In this issue…
Katal in New Orleans: Black Harm Reduction
Did we forget unity, Cornerstore Caroline?
katal in new orleans: black harm reduction
Members of our team touched down in New Orleans, Louisiana earlier this week to attend the Black Harm Reduction Pre-Conference — a gathering of over 100 Black organizers, advocates and activists building the Harm Reduction Movement.
Our Co-Executive Director, Lorenzo Jones, Senior Justice Fellow, Donna Hylton, and Community Organizing Fellow, Kenyatta Thompson, participated in the conference discussion and meeting, which focused on the Black experience with harm reduction. With a wide array of leaders from around the country, the day-long conference was a remarkable experience. Discussions ranged from drug user and sex worker health, to ending criminalization and stigmatization, organizing in marginalized communities and building a freedom movement, and more. Katal thanks the organizers of the conference, including Kassandra Frederique, Tracy Pugh, and Tracie Gardner, for their work to bring this together.
The unique gathering took place a day before the start of the Harm Reduction Coalition’s (HRC) 12th National Harm Reduction Conference. We’re excited to be here for it! Check out the newsletter next week for our report from the HRC conference, and follow us on social media while we’re in New Orleans at #HarmRed18.
did we forget unity, cornerstore caroline?
“What happened to us respecting one another, having unity and being neighborly, did we forget that?”, said Jeremiah’s mother Someko Bellille at Monday night’s rally in Brooklyn addressing the recent “Cornerstore Caroline” incident which is now national news. Theresa Klein, now nicknamed “Corner store Caroline” entered Sahara Deli Market in Flatbush, Wednesday, Oct. 10th, 2018. While leaning forward at the counter to pay, she allegedly “felt someone grope her buttocks.” When she turned around, she saw a 9-year-old Black boy, Jeremiah, and assumed it was him. She then followed the child and his mother to the front of the convenience store where she confronted them very aggressively and proceeded to call the police on the child for allegedly sexually assaulting her. The mother and her children were in great fear of what was going on, her children, traumatized and crying uncontrollably. People in the vicinity who noticed what was occurring, came to their aid by recording the incident and addressing the woman about her wrongdoing. Video footage recorded by Jason LittleJohn went viral.
This was clearly an accident and the amount of hatred spewed by Klein displayed a larger issue within our country that is not being properly addressed— gentrification and the lack of community unity.
As a 28-year-old Black father in America who also happens to live up the block from this convenience store, I too must ask myself about community unity. I have a 10-year-old son who goes to that store by himself and Jeremiah could have been him. My neighborhood over the years has gotten intensely gentrified and for the most part, no one has had any direct issues besides a number of times hanging out in front of our buildings or getting into elevators and being treated as if we don’t belong in the only place we know of as home. This woman has been a terrible neighbor since her arrival to our neighborhood and I am glad the whole world gets to witness her nonsense.
Once people realized what was happening, outrage broke out and they demanded something to be done immediately. Monday evening there was a Community Forum held right outside of Sahara Deli Market. I attended, and saw local elected officials come out to speak, Jeremiah’s classmates, an anti-racism teacher— discussing other race related issues that have taken place in the community in the past but have not had any response by the public or elected officials— and members of the community spoke. Most of the speakers sent their love and support for Jeremiah, letting him know that he is not alone. The rally closed with Jeremiah’s mother speaking to the crowd thanking them for the overflow of love they all have been receiving and promising that this will never happen again in our community; Jeremiah spoke out asking people not to cause any violence and that we all should be treated equally.
At Katal, we have been organizing in this very neighborhood, Flatbush, Brooklyn, for some time. We are going to continue our organizing and will not allow Cornerstore Caroline, gentrification or systemic racism to go unchecked.