Trust Black Women--and take down the billboards

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

By Janette Robinson Flint

Ashton Logan plays with the Frederick
Douglass Academy Elementary School
Drum Squad in the LA MLK Parade.
Photo by Anne Cusack/
The Los Angeles Times

Black Women for Wellness joined with others nationally and locally this week to celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a holiday that marks an important milestone in our African American experience. While we are encouraged by the strides that have been made to unify and heal our communities, we must point out a racist and divisive campaign that objectifies Black children, charges Black women with genocide and utilizes Black men as pawns in a political play for power.

Along King Boulevard and the parade route, where our community—politicians, elected officials, grassroots leadership and everyday regular folk—gathered to celebrate the life of Rev. King, were billboards with the message “Black Children Are An Endangered Species,"  with the face of a beautiful African American child accompanying this ugly message.

This message, brought to us by The Radiance Foundation and Issue4life, is dangerous because it belies its true purpose: their aim is to gather anti-abortion support from the African American community. Los Angeles is the latest stop in this campaign; billboards have been posted in Georgia, Wisconsin, Florida and Illinois.

African American children are not comparable to bald eagles, blue whales, California condors and other animals on the endangered species list. A society that does not value the lives of Black children, women and men is the greatest threat to our community. Substandard housing, unchecked police power that murders with impunity and jails with gusto, disparities in health care, pay, life expectancy, are the true threats to the survival of healthy, stable Black families and communities.

Martin Luther King Jr. believed that health care was a basic human right. The Radiance Foundation, by insinuating that Black women bear the blame for genocide through abortion, makes it plain that their focus is not human rights but the subjugation of Black women’s autonomy over their bodies.

It is reprehensible that someone would use Black children as a tool to attack Black women for political purposes. Black women stand at the intersection of racism and sexism in this country and we face the pain of living at this crossroads everyday.  It is demonstrated by our health status, as we suffer from some of the highest health disparities in Los Angeles County.

Rather than allow outside agitators to barge in and try to divide us by scape-goating Black women for political gain, Black women’s organizations and our allies must come together to find solutions to ending the health disparities and crises we face.

Trust Black women: if anyone feels the sharp pain of infant and maternal mortality in our community, it is our mothers, grandmothers, aunties, and sisters.

Trust Black women: if anyone feels the sharp pain of husbands, sons, brothers lost to gang violence, police brutality and murder in our community , it is our mothers, grandmothers, aunties, and sisters.

Trust Black women: if anyone feels the sharp pain of dreams and hopes deferred, dried up and festered because of poverty, miseducation, hopelessness and despair, it is us.

While we bask in the glow of our country celebrating Dr. King, and while you still have your favorite Dr King quote on your Facebook page, please recognize there are organizations and people that would attempt to control women and who would destroy our families in a heartbeat; organizations that have the audacity to attempt to link their agenda with the philosophy of Dr. King by placing billboards along the parade route celebrating him and the movement from which he sprang.  These billboards dehumanize Black children and charge Black women with genocide – something Dr. King would never, ever stand for.

Each year, I look forward to the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade in Los Angeles, the children, high school bands, local personalities and line-dancing seniors. It is a heart-warming and powerful way to convey to our children and to ourselves who the LA Black community is and what we stand for. It is a reminder of how far we have come and that we have not yet arrived. It is a chance for those we share this road with to come together and celebrate the milestones on this journey, and that we are a powerful, visionary people. Billboards, rain, even snow can not dampen that spirit; it rang through this year loud and clear.

Here are the words from Dr. King that have been ringing in my ears today. "Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable ... It comes only through the tireless efforts and passionate concern of dedicated individuals ... This is no time for apathy nor complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action."

What does this moment ask of you, and what does it ask of me? Join us by taking one or more of these steps:
  1. Gather more information at
  2. Write something, say something. Blog, twitter, facebook and put our technology prowess to use. Start by liking Black Women for Wellness on FB to stay in touch as our efforts grow.
  3. Talk to your friends and neighbors. People might not have noticed or may be understandably confused or upset about the billboards. A few words from you can help explain how these got here, and the ulterior motives of the sponsoring foundations.
  4. Contribute to Black Women for Wellness as we work hard to counter this attack.  Donations of any size will go to good use.

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