Why I Will Not Be Attending R. Kelly's Baltimore Show

Why I Will Not Be Attending R. Kelly's Baltimore Show

To Whom It May Concern,

It has come to my attention that R. Kelly is scheduled to perform on July 29 at Pier Six Pavilion in Baltimore, Maryland. I am writing on behalf of countless black women and their supporters who see this as a problem despite decades upon decades of allegations of sexual misconduct.

I am writing to say that this is unacceptable. 

I am writing to say that I don't condone the silencing of black girls, women and anyone else who are survivors and victims of various forms of abuse. 

I am writing to say that I am standing up against institutional sexism, prejudice and discrimination that continues to thrive because the suffering of black women is profitable. 

I am writing to say that I am committed to speaking out about those who have harmed black girls and women in a variety of spaces who have gotten away without being held accountable. 

If you have not been paying attention, please read here, here and here of why institutional sexism is a huge problem. After you read those, do a Google search and read some more. 

I fully understand the need for community healing to in order to resolve these issues, but I also know it's almost impossible to claim healing without first acknowledging what's actually happening. Nothing works like that. 

I do not accept the notion that black women should forgive and forget for the sake of “good” music or liberation because there are so called "bigger" issues to worry about. I will not prioritize racism over sexism. This narrative is dead to me. 

If we matter, show it. This goes for everybody - Including people who look like us. 

Move beyond rhetoric. If you use social media to talk about protecting to black women for likes and shares, but don't do it in real life, investigate that. If me speaking on these issues angers you, investigate that. 

Believe Black women when we say rape jokes aren't funny. Believe black women when we say that we're not being heard. There is NO debate about this. 

By ignoring these allegations, it sends a strong message that we don’t matter. It sends a strong message that it's business as usual. How can that be in a predominately black city like Baltimore? 

I don't need the criminal justice system to understand that issues such as police brutality is a problem. Surely, I don't need the criminal justice system to determine if rape culture is a real issue either. 

Whether the show happens or not, I do not support R. Kelly performing in Baltimore on July 29 and I know I am not alone. 

Regards, 
Brittany Oliver

 

Reflections: Sisters Gathering To Heal

Reflections: Sisters Gathering To Heal

Today, I attended the 6th Annual Sisters Gathering to Heal at Druid Hill Park for the first time and it was one of the most life-changing experiences to date. The theme was centered on unapologetic radical self-love for the mind, body and spirit. I met over 100+ sister friends who made me feel loved, appreciated and affirmed. The space was only for black women too, which made this experience all the more empowering. 

Black women represent the roots of the earth. All peoples, all communities, all movements. And, we take on everyone's burden. 

I learned that being broken will not be the beginning and ending of my story. 

These women told that my name meant something and while I became anxious when hearing that, I leaned into it. Yeah, my name does means something. 

I cried out the trauma in my body and I was given tight hugs by women whom I had never met before, but it was okay. 

For me, this is growth. 

To be held. To be protected. To have 100+ beautiful black women stand up for me, both privately and publicly. No shame. 

To hear other stories. To share my own. To speak freely and not be corrected. To be emotional and not be deemed unworthy. 

These women made a commitment to invest in me because to them, I was worthy. To them, I was a rose trying to grow from concrete just like everyone else. 

They loved me in that moment as I transformed into the truest, highest version of myself.

They made me feel like I was human. Not an idea. Not an agenda. 

I buried my feet into the dirt. I touched the warmth of grass. The sunlight kissed my face. 

I drained all of my energy just regained it back in the end.

I told myself over and over again that I am enough. 

I am enough. 

This is my awakening.

Thank you. 

Movements of Oppression Solidarity & Hope: A PopUp Photo Exhibit

Movements of Oppression Solidarity & Hope: A PopUp Photo Exhibit

In July 2016, I went to Palestine on an activist delegation to speak directly with Palestinians resisting racism, military occupation and colonialism to explore intersectionality between the struggles of communities of color. 

The goal was to document as much as I could so I could bring this conversation back home to my community. Well, after I returned to Baltimore, I lost my uncle to due to gun violence and had to put a hold on several project, which included this. 

Several months later, my friend and fellow delegation participant Tracey Lynnelle Rogers decided to organize and curate an exhibit called "Movements of Oppression, Solidarity, and Hope," a photo exhibit inspired by our trip to Palestine, with the intention of inspiring folks to action. Tracey asked me to submit images for the exhibit and my work was featured in the kick-off show, which took place on June 28. 

The images featured reflect shared struggles of oppression amongst various human rights and justice campaigns - namely Black Lives Matter, Palestinian Human Rights, and Standing Rock - along with a shared hope for change through solidarity. 

This was my first time revisiting these images since that experience and because of her, I am forever grateful. I know my uncle would've wanted me to carry out my goal of sharing the Palestinian experience. I truly appreciate everyone who has been supporting me along the way. 

 

What's Next After All The Marches? Organize.

What's Next After All The Marches? Organize.

Since I wrote "Why I Do Not Support The Women's March on Washington," in November, many people have contacted me wanting guidance on whether or not they should attend, so let's get to it. 

The answer is quite simple. If you want to go, you should go. If you don't want to go, you shouldn't. Make whatever decision you'd like, which is something I've advocated for since the very beginning.

However, after the marches are over,  people should seriously consider the following questions: 

  • What will you commit to do after the march? 
  • Do you know which organizations get funded and which ones don't? Why? 
  • When you donate, do you know what it's being spent on? 
  • What types of people are being given opportunities to speak? People from that community or people outside of that community? 
  • How and why do certain issues become top priorities for who and why? 
  • Which strategies worked and didn't work in the past? The organization you trust should be able to explain this and if they can't, you should reevaluate your commitment. 

These are questions that we should always asking ourselves and if we can't have dialogue about it, then what's the point? 

My concerns with the organizers claiming to represent me from a viral Facebook event is not about "personal politics" or "call-out culture" -- both of these terms support white supremacy and have been created to dodge accountability because conforming to the status quo is much easier and more comfortable than challenging it. 

Despite the cooptation of the historic 1997 Million Woman March by Dr. Phile Chionesu (featured below), this is actually quite bigger than the name. It's more than recruiting women of color. It's about principle and erasure of work that black women already did.

Additionally, structural and institutional racism did not start with Donald Trump and in fact, it is ingrained into our entire political system. Racism may not have been real to people who have had the privilege of not dealing with it, which ultimately means these people have been ignoring what Black people have been saying since our very existence.

This is why it' important to give credit where credit it is due. to Black people, especially black women. This is what Dr. Chionesu did and she deserves recognition for her efforts.   

Case in point, the Baltimore Uprising took place in 2015 and there has been little change in our communities, a predominantly Black city. Where was Pantsuit Nation for Black women and girls when our city was on fire? North Ave still looks the same. The officers who were involved in the death of Freddie Gray got off free and the performance activists who came here to take savior-complex selfies for social media are gone. Sure, the consent decree was filed in January, but if you know the history, you know we've got a long way to go. 

What I'm trying to say is..this is real life. This is serious. These are Black people's lives at stake. I have a right to demand more because my ancestors paved the way for me to do so. 

Marching is a tool, not a goal. If you have no plan before and after the march, it will not be sustainable. It will merely just be a memory and that won't be powerful enough to overcome ANY racist administration. Solidarity that is not connected to concrete investment in Black grassroots collective enterprises and organizations is exploitation.

Building a Movement to End the New Jim Crow

Building a Movement to End the New Jim Crow

Whether it's in office spaces or in living rooms, Black women and their communities have been doing work before and they'll likely never get asked to be on the cover of Vogue Magazine. 

Some talk, others tweet, but there are people who do work every single day even when the cameras are turned off. The success of individuals don't equate to the masses. 

Ignoring power dynamics in mainstream feminism or women's rights generally is racist, unproductive and one of the many reason why it does not resonate to the masses suffering. Overall, if Trump being elected was shocking, it's because you were not listening. 

Grassroots work is not sexy, but the revolution will not happen on Facebook live. Don't talk about social justice if you're not ready to call out discriminatory systems that sometimes even YOU benefit from.

Since the Baltimore Uprising and especially now after the election results, I've been thinking a lot about what I am actually doing to make a difference.. While I am very proud of the work I've done so far, I can do better. In fact, we all can do better as advocates. 

Overall, if you want to march to represent inclusion, by all means, stand in your truth. But afterwards, if the current social, political and economic state and conditions of Black people continue, be bold enough to stand up and say enough is enough because you know what's real outside of the catchy buzzwords and phrases that claim we are all the same. In theory we are, but our current laws, systems and institutions prove otherwise. That's it. No magic. No tricks. 

If you want my recommendations for Black-led efforts that promote autonomy in Baltimore, please take a moment to support (donate, volunteer, etc) the list below. These organizations believed black lives mattered before it became a hashtag:

I'll also include a list of a few of my favorite organizing resources: 

I appreciate all those who have been supportive along the way.  I hope this helps. 

Peace, 

Brittany T. Oliver 

Baltimore Corps

Baltimore Corps

"I come from a small close-knit family that taught me how to stand up for myself. My mother and grandmother raised me - That’s where it all began.

Throughout my work, I’ve learned a lot about what it means to make a difference. It’s about activating people to actually do something before and after the march. It’s about working to improve the social, political and economic conditions of our communities. It’s about setting a higher standard for what it really means for my people to be free. 

I’m well aware of the powerful psychological influences the media has on what we think about the value of Black life in America and it’s important not to downplay its effect.

If you know Black history outside of the two pages we’re given in most history books, you should know our lives didn’t begin and end with slavery.

The assumption is often that our communities can’t do for themselves. There are people who write books and think pieces about Black communities without ever stepping foot in them. Why? Because our suffering is profitable for issues and industries of all kinds.

Instead of working to dismantle oppressive systems that work to erase us, Black people have merely become subject matters of society.

As advocates, we should always be asking ourselves, how can we do better? How can we check and use our privileges to funnel resources to those most impacted? How can we build a table instead of waiting to be asked to sit down at one?

Personally, my goal is to uplift the voices of Black women and find ways to shift power their way. It’s time to change the conversation and take back our narrative about what it means to fight for our rights as women. Because if I'm not working towards justice, then I'm just working to maintain order." - Brittany Oliver

Reposted from Baltimore Corps

Rest in Peace Hue

Rest in Peace Hue

On Friday, August 5, my uncle, David Lamont Hill a.k.a Hue, was murdered in West Baltimore. 1618 McCulloh St is the location of where he was last sitting and took his last breath

There are many people who don't know this, but Old West Baltimore is where I am from, it’s where my family is from. Although we moved from this neighborhood years ago, my uncle's heart never left the community that raised him. His roots are there, our roots are there and they will be forever. At the same time, how am I supposed to bear the bullet wounds of my uncle and still continue to have the strength to fight so hard for black lives? 

Nothing has burned my heart so much like the emptiness of losing him. There is no greater pain than this, but I will continue to carry his wounds until my family is granted justice.

Morgan State Vibes...

Morgan State Vibes...

Introducing the 2016 fellows of the Benjamin Quarles Research Institute at Morgan State University. Today, Dr. Natasha C. Pratt-Harris and her students interviewed me for a discussion about the intersections of race, class and gender regarding state sanctioned police violence for scholarly research. They are awesome students and I'm glad I was able to spend my evening with them.