary called, “Redemption: The John M. Perkins Story.” You can access this documentary on YouTube. Here are some quotes from the documentary. 

“I believe love and justice are one in the same.”

“Compassion is an action word.”

In response to being tortured by jailers: “When I saw the ugliness of hatred, I said, ‘Oh boy, if I had a ton of hand grenades I would kill me and all the people in there.’ I just felt I hated them back. I hated them as bad as they hated me. Then I saw that I was a bigot too.”

“You kill people easy when you take their humanity away.”

“I see humanity as broken equally — Black and White.”

“We are washing each other’s wounds.” 

When asked, “What is the point to protesting?” John answered, “It’s the body’s reaction to oppression.”

John M. Perkins was a leading force behind the integration of Mendenhall, Miss., in the early 70s. Please research the work currently being done by the John and Vera Mae Perkins Foundation in Jackson, Miss.

Thank you, Mr. Vice President Joe Biden, for reading and listening. Please follow through with actions. We need plans in place. Our communities want to heal. Our nation longs to heal. No less than a moral revival needs to happen in our country. Just ask the Reverend William Barber, leader of The Poor People’s Campaign. Lastly, please read and listen to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s last sentence of his May 30, Los Angeles Times Op-Ed: “What I want to see is not a rush to judgment, but a rush to justice.”

You wrote in your campaign contribution request postcard, “Our best days still lie ahead. Together we will choose hope over fear, unity over division and truth over lies.” Do not wait until you become president. Act now. Do not create one more campaign promise so easily it becomes another lie. Start conversations with community organizers. They are the movers and shakers in our country. Pay them tribute.

Patricia Heather-Lea


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