Our Fight is Not Footage: Understanding the Movement Grift by Talesha Wilson
As a West End Louisville grassroots organizer, I stand in solidarity with #SamariaRice, the mother of Tamir Rice in the calling out of the exploitative behavior of Until Freedom. Let me first start off by saying this. People in Louisville were never upset about Until Freedom coming to the city to help amplify a name. Never. Our initial issue was only that they came without making connections with people on the ground doing the actual work.
I’m gonna start from the beginning because I don’t want people across the world to be as naive as many people were in Louisville. This could easily be someone else’s city. It will be someone else’s city if accountability isn’t taken. A little background: I’m an organizer, been involved in community organizing 10+ yrs. movement work 5+ yrs, facilitating Direct Action Trainings (DAT’s) since day 3 of the movement(100+) Affiliations: Black Lives Matter Louisville & Change Today Change Tomorrow. Because transparency is important.
I first learned about Until Freedom by being invited from a FB post to dinner. The person who invited me is irrelevant now, but will be relevant a little later. Yandy Smith and some other folks were there, Tamika & Linda talked about marching to the KY capital on June 25th. Now, I’d never heard of these folks at the time. But everyone introduced themselves and we talked about our roles in this current uprising. I felt motivated, strong, they were saying empowering things. And they spoke about being 25+ years in the game organizing, so hell yeah.
So the next day, with my orange t shirt they gave me the day before and marched (well I was in my car cause it was hot) to the capitol. Get there, stage blocked off, no water in sight, people passing out, only 3 people from Louisville got a word in. It was a shit show y’all.
A few days later, they announced that they’re coming back to Louisville w/o talking to organizers on the ground. So I made a quick FB live about that and the person who invited me to the dinner asked for me to get on a call with Tamika and other Louisville organizers. At this point, Until Freedom had stated they were doing a training and talked about plans to get arrested, and had requested people register with their ID, SSN, with no transparency about what this action was. Who would agree to go to jail w/o knowing why they are going?
We asked for more info about the plan of action, security measures, jail support, & raised concerns about Frankfort. & when asked if they had a plan of action for if TGNC ppl get arrested, she was told by their “Louisville liaison” that this may not be the action for you. Fast forward to this “training." They had every local news channel and every local live streamer in there, recording their every move, action, & plan. You can check out the Twitter thread for yourself.
First of all that shit is mad dangerous & as folks who been organizing for 25+ yrs, you should know not to have media recording and tweeting during any sort of training. What in the security culture was that? Also, up until this time, ppl still didn’t know what the action was. It wasn’t until I told their now Louisville “little bro,” to tell them to get the media out, that they asked them to wait outside until it was time to follow them. So people aimlessly got on buses, and walked to an unknowing location. Daniel Cameron’s house, leading to....
People in Louisville faced felonies. Poor people. People with no money. People with no jobs. People who would have to deal with the police after all there cameras were gone. People who don’t have their celebrity status to depend on after they get arrested.
Still, no contact with organizers...then came the madness...
I ain’t even gotta say much about that, y’all get the picture. So, then comes the fall/winter months. They decide to pass out foods. Change Today Change Tomorow is a local organization that since June 2020 has delivered free groceries to over 100,000 families. You think they reached out? Nope. Instead, they connected with Louisville Urban League (LUL) our favorite local Black Elite org. Every city has its favorite Black Elite, LUL is ours. They don’t even do food justice. That’s a thread for another day. Their “Louisville Liaison” passed out boxes of food in a local public housing complex but instructed people not to hand folks food until the cameras got there. I cannot make this the fuck up.
I almost forgot. Like I said, I facilitate Direct Action Trainings (DAT’s). For about a month, we organized a beautiful strategically planned action. They posted about how we in Louisville throw down, but didn’t even attempt to connect to the organizer once they got here. We did that shit!!!
Then they take folks from Louisville to New York & that was cute but Louisville folks filled those streets, made Until Freedom look good. People were sending them donations for the work folks down here on the ground were doing. Honestly, this isn’t even half of it. Only what I have the capacity to write about tonight. The shit is honestly sad because so many new protesters trusted and believed in Until Freedom, but they overstepped like a mf and benefited from the work being done on the ground.
Then comes March 13, 2021, a day where we wanted to uplift and feel love. An outsider comes to our city to remind us that despite their invasiveness, she doesn’t give a damn about us...in our own damn city y’all.
The disrespect was real. Telling folks to walk behind them, in our own fucking city. Only wanting the cameras in front of them to get footage for the season finale footage for Real housewives or Love & Hip Hop. It was disgusting. It was disheartening. People were let down. All of this could have been avoided with connecting with people outside of who was trying to ride a wave and actually fighting for Black Liberation. Our fight isn’t footage.
And another damn thing. I don’t believe anyone should do this work for free. White people should be opening their pockets daily to Black folks. But I would never profit from another city, especially without assuring the folks on the ground have everything they need plus more. The point I’m making is: stop coming to Louisville to monetize and exploit. And it doesn’t have to be intentional for it to be true. Stop doing the shit. Connect with actual organizers to avoid these distracting conflicts. Lastly, this is our fucking city. These are our streets. Fuck all that other shit. This is a movement, not a moment, and for damn sure not anyone’s 15 minutes of entertainment. Lives are at stake. IT IS OUR DUTY