In the months since George Floyd’s murder, Black people have been leading a multiracial upheaval against police violence and white supremacy across the United States. But as many in the movement recognize, the struggle is international.
Black August is a month-long commemoration of Black freedom fighters — both their resistance and their sacrifices. This Black August, Grassroots International is proud to restate our solidarity with Black lives, here and around the world.
Solidarity In More Than Words
“The same corporations and military that uniquely harm Black people in the United States play a role in repressing and killing Black people globally,” writes the Movement for Black Lives in its “A Global Black Call to Action,” released for Juneteenth (June 19th). “Whether it is in fighting police brutality in the United States, Brazil, or Europe, or calling for an end to European control over western and central African economies, this is a historic moment that centers the legacy and ongoing work to defend Black lives.”
Grassroots International fully endorses this statement, and we’re going one step further. We need concrete solidarity for the Black human rights defenders on the frontlines.
We need to demand justice for Black defenders like Edwin Fernandez in Honduras. While organizing COVID-19 relief in his Afro-descendant Garifuna community with OFRANEH (the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras, a Grassroots International partner), he was murdered.
We need to support Black defenders like Kone Massa from West Africa. On June 19th, armed thugs dressed in military garb entered Kone’s home and terrorized his family. Kone is a spokesperson for the Malian Convergence Against Land Grabbing (CMAT, a Grassroots International grantee).
We need to stand in solidarity with Black defenders like the Afro-descendent Quilombola community in Alcântara, Brazil. Just a few months ago, the Jair Bolsonaro government announced its preparations to violently expel the community so that a nearby military base could expand.
COVID-19 is supercharging racist state violence around the world, as governments think (often wrongly) they can terrorize with even more impunity. Responding to these intersecting emergencies demands deep and long-term commitment, directed by movements and affected peoples themselves.
A Global Black August
Amid a nationwide uprising against deep-seated white supremacy, amid a pandemic that has killed Black Americans at 3.6 times the rate of Whites, we can clearly hear the calls for justice we need to amplify here.
Yet our bullhorn needs to pick up more than just voices in this country. In each of the examples listed above, we can lay much of the violence these communities face at the feet of U.S. corporate and state power.
Honduras: Military and Narco Violence Against Activists
The United States backed the illegal 2009 coup against Honduras’s democratically elected government. Since then, the U.S. has continued to send millions of dollars to aid the Honduran government’s violent clampdowns. The U.S. government has helped create a country where, in the words of one Indigenous activist, “99% of the cases, hate crimes and violent deaths, are not being investigated.” Edwin Fernandez is just one recent casualty.
With COVID, the military and vigilantes have taken the opportunity to commit more violence. As OFRANEH reported to us just days before Edwin’s murder: “[T]he police came in and threatened to disperse a blockade we had self-organized to protect our community and safeguard ourselves from the virus. The response of the military has been to protect the interests of corporations.”
A couple months later, in mid-July, armed men in police uniforms abducted five more community leaders. Under the slogan “Las Vidas Garifunas Importan!” (“Garifuna Lives Matter”), OFRANEH has continued to demand their release.
Despite the continued threats, Black Garifuna communities still organize. Grassroots International has supported OFRANEH’s work for years. They’ve won reparations in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and built sustainable local food systems.
With $5,000 from Grassroots’ COVID emergency funding, OFRANEH has distributed community health manuals, organized teams to educate and provide masks and sanitizer, and set up security checkpoints to maintain quarantine. Grassroots will continue to stand with the Garifuna, including by putting pressure on the Honduran government.
Mali: Land Grabbers Threatening a Voice for Justice
International industrial farming companies have used the Malian military and police to push small farmers off their land to make room for mega-farms. Among the multinationals rushing to Mali is Alabama-based Southern Global Inc. It has swallowed up 30,000 hectares of Malian land for rice investments.
But much like the struggle against police violence here, small farmers and peasants in Mali have been waging a years-long struggle for justice and against violent land grabs. As Kone Massa has spoken out against murders of such farmers, he has become a target himself.
Grassroots International funded CMAT’s 2019 “Rights to Land, Water and Peasant Agroecology” caravan to better coordinate movements across West Africa. In the last few months, we provided a $5,000 grant for CMAT’s COVID-19 education programs and sanitation supplies.
Brazil: Land and Lives Under Threat
US interests sit at the heart of the attack on Afro-Indigenous Quilombolas in Alcântara, Brazil. The Brazilian military and space base in Alcântara is expanding operations on the back of a Brazil-US agreement. The agreement allows US agencies and private corporations to use the base’s missile launch pads as a way to capitalize on the burgeoning microsatellite market. A previous attempt was halted in 2003 by the Lula government and Brazilian lawmakers.
Since the announcement of the US-Brazil deal, Grassroots International has sent $20,000 to support Quilombolas’ organizing. Under the cover of COVID, the Brazilian government continues to try and push out the Quilombolas from their homes. As the fight goes on, we will continue to stand with these communities against land grabs.
Creating a Global Counter-Weight
The Movement for Black Lives is absolutely right: we face the same corporate and military power here as Black people face in Honduras, Mali, Brazil and beyond. Global solidarity, then, is not just a call to conscience. We must create a necessary counter-weight based on shared interests, against the forces who put profit and power ahead of public health and social justice.
Grassroots International will continue to play our role — linking up people seeking to defend justice, liberation and human life in this country with movements seeking justice and liberation everywhere else. With solidarity, another world is possible.