From Tracy Breneman about Peekskill
To local media professionals,
I echo the message you received this morning from Mr. Edler about opportunities in Peekskill for transformative leadership. Please recognize that as a member of the media you don’t merely report news; you have the power to decide what gets defined as “news” and that shapes opinion. What you choose to cover makes a difference. What you choose not to cover makes a difference. The frame you choose to put on a story makes a difference. The voices you choose to listen to make a difference. I am asking you to carefully consider these dynamics as you choose whether and how to cover an opportunity for change in Peekskill.
There are important issues being discussed that merit your full attention. Those of us who are not people of color often have a hard time seeing the challenges that confront people of color. It often takes a deliberate act of hate to draw our attention and short of that we prefer to think that racism doesn’t exist anymore, or at least we’re relieved we don’t have to talk about it. But people of color are forced to deal with “business as usual” every single day. By failing to learn to recognize the racism that is woven into the fabric of our society and institutions, we tacitly support its continuation. By not talking about it, we maintain the status quo. By not working to undo social and institutional racism, we inadvertently participate in it.
Something happened recently in Peekskill. Someone finally took the initiative to ask questions and that led to a change. It was a small change, though not insignificant for the lives it impacts, and it’s a signal to me that if someone can recognize unfair treatment of a group of people in one situation, they can learn to recognize it in another. Then perhaps they will take the initiative to make an additional change. And another…
But first we have to learn to recognize it. Several people have been writing to you about this. Aren’t you curious what we’re writing about? Because it seems to me that if you did understand, you would be taking this opportunity to write about it, too. Or maybe you understand too well that the norm in this society is: we don’t talk about racism. When we subscribe to that directive, we ensure that racism will always exist. It’s hard to talk about but we need to start somewhere, and several of us are willing to help work toward productive conversations.
If you do write about what’s happening in Peekskill, please don’t allow yourself to be distracted by predictable diversion tactics. Most people (and especially politicians) will do just about anything to NOT talk about racism. They usually start by calling into question the character of the person(s) who brought the issue of racism to the table. If they can discredit the source, they don’t have to deal with the issue. I think you can choose to see through that and find a way to write about an ounce of positive change that we hope will build momentum.
Monday evening more of us are joining the voices that have been bringing these issues to the City of Peekskill for years. The number of people willing to speak out is quickly rising. I wish that seemed like a scoop to you! At the very least, I hope you will take the opportunity to come listen Monday evening and that you will use your voice to give others an opportunity to listen as well – especially since no video is being released from the last Council meeting and I lack confidence that the City will have the equipment running for the next meeting Monday evening.
Please join us
Monday, at 7:30pm
840 Main Street City Hall
At the last Peekskilll City Council meeting the Cortlandt Peekskill Anti-Racism Collaborative joined the effort to help increase a supportive presence for people who have been voicing concerns about the treatment of residents of Bohlmann Towers and African American employees of the City, but getting no substantive action. Unfortunately, the City’s video equipment had “technical difficulties” shortly after the meeting began so no video has been made available from the Council meeting as it has for previous meetings. We hope the City will resolve the problem before the forthcoming September 27 meeting because it is important that the public has a chance to see there is increasing mobilization around issues of concern and mounting calls for investigation.
You need to know that the increased presence at the September 13 Council meeting made a difference. It’s a small difference for now but confirms that additional presence in this process and open witness to the issues can spark movement. We want to encourage the City to build on that. If someone finally recognized the problem that needed to be addressed in one specific situation, they can learn to see the problem in other situations. Small changes can turn into bigger changes that have an important impact on the lives of people whose voices and concerns have been systematically dismissed. We also want the City to know that we are aware there has been and continues to be retaliation against people who speak up. It is completely unacceptable and will not go unnoticed.
Please join us this Monday for the next Peekskill City Council meeting. An increased presence at the Council meeting conveys the message, “we’re concerned and we’re watching.” It can make a bigger difference if more people show up. It’s not about the City listening to or talking to us. We are joining a process already in motion, adding our support for those who have been bringing concerns forward for years. You can support this effort by simply being present for the “concerns of citizens” segment of the next meeting. Don’t feel like you need to say a word, though if you want to speak we encourage you to do that.
Monday, September 27 at 7:30pm
Peekskill City Hall
840 Main Street
member of the Cortlandt Peekskill Anti-Racism Collaborative that works in cooperation with:
~ Westchester Committee for Justice
~ PAPA, the Peekskill Area Pastors Association (http://www.pastorsofpeekskill.org/)