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#NSBESpeaks: Our Response to Police Brutality, Racism and Violence in America

By Chairman Matthew Nelson Statement

It is with a heavy heart that I offer my first official communication as the national chair of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). I find myself in a difficult situation when responding to recent instances of social injustice. A significant portion of the revenue used by NSBE to fund scholarships and programs for aspiring, young black minds comes from corporations seeking to increase their diversity through their relationships with our organization. I hope this letter does not estrange them. However, our mutual goal of a diverse engineering workforce is unattainable when black students are more worried for their lives than about their lectures, and when black employees lose productivity over concerns of prejudice.

Over the past few days, the deaths of Philandro Castile and Alton Sterling have peeled back the scab that covers the septic state of race relations in America. These incidents are especially concerning given the manner in which they occurred: Sterling shot while being pinned to the ground, Castile while reaching for his wallet at an officer’s command. Although both officers will face investigations to determine legal culpability, the visceral reaction evoked is one of shock, fear and fury. The most frightening notion is that our compliance with law enforcement officers may no longer be sufficient for survival. Recent events have caused individuals who have made significant contributions to the advancement of science, technology, engineering and math to question the relevance of their education in a society that undervalues their lives.

However, the value of life is not exclusive to one race or one profession. The solution to addressing the concerns of our community certainly does not reside in the assassination of public safety officials. Incidents like the recent shootings of police in Dallas during a peaceful protest make a hazardous atmosphere even more toxic. Just as we are praying for the families of the black men slain, we pray for the families of the police officers who were struck down while in the line of duty.

The issues plaguing the black community extend far beyond police brutality. Unemployment, lack of access to services, underfunded educational systems, the prison-industrial complex, black on black crime, etc.: all of those concerns need to be addressed. However, we must not avoid confronting the ugly truths around policing in America. We must hold our elected officials responsible for the conduct of the officers who work on their behalf. A sheriff is typically an elected official. A police chief or commissioner is usually appointed by a mayor or city council. Research your candidates for government offices, and continue to voice your concerns once they begin their terms.

In addition, leverage your economic power to influence policy. Choose wisely when deciding where you will live and pay taxes. Make the choice to shop and dine in areas where black consumers are welcomed and appreciated, not labeled and harassed. Take note of the response from the LGBT community to North Carolina House Bill 2 and the effect of that response on that state’s economy. Circumstances will not change until the message is made clear: the unjustified use of force against blacks will be met with swift political and economic repercussions.

Times like these challenge our belief in justice and our faith in humanity, yet we still must march on, carrying the burdens of oppression, discrimination and hatred in a country that often fails to acknowledge our contributions, our place in society and our rights as citizens. Although these events have obviously rocked us to our very core, emotionally and spiritually, this is not the time for us to lose sight of our mission. It is imperative that we continue to expose our people to opportunities and encourage each other to strive for excellence, while engaging in meaningful dialogue about how to navigate today’s world. Cultural responsibility must prevail. For additional resources to help you focus your frustrations on positive outcomes, read the post “STEM and Social Justice: Applying an Engineering Lens to Social Change,” located on NSBE’s website (www.nsbe.org) in the Blog section.

If you take nothing else from this letter, please understand that as the leader of NSBE, I feel the same pain, anger, confusion and hopelessness you may be feeling. When one of us is hurting, we all feel the effects. I realize that NSBE cannot turn a blind eye to the needs of the black community. We may not be able to address them all, but we must be cognizant of their impact.

Toward this end, I have activated NSBE’s Culturally Responsible Task Force for our 2016–2017 program year. The purpose of this entity will be, in part, to respond to issues that affect black communities; to create a safe space online where our members can express their frustrations about racism without fear of repercussions; and to write reports that capture concerns about racism on college campuses that have active NSBE chapters.

We also encourage you to use social media and the hashtag #NSBESpeaks to continue the conversation about social injustice.

I pray for your understanding of the constraints placed on our Society with regard to activism, and I hope for the day when Black Lives Matter is a historical reference and no longer a current cry for justice.

Riverside Community Residents Gather Together for Peaceful Protest

RIVERSIDE, CA-Last Thursday, after days of rallied in the Inland Empire decrying perceived police brutality in the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, protestors marched through Riverside demanding not just justice being brought to the system, but unity.

Riverside residents Jeff Luckey, 22, and Anthony Curtis, 23, said that was the goal in organizing the march, which started at noon outside City Hall, continued with a march toward Riverside Plaza about 2 1/2 miles away and ended about 3 p.m.

“Right now nobody’s together,” Luckey said. “We don’t want this to be a black thing or a white thing, we want to develop a solution.”

There were approximately 75 people that attended the protest at the plaza. Some held signs and many chanted as they walked saying, ““Hands up, don’t shoot,” a slogan that has become a rallying cry for those protesting police shootings of black men.

Hennesy Brown, of Ontario, attended the march with her 1-year-old son King and her 9-month old son Angel. Brown chose to participate in the event to raise awareness in the community so that her sons won’t share the fates of Sterling and Castile.

“I don’t want my sons to become a hashtag,” Brown said.

By 2 p.m., the crowd at the plaza had grown to about 100. People were initially standing in the street in front of the movie theater, blocking traffic and forcing cars to turn around, but they moved when requested by police. “I love the diversity, it shows that its not just black people who are affected,” Brown said.

“I’m glad to see that Riverside does care about its people,“ May said. “The city has a lot of heart.”

Inland Empire Black Millennial Entrepreneurs Speak Up about the Current National Race Issue

By Naomi K. Bonman

The week of July 5 was a very emotional and overwhelming time for not just our Black community, but for the Nation as an entirety. With the shootings of two unarmed Black men and then the event in Dallas, Texas, as a Black community we have become fed up.  We are tired. Tired of the same cycle that keeps happening and has been happening for decades with no hope of ever changing.

From protest after protest, stand-in after stand-in, and boycott after boycott, nothing is changing. It is like we are working hard to seek justice and for equality rights, but constantly being ignored by the system. We feel alienated from society, as well as used and abused. Our culture in America has constantly been mocked, mocked for centuries.

Since the 1960s Civil Rights Movement very little change has happened. Racism in America has taken a reverse turn. So what is the solution? What have we as a community been doing wrong and what do we need to do to start seeing REAL change? Three Black millennial entrepreneurs have spoken up on the issues that have seen in the years and what they feel needs to be done in order for change to prosper.

“When you do not know who you are anyone can come along and give you an identity! It’s time for us to know who we are, be proud of who we are, stop shaming,” Author T’ana Phelice states. “It’s time for Black men and women to begin to celebrate one another again. It’s time to raise our children as a village and take pride in having a disciplined community. It’s time to mend fences and break chains that are meant to separate us. It’s time to unite! It’s time to make God popular again!

Author and playwright, T’ana Phelice (31), from San Bernardino feels that in order for us to do better and make permanent changes that our community needs to be honest. We need to start being ashamed. We need to start being persistent. We need to educate ourselves on historical information; things that affect us and our children.

Marketing guru, Jay Parnell (33), of Perris speaks on the desensitization of our children. He believes that the current generation has been desensitized by how they are being marketed to through music, television, and social media. These media outlets have the power to develop and alter a person’s ideology.

Starh, owner of Fancy Cartel, from San Bernardino sums everything up with in order for change to come, the issues at hand need to be addressed. Once the current issues within our community are addressed we can then come to an agreement to start seeing the change that we all have longed for.

To listen to the full commentary, click below: