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July 20, 2020

The Honorable Steven Reed Mayor,
City of Montgomery, AL
Mr. Ernest Finley
Chief, Montgomery Police Department

Dear Mayor Reed and Chief Finley,

Well over 40 years ago, a few of us, seriously engaged in the continuing struggle for liberation of people of African descent in the United States, began to grapple with the profound question, “What will happen in the coming years when the new master looks like us?” What we are hearing under the leadership and direction of you as the Black Chief of Police and the Black Mayor of Montgomery, Alabama is the quintessential manifestation of our worst nightmare.

In a moment in which the COVID-19 pandemic in Montgomery is at one of the highest levels of prevalence in the nation, we have a situation in which elders are being arrested, stripped searched, and detained for five hours on a misdemeanor charge, ostensibly under your direction and watch. In a time of sacred honor and celebration of the life and legacy of the Honorable John Lewis, one of America’s greatest voices for justice, the son of Alabama whose blood cries out on the yet to be named John Lewis Bridge into Selma, these actions of arresting elders and traumatizing them over a misdemeanor defile the moment. To what end and in whose interests?

In the name of our ancestors and the principles of elder respect endemic to our African tradition, we bear and convey their grief and pain, the sense of betrayal of the transgenerational sacrifices to which we/you were bequeathed. We ask what manner of moral consciousness, political motivation and/or legal justification would compel anyone to take this drastic action?

Let the record reflect that we, elders of African descent, from various walks of life and experiences, find your decisions and behaviors unconscionable, horrifying and an offense to all that is Holy. In our view, you have violated the legacy of John Lewis – an obligation to continue the struggle by our willingness to get into “good trouble.” We stand by our elders, Mayor Johnny Ford, 77 years of age, John Zippert, 75 years of age, and Atty. Faya Rose Toure, 75 years of age, those with them and those who will take up the mantle of “good trouble.” We hope in your solitude you repent for any complicity in national/state sanctioned violence and violation, real and moral, against those whose very sacrifices you have reaped benefit, and now so disrespectfully betray.

In the traditional spirit of Indaba, we do welcome your response.

“A river that forgets it source will certainly dry up.” African Proverb

  • Rev. Dr. Iva E. Carruthers, General Secretary, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Chicago, IL
  • Baba Leonard Dunston, Convener, Black Family Summit, Durham, NC
  • Rick Adams Board Chair IBW 21st Century Pittsburgh, PA
  • Barbara R. Arnwine, Esquire President & Founder Transformative Justice Washington, DC
  • Velma D. Banks, MSW, President, World Community of Social Workers Marshall, TX
  • Herb Boyd, National Journalist & Activist New York, New York
  • Dr. Ron Daniels President, Institute of the Black World 21st Century New York, NY
  • Dr. Cheryl Davenport Dozier Professor and President Emerita
  • Member, Atlanta Chapter, Nat’l Association of Black Social Workers Atlanta, GA
  • Burnett Gallman, MD Convenor of Catalyst Mbongi Columbia, SC
  • Ronald Hampton, Retired Washington, DC Policeman, and Former Executive Director, National Black Police Association Washington, DC
  • Theopia Jackson, PhD, President, The Association of Black Psychologists, Inc. Washington, DC
  • Queen Mother Mashariki Jywanza, Female CO-Chair, National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA) Indianapolis, IN
  • Richard Jones Jr., Adelaide Sanford Institute, Inc Secretary, New York, New York
  • Attorney Irv Joyner, Professor, North Carolina Central University Law School Durham, NC
  • Dr. Maulana Karenga, African American Cultural Center (US)
  • Chair, National Association of Kawaida Organizations Los Angeles, CA
  • Joyce E. King, PhD, Benjamin E. Mays Endowed Chair Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA
  • Nana Patricia Newton, MD CEO/Medical Director
  • Black Psychiatrists of America Baltimore, MD
  • Baba Dr Wade W Nobles, Ifagbemi Sangodare Bejana Onebunne Prof Emeritus, San Francisco State Univ Co founder The ABPsi
  • Jacqui Patterson, Sr. Director, Environmental and Climate Justice Program NAACP Baltimore, MD
  • Margaret Prescod, Host of Pacifica National Radio Show ” Sojourner Truth” National Director, Women of Color Global Women’s Strike, Los Angeles, CA
  • Rosaline Preudhomme, Special Advisor IBW/Black Family Summit, Brooklyn, NY
  • Addie Richburg, President, National Alliance of Faith and Justice Washington, DC
  • Dr. La Francis Rodgers-Rose Founder and CEO, International Black Women’s Congress Norfolk, VA
  • Queen Mother Dr. Adelaide Sanford, Retired Regent, New York State Department of Education Philadelphia, PA
  • The Honorable Esmeralda Simmons, Esq., Former, Deputy Commissioner New York State Office of Human Rights Founder Emerita, Center for Law and Social Justice, Medgar Evers College Brooklyn, New York
  • Gloria Scott, MSW, President, New York City Chapter, Nat’l Assoc. of Black Social Workers New York, New York
  • Dr. Ann E. Smith President Emeritus, Gamaliel Foundation, Chicago, IL
  • Attorney Nkechi Taifa Convener, Justice Roundtable; President, The Taifa Group LLC Washington, DC
  • Susan L. Taylor, Founder and CEO National CARES Mentoring Movement Editor-in-Chief Emerita, Essence Magazine New York, New York
  • Alice G Thompson, CEO, Black Family Development, Inc., Educational Services Detroit, MI
  • The Honorable Al Vann, Former, New York State Assemblyman Former, New York City Councilman Brooklyn, New York
  • The Honorable Rev. JoAnn Watson Detroit Council of Elders, Former, Detroit City Council Woman Detroit, MI
  • Justice Betty J. Williams, Retired, New York State Supreme Court Brooklyn, New York
  • Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. Pastor Emeritus
  • Trinity United Church of Christ Chicago, IL

IBW21 (The Institute of the Black World 21st Century) is committed to enhancing the capacity of Black communities in the U.S. and globally to achieve cultural, social, economic and political equality and an enhanced quality of life for all marginalized people.