Motion Picture Academy Invites Zendaya, Cynthia Erivo and More to Be Oscar Voters

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has released its annual list of invitations to join the organization, and surveying the new class of Oscar voters it is clear they are aiming in a big way to continue erasing the stigma of not being inclusive, particularly in terms of women, international members, and underrepresented...
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How California went from a coronavirus success story to a worrying new hot spot
A mural by artist Pony Wave depicts two people kissing while wearing face masks on Venice Beach in Los Angeles. | Mario Tama/Getty Images California took early action against the coronavirus pandemic. Now things have taken a turn for the worse. A few months ago, California looked like a success story in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. As New York state’s coronavirus outbreak reached its peak, California’s Covid-19 death rate was less than a tenth of New York’s. In recent weeks, however, California has taken a turn for the worse. Its total coronavirus cases are up more than 90 percent over the past two weeks. The test positivity rate — an indicator of how widespread infection is, as well as whether an area is conducting enough testing — is increasing, too. Hospitalizations are also rising, jumping by more than 50 percent over two weeks as hospitals in Los Angeles and other areas warn they could reach capacity soon. And while deaths aren’t up yet, experts worry that could merely be a result of a lag between new cases and deaths. The state is now acknowledging the problems. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday shut down various indoor activities and venues, including restaurants, bars, and movie theaters, across most of the state for three weeks. Newsom had already called for Imperial County, in the southeast part of the state, to resume its stay-at-home order as coronavirus cases there dramatically outpaced the rest of the state. German Lopez/Vox So what happened? The short of it, experts say, is that much of California let its guard down. While the state, and the Bay Area in particular, was among the first in the US to embrace a shelter-at-home order, parts of California have since relaxed or outright halted those measures, letting the coronavirus creep in bit by bit. Meanwhile, precautions against Covid-19 have been inconsistently adopted by the public and businesses — especially as some of the recommended practices, such as wearing a mask, have become politicized. At the same time, the state has seen major outbreaks in nursing homes, in prisons, and among migrant workers — many of whom are deemed “essential” and are therefore forced to work — that have driven up coronavirus cases further, simultaneously planting seeds for broader community outbreaks. It’s this mix — of relaxed social distancing policies, inconsistent adoption of precautions, and rise of new Covid-19 hot spots — that have led to California’s turn for the worse. That combination seems to have hit some demographics particularly hard: Cases are especially rising among younger groups — who are perhaps more likely to take advantage of, say, bars reopening — and in Latin communities, where people are more likely to work for businesses deemed “essential,” such as grocery stores or farms. “The story of California is the story of why we all have to do more,” Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, an epidemiologist at the University of California San Francisco, told me. “I don’t think we can easily point to a totally outrageous government policy or a totally outrageous citizen action or a totally outrageous anything. It really is that all of these things together matter.” As the state reopened, she argued, “We actually should have upped our game at that time, not just be complacent that we had done so well while we were sheltered.” Some of the overall uptick in cases is likely due to more testing. All else held equal, more testing will catch more cases. But testing isn’t the whole story; it can’t explain why, for one, hospitalizations linked to Covid-19 have dramatically risen as well. The outbreaks aren’t universal. The southern parts of the state, including Los Angeles and Imperial County, have been hit much harder compared with some northern areas, including San Francisco and the broader Bay Area. “We’re a large and diverse state,” Bibbins-Domingo said. “The variations in how different counties have experienced the epidemic and have adopted important public health measures, like masking, have not been helpful.” The overall trend in California isn’t as bad as the massive outbreaks currently happening in Arizona, Florida, and Texas. That’s likely a result of the state’s slower reopening. People in a predominantly Democratic state are also more likely to embrace changes that President Donald Trump railed against, like when he suggested that people wear masks to spite him. Still, the trends are heading in the wrong direction in much of California — complicating the image of a state once praised for its quick, decisive action against Covid-19 outbreaks, and underscoring that even states performing well need to maintain vigilance against the virus. Reopening, predictably, led to more coronavirus cases On March 16, the Bay Area issued the country’s first regional shelter-in-place order. California followed three days later with a statewide order. It’s this lead of several days, compared with other states, that experts said helped California stay largely ahead of the outbreak, at least at first: When cases can double in a span of 24 to 72 hours, taking action even a few days early can play a huge role. The research suggests the lockdowns worked. One study in Health Affairs concluded: Adoption of government-imposed social distancing measures reduced the daily growth rate by 5.4 percentage points after 1–5 days, 6.8 after 6–10 days, 8.2 after 11–15 days, and 9.1 after 16–20 days. Holding the amount of voluntary social distancing constant, these results imply 10 times greater spread by April 27 without SIPOs (10 million cases) and more than 35 times greater spread without any of the four measures (35 million). Over time, though, state leaders came under pressure by businesses and workers to open up again and end the economic pain. As Covid-19 cases remained relatively flat (although they never truly decreased on a statewide level), there was also a growing sentiment that the situation in California was under control. Some towns, cities, and counties argued that they never suffered a big coronavirus outbreak, so they shouldn’t have to follow the state’s strict rules. Under all this pressure, Newsom started to relax social distancing measures in May — with a plan to open the state in phases — and delegated more decision-making for reopening down to the local level. While some places, including the Bay Area, have kept a tighter leash than others, the trend in much of the state was toward relaxed restrictions, with workplaces, restaurants, bars, and other venues opening up again. “Our original response was right on. The politicians really stuck their necks out on it. And I think it’s paid off, with thousands of lives saved,” George Rutherford, an epidemiologist at UCSF, told me. However, “there’s a playbook for what to do, but not a playbook for how to undo it. So I think we’re kind of all feeling our ways.” The public seemed to embrace the reopening. While restaurant data from OpenTable indicates that dine-in seating in California was down by 90 to 100 percent for most of May, for much of June it was down by 60 to 70 percent — still a huge hit to restaurants, but not nearly as much of one. The result is that people are increasingly out and about, interacting and infecting each other with the coronavirus. Friends and families began gathering again, especially as they celebrated Memorial Day and the summer kicked off. And as they came together — in poorly ventilated homes, restaurants, and bars, in close proximity to people they don’t live with, often for hours at a time — people spread the virus much more frequently. Some experts questioned bars and other high-risk indoor spaces reopening in the first place. “From a pandemic standpoint, there’s probably not anything good happening in a bar,” Bibbins-Domingo said. She argued for better priorities in reopening: “We shouldn’t have overreacted to some of the beaches and going outside, and we probably should have been much clearer on the bars.” Changes in policy can’t fully explain every single outbreak. Some people would break the rules anyway, and others, such as migrant agricultural workers deemed “essential,” were largely exempted from the start. There are factors outside the control of these policies, such as overcrowded housing and tech workers in the Bay Area being able to work from home to social distance while farmers in southern parts of the state can’t. The outbreaks in some settings, such as nursing homes and prisons, also aren’t as directly tied to reopenings. Prisons are largely cut off from the community, and visitation in nursing homes has been heavily curtailed by the pandemic. The outbreak at a prison in northern California, San Quentin, seemed to be the result of the transfer of inmates from another prison where infections were rising. But social distancing restrictions likely played some role even in these examples, given that the virus had to get into these facilities somehow. Nursing home employees, prison guards, and migrant workers, after all, go home and perhaps to bars or restaurants at the end of the workday. In the end, greater community transmission affects everyone in a community. The decline of social distancing and the rise in cases also aligns with what researchers have seen in past disease outbreaks. Several studies of the 1918 flu pandemic found that quicker and more aggressive steps to enforce social distancing saved lives in those areas. But this research also shows the consequences of pulling back restrictions too early: A 2007 study in JAMA found that when St. Louis — widely praised for its response to the 1918 pandemic — eased its school closures, bans on public gatherings, and other restrictions, it saw a rise in deaths. Here’s how that looks in chart form, with the dotted line representing excess flu deaths and the black and gray bars showing when social distancing measures were in place. The peak came after those measures were lifted, and the death rate fell only after they were reinstated. Courtesy ofJAMA This did not just happen in St. Louis. Analyzing data from 43 cities, the JAMA study found this pattern repeatedly across the country. Howard Markel, a co-author of the study and the director of the University of Michigan’s Center for the History of Medicine, described the results as a bunch of “double-humped epi curves” — officials instituted social distancing measures, saw flu cases fall, then pulled back the measures and saw flu cases rise again. California has seen that in real time: Social distancing worked at first. But as it’s relaxed social distancing, it’s seen cases quickly rise. Some people aren’t wearing masks or taking other precautions As California reopened, experts said the spread of Covid-19 was compounded by some people who failed or refused to follow recommended precautions against the virus. There was particular resistance to wearing masks in more conservative areas of California, especially in the southern parts of the state. Orange County’s chief health officer resigned due to public resistance against a mask-wearing order. Sheriffs in Orange, Riverside, Fresno, and Sacramento counties said they wouldn’t enforce Newsom’s June order requiring masks in public and high-risk areas. Anecdotally, experts and others in the state told me that mask-wearing seems to be more common in the Bay Area than in southern parts of California. The evidence increasingly supports the use of masks to combat Covid-19. Several recent studies found that masks alone reduce transmission. Some experts hypothesize — and early research suggests — that masks played a significant role in containing outbreaks in several Asian countries where their use is widespread, like South Korea and Japan. The resistance to masks in California, as well as nationwide, is at least partially political. As recommendations and requirements for masks have increased, some conservatives have suggested wearing a mask is emblematic of an overreaction to the coronavirus pandemic that has eroded civil liberties. President Trump, for one, has by and large refused to wear a mask in public, even saying that people wear masks to spite him and suggesting, contrary to the evidence, that masks do more harm than good. While some Republicans are breaking from Trump on this issue, his comments and actions have helped politicize mask-wearing. There’s also general fatigue, with people growing more and more tired of social distancing as the pandemic continues. Surveys from Gallup found that just 39 percent of people were “always” social distancing in late June, compared with 65 percent in early April; the number of people who “sometimes,” “rarely,” or “never” practice social distancing increased from 7 to 27 percent in the same time frame. Gallup Some experts argue public outreach has failed with regard to encouraging social distancing and mask-wearing, arguing officials could do a much better job not only at communicating the right steps but also at persuading the public to adopt them. They could also do more to reach marginalized communities — in California, by tailoring messages and support to Latin workers in particular. Nationwide, education is “where we really failed in this outbreak,” Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious disease specialist and a fellow in the Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Initiative at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told me. Kuppalli pointed to masks as one example where there’s clearly more work to be done. “Shaming people is not going to make them wear masks,” she explained. “It’s about trying to get people to understand that it’s for the greater good of the community.” Beyond that, enforcement of social distancing requirements hasn’t been consistent — a problem Newsom acknowledged when he said the state plans to step up enforcement. The result of all of this is seen in not only the actions of individuals but also those of businesses. Los Angeles officials in late June found 33 percent of local restaurants and 49 percent of bars weren’t following social distancing protocols, and employees at 44 percent of restaurants and 54 percent of bars weren’t wearing masks or face shields, according to the Los Angeles Times. In the lead-up to the July Fourth weekend, state officials sounded the alarm. Newsom called for more caution and awareness, arguing that many people at outdoor events “immediately put their mask down in order to have a drink, eat some food and all of a sudden, the cousins get a little closer, the kids are jumping on top of you.” The state has to pull back reopening now, before it gets much worse California isn’t quite where several other hot spots are in terms of Covid-19 cases. Arizona has nearly three times the number of new cases per day per person, Florida has more than twice as many, and Texas has about a third more. But the goal, experts argue, is to start cracking down before things get as bad as Arizona or Florida. Because the lag between infection and the onset of symptoms can be as long as two weeks, officials are typically acting too late if they react only once more cases or hospitalizations get reported. In fact, that’s one reason California was initially praised several months ago: The state and Bay Area took the virus seriously before it became a problem on the scale of what New York was seeing at the time. “One of the things I’ve learned in any outbreak is that if it seems you overreacted, you’ve done a good job,” Kuppalli said. What looks like overreaction, she added, means that “we prevented things from becoming a catastrophe. We don’t want to wait until things are a catastrophe and then react, because that’s too late.” In some sense, then, California’s reaction is already too late, as cases have crept up for weeks, and alarming increases in hospitalization are already popping up in several parts of the state. Because of the delay in action, some of the outbreak is already baked into the system. The good news is that so far, deaths haven’t gone up. Some of that may be because the recent rise in Covid-19 cases is affecting more younger people compared with past waves, and younger people are less likely to die from Covid-19. But even if that’s true, officials and experts warn that young people could eventually infect their parents, grandparents, older neighbors, or teachers, which could lead to a spike in deaths. At the very least, California is reacting before that’s shown up in the death toll. Another goal, experts say, should be to avoid having to reimpose a stay-at-home order. If things were to get to a certain level — where hospitals reach capacity and the death toll is exponentially rising — doing so might be the only option to get the coronavirus under control again. To not get to that point, experts have called for more targeted measures, from aggressive testing, contact tracing, and isolating to closing down high-risk areas, particularly indoor venues that are often packed and poorly ventilated. “We don’t want to get to the point where we just tell everyone to stay home if there are more targeted measures as a starting point,” Cyrus Shahpar, director at Resolve to Save Lives, told me. So far, the more targeted approach is what Newsom is embracing — shutting down bars, movie theaters, and other indoor gatherings, and encouraging outdoor options for dining. Only in extreme cases, like with Imperial County, has the state pushed more drastic action. Some of this responsibility falls on the public too. When people go out, experts recommend wearing a mask, prioritizing outdoor venues over indoor spaces, keeping 6 feet from each other, not touching your face, and washing your hands. How well a community as a whole does that can dictate how bad things get. “We have to be totally serious about masks,” Rutherford said. “No more screwing around.” California may have already lost its reputation as being quick to act in the face of the coronavirus. But officials and experts are hoping it still has time to avoid becoming a major epicenter for Covid-19 — as long as its leaders react accordingly to the current rise in cases. Support Vox’s explanatory journalism Every day at Vox, we aim to answer your most important questions and provide you, and our audience around the world, with information that has the power to save lives. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. Vox’s work is reaching more people than ever, but our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources — particularly during a pandemic and an economic downturn. Your financial contribution will not constitute a donation, but it will enable our staff to continue to offer free articles, videos, and podcasts at the quality and volume that this moment requires. Please consider making a contribution to Vox today.
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The legacy of Black Lives Matter
A woman holds a “Black Lives Matter” sign during a rally at Woodhouse Moor in Leeds, United Kingdom, on June 21. | Danny Lawson/PA Images/Getty Images The power of the movement lies in making the public, and politicians, take notice. Since its founding in 2013, Black Lives Matter has awakened millions across the globe to how Black people are systematically targeted for violence. The member-led network was formed by three Black women — Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi — in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the man who killed Trayvon Martin. Since then, the movement can claim credit for protests in the name of everyone from Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer in St. Louis, Missouri, in 2014, to Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police officers in Louisville, Kentucky, this March. Though the organization has renewed what may seem like a new fight for civil rights in the 21st century, it is in every way building on a long history of activism that goes back to slavery. As University of Pittsburgh historian Keisha N. Blain argues, if we were to draw a line straight from 1619 to the present, it would be clear that Black Lives Matter is one major wave in a larger narrative. “If civil rights ultimately means citizenship rights, then that means that you would be fighting for it for as long as you don’t have it,” Blain told Vox. But to fully understand the change that Black Lives Matter is effecting today, we also have to look to the 20th century to examine how the movement is advancing the ideology and strategy of Black female justice seekers like Ella Bakerand Fannie Lou Hamer, and even lesser-known activists like Mary Bumpurs and Veronica Perry, who joined together to fight police violence in the ’80s. Such an exercise also helps us see where the movement stopped short — and continues to. Blain argues that overlooking Bumpurs and Perry and currently excluding Black women from the police violence debate sets up a false sense of security for Black women. “I’ve had people say to me that as a mother, I should be concerned about my son because police violence is so prominent. And they’re right — I have to think about it,” she says. “But I have to say to them, ‘I have to be concerned about me too.’ I have to tell them, ‘Remember Sandra Bland and Korryn Gaines? People are somewhat startled because they don’t immediately think about those names.” I talked to Blain, author of Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom, about how Black Lives Matter is advancing the efforts of hundreds of activists who fought for Black liberation in the US and abroad — and how the movement’s impact stands out from past efforts. Our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity. Fabiola Cineas In your book and other writings, you’ve repeatedly said that Black Lives Matter is currently building on a longer history of activism. Can you explain how the organization is doing that with the protests currently underway? Keisha N. Blain There are several factors. I focus a bit on Black nationalist politics, and there are several threads that I see between Black nationalist movements of the 20th century and the Black Lives Matter movement. One is the focus on community control. One of the things that Black Lives Matter activists have been demanding for quite a while is greater community control. Today we’re talking about it within the context of policing. But in general, they have been demanding the need for Black people within Black communities to make their own decisions about how the communities would be controlled and how things will be run, as opposed to having people from the outside impose upon them their strategies and tactics. And we see that certainly in the 1960s context but even earlier to the 1920s, with groups like the Universal Negro Improvement Association[a Black nationalist organization founded by Jamaican activist Marcus Garvey]. These organizations emphasize the importance of Black communities having greater say and autonomy. So, ideologically, we see this thread. The second connection that stands out to me is the vision of internationalism, which is one of the core ideas of the Black Lives Matter movement. I would say a lot of people don’t focus on it as much as they should. Black Lives Matter activists have been very vocal about showing that the fight to end state-sanctioned violence is not solely a US problem, but it is a global problem. And, not surprisingly, we’ve seen the creation of Black Lives Matter movements in various parts of the world — in London, Berlin, Toronto, and more. That is intentional, and it’s actually to the core of their message. The movement has previously stated the importance of internationalism and broadening the vision beyond just a national conversation. They’ve expressed the importance of collaborating across nations to demand an end to state-sanctioned violence. This is key to various movements throughout US history. Black political movements have been deeply internationalist in their perspective, whether it’s in the ’60s with civil rights activists connecting their struggles to African liberation struggles or whether it’s even earlier Black activists standing up in defense of Ethiopia. These are the ideological threads. Fabiola Cineas How do you see Black Lives Matter furthering these ideologies and advancing these threads? Keisha N. Blain What is perhaps novel in the contemporary moment is the specific focus on anti-Black law enforcement. If we think of Black Lives Matter as an idea, we can trace the history far back and draw connections to Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, James Baldwin — all of these individuals who were in effect insisting that Black lives matter and that we need to create policies and laws that demonstrate how Black lives matter. In a way, this is part of a larger struggle. And I’m not suggesting that these early activists didn’t talk about law enforcement; they certainly did. But I would say that the way the contemporary Black Lives Matter movement managed to bring the issue to the forefront, that is a distinct trait. Because we talked about police violence in the past — even someone like Martin Luther King talked about police violence; Hamer talked about it. But it almost didn’t capture people’s attention the way that it captured people’s attention in 2014 or in 2015 after the killings of Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown. So Black Lives Matter, they were almost able to harness the moment as soon as these unfortunate incidents took place. They were able to get people on board, and not just regular American citizens, but politicians — that part is key. In the 2016 election, I was intrigued by how many candidates, leading up to the election, kept talking about Black Lives Matter, even Republicans. Those in the running before Trump became the nominee were trying to figure out how to weave it in. They recognized the significance of the moment, so they needed to gesture to it in some way without offending their base. And certainly, Democratic nominees were grappling with it, too. Black Lives Matter managed to capture the attention of people, but also of individuals who wield political power. That, to me, is quite distinctive. Fabiola Cineas What about the pace and speed at which today’s movement is bringing about change? How does it compare to the speed at which movements of the past operated? Keisha N. Blain It’s hard to say because I think about history as a very long movement. For example, when we think of the civil rights movement, we generally mean the ’50s and ’60s. But I would argue that you can’t quite understand the civil rights movement in the ’50s and ’60s if you don’t look back to even the ’20s or the ’30s. It’s almost as if you wanted to put a straight line from 1619, which in itself is a troubled date, but imagine that you started there. You could argue that the movement for civil rights began at the very moment that the group of 20 Africans landed in Jamestown. You could make that argument because they arrived at a moment where they didn’t have full political rights and freedom. If civil rights ultimately means citizenship rights, then that means that you would be fighting for it for as long as you don’t have it. So there are certain gains that took place in the ’50s and ’60s. We can talk about the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, the Brown decision — all these things matter. But you don’t quite understand how we get to Brown if you don’t look back to some of the earlier efforts to integrate public spaces. You can’t even talk about the Voting Rights Act if you don’t go back to the US Constitution and think about the 14th and 15th Amendments, which were passed in the 19th century. So, when you think about Black Lives Matter, you can think about it as a continual struggle. You could argue, then, that the movement for civil rights has been a very long movement, but the difference is the waves, ebbs, and flows — moments when you’re able to accomplish some things and moments when we struggled before accomplishing some more. That’s why I see Black Lives Matter as an extension. It’s not a direct line. Fabiola Cineas What about the structure of Black Lives Matter? Early on, people were looking for one central hub of Black Lives Matter or one central leader, but Black Lives Matter made it clear that they were decentralized and spread out, with different organizations all across the country. How does this structure line up with the structure of groups and movements in the past? Keisha N. Blain What’s interesting is the structure of Black Lives Matter, actually, in so many ways, encapsulates this idea of group central leadership, which is an idea that comes directly from Ella Baker, a civil rights activist who mentored Black activists in the SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, in the 1960s. This is an organization that actually grew out of a bit of resistance with an earlier movement — the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which is an organization that Martin Luther King Jr. ran. Both organizations were interesting because in many ways, they demonstrated the generational divide at the time, which is in some ways still reflective today. So SNCC, the younger activists, their approach was very much about avoiding one central leader. The thinking was if you have one leader, one person who represents the voice of the movement, crippling the movement isn’t so difficult. All you have to do is attack their leader. And obviously people figured that out, which is why, unfortunately, Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968. And then someone like Malcolm X was assassinated. You have all of these key people who get targeted in order to cripple a movement. What Ella Baker was saying is we need a kind of movement that is leaderless. But while it was articulated as leaderless, it materialized with multiple leaders — multiple leaders without one necessarily dominating over the other. And it allowed space for people to go from participant to leader in a very rapid moment. You could just be mentored and encouraged by someone to use your gifting — you could just lead within whatever context. We saw that in the 1960s when Ella Baker mentored someone like Fannie Lou Hamer, [a community organizer and co-founder of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party]. Now we talk about Fannie Lou Hamer as a leader, but Hamer would not be someone we even talk about were it not for the fact that the movement made space for someone like her to emerge. So Black Lives Matter is drawing upon that earlier model of Ella Baker. But you and I both know that it doesn’t play out the way you imagine. Because even when we say the movement is leaderless, it doesn’t stop, for example, the media from determining who they think the leader is. The same people get called over and over again, sometimes overlooking even the founders of Black Lives Matter. There have been situations where there are conversations about the movement where not even one of the original founders [is] at the table and one wonders how that is even possible. Did someone invite them? Did they just immediately go to the men? So even when you try to have a movement that is group-centered in its leadership, external factors impose in ways that you just can’t control. Fabiola Cineas I’d love to talk more about your focus on Black women and how Black women are building on a unique history of activism. You’ve written about how Black women are being left out of discussions about policing and then how that connects to their activist roots. Keisha N. Blain The first thing that I would emphasize is Black women and girls are vulnerable to state-sanctioned violence. It almost seems like an obvious statement, but the sad part is that I don’t think many people fully get it, or even accept it. And I know this to be true because I think about even personal narratives where I’ve had people say to me that as a mother, I should be concerned about my son because police violence is so prominent. And they’re right — I have to think about it. But I have to say to them, “I have to be concerned about me too.” I have to tell them, “Remember Sandra Bland and Korryn Gaines?” People are somewhat startled because they don’t immediately think about those names. They think about Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, or Mike Brown. And I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t think about those individuals, but the danger is we fall into this thinking that Black men and Black men alone are the ones who are targeted by the police, and [that] maybe gives Black women a false sense of security, though reality tells us otherwise. I write about this to remind us that this is a problem and simply say that the challenge here is being targeted for Blackness. And that’s whether we’re talking about Black women and girls or Black trans men. If you are Black, you can absolutely lose your life — in an instant — once you have an encounter with the police. The other part that is key is how people overlook how significant Black women are to the movement against American policing. I mentioned Black Lives Matter and the fact that it was founded by three women. But how about the example of Sean Bell. He was shot in Queens, New York, in 2006 on the morning of his wedding. He unfortunately was never able to get married. The person who emerged following his killing was his fiancé, Nicole Bell, who for more than 10 years and till this day is still fighting to not only keep his memory alive but to bring about some concrete changes. We don’t often talk about Nicole Bell. Or how about Trayvon Martin’s mother? With the focus on Black men who are targeted by police, we often don’t spend time thinking about all the people they’re connected to, including all the women they’re connected to — the mothers, the sisters, the daughters who then carry the mantle forward to demand justice not just for them but for every single person who lost their life. This includes the mother of Amadou Diallo [Kadiatou Diallo], the daughter of Eric Garner [Erica Garner], who unfortunately passed away, and now [Eric] Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr. The list goes on and on. I try to get people to understand that you can’t talk about police violence from any angle without centering the ideas, experiences, and activism of Black women. Fabiola Cineas Can you highlight any women from earlier waves of the struggle who you think show us how Black women today are building on that person’s activism? Keisha N. Blain For a few years, I’ve been researching Mary Bumpurs and Veronica Perry. They are two women who people would know about in the context of New York. Mary Bumpurs’s mother, 66-year-old Eleanor Bumpurs, was killed by police in 1984. Police had been called to her home for what was supposed to be a wellness check. She did not want to leave her apartment, as she was having some mental health issues at the time. They wanted to evict her, and she was resisting. The officer at the time said she had a knife and was charging toward him, so he shot her. A year later, Veronica Perry’s son, Edmund Perry, was shot at age 17 by a plainclothes police officer. These two women, who didn’t know each other before, actually collaborated. These women came together in the 1980s and decided that they will try to figure out how to change policing in New York City. They organized events and meetings with local officials to talk about changing policies that would push for legislation to stop police killings. They came together to reflect and just be together and support each other. This reminds me of the Mothers of the Movement today. There are so many parallels to the present. Their story really moves me, but a lot of people don’t know about them. Because these police killings are happening so frequently, the news cycle keeps changing and shifting our focus. But the loved ones of those killed can never shift their attention because it stays with them forever. They keep pushing and demanding changes. If we were to focus on the work that the mothers are doing, you’re able to see this longer history; you can see how the work of the Mothers of the Movement is a part of a longer tradition of Black women trying to figure out how to stop this. Sadly, it keeps happening over and over again. The fact that Gwen Carr showed up at the funeral of George Floyd is a symbol of how the struggle continues. Fabiola Cineas So what comes next? Can you comment on the kind of change that you see Black Lives Matter bringing forward in this long tradition? What are tangible things that you see happening besides dialogue? Keisha N. Blain What Black Lives Matter has been able to do is move the members of the Democratic establishment a bit further to the left. Joe Biden is still very much careful about how he’s even addressing police violence. We’ve seen him go back and forth on it, and he may or may not come to the place where he fully supports protesters who say defund the police. Mass protests work. Historically, we know that those who wield power make decisions sometimes driven by their own personal convictions. But for the most part, they make decisions because people compel them to do it. Black Lives Matter as a movement is powerful. They may or may not accomplish the tangible goals within their lifetime, but what they are able to do is capture people’s attention. They force people who might otherwise be complacent to listen and consider changing their view. They mobilize people on the ground, who in turn place pressure on leaders to do something. Results from polls that show how many people now support defunding the police are extraordinary. I don’t think it’d be possible without a group like Black Lives Matter shedding light on the problem of policing and doing so since 2014. So people finally get it. Support Vox’s explanatory journalism Every day at Vox, we aim to answer your most important questions and provide you, and our audience around the world, with information that has the power to save lives. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. Vox’s work is reaching more people than ever, but our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources — particularly during a pandemic and an economic downturn. 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