Opinion: Defund the police, invest in Black communities says Detroit organizer Yusef Bunchy Shakur

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Yusef Bunchy Shakur

Yusef Bunchy Shakur (courtesy photo)

BridgeDetroit’s Bryce Huffman discusses reinvesting in the Detroit economy and honoring Black Bodies with Yusef Bunchy Shakur


“Defunding police must be paired with reinvestment in community.” – Angela Davis

Say their names: Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd — murdered by white racist men and racist police as modern-day lynchings. It is the sequence of these brutal murders that have activated many to hit the streets across America in droves. 

In the midst of a pandemic people are protesting and rebelling. Why? Because of the pre-existing conditions of patriarchy, capitalism, white supremacy, police terrorism, poverty and mass incarceration/deportation among other deeply rooted causes.

Black people and other oppressed people can’t breathe because of these systems. They are hitting the streets not because of their desire to die but because they want to live. 

The anger and frustration of Black Bodies can only be contained for so long. Eight years ago, it was Trayvon Martin and six years ago, it was Michael Brown — both became the Emmitt Till of their generation

There are too many names on this list and it continues to grow. The anger and frustration of murdering Black Bodies has pushed others to re-examine themselves. They can no longer sit on the sidelines and be silent, now they see their silence is a form of complicity. 

Many have answered the call to break their silence and become baptized in the struggle against the oppression of Black Bodies. A building can be destroyed and rebuilt, but a dead Black person can’t be reborn. This anger and frustration has been shaped by decades of political exploitation, social degradation and economic neglect. Police terrorism has scarred urban America. 

Black Detroiters are still haunted by the brutal murder of Malice Green, Aiyana Stanley Jones and many others. Priscilla Slater, for instance, died in June while in the custody of Harper Woods police and there are no answers yet.  

Black Detroiters contend with water shut offs, high infant mortality rates and hundreds of school closings. 

Black Detroiters are being buried alive in their neighborhoods because of divestment and gentrification.

Black Detroiters are living in food apartheid where they don’t have access to affordable healthy food. 

Black Detroiters are being over-policed as a result of facial recognition technology and mass surveillance. 

Brown, or Latinx, Detroiters on the southwest side of the city are being terrorized by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE.) 

The mainstream media covers some of these issues but does not include the overall oppression of Black and brown people.  

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan downplays these oppressive actions or outright ignores them. For two terms he has refused to fully acknowledge that poverty even exists in Detroit. 

Police Chief James Craig has followed the same actions as the mayor supporting an oppressive system that brutalizes Black and brown bodies. This week, Chief Craig defended a police officer who drove through a crowd of protesters in Detroit. Someone could have been seriously injured or killed.  

Detroit leadership upheld the blue code by stating that the officer had every right to act in an aggressive manner. This feeds a narrative where those who meet the call to challenge this oppressive system are labeled as outside agitators, when the police are the agitators. 

The actions of the officials who support the recklessness of this officer and others is why police terrorism is as normal as apple pie in America. 

Detroit Will Breathe was born out of these foul social conditions and is now entrenched with other organizations fighting on the right side of history. This is why there is a call to defund the police. 

The Detroit Police budget, this year, is $294 million of the city’s general fund. Can you imagine what half of those resources could do for Detroit neighborhoods? The reallocation of those funds would transform the city overnight. 

The difference between communities with resources and without resources is crime. And the root cause of crime is a lack of education and jobs which stems from the deindustrialization of the city. Those who are elected to represent the interest of the people betray them by instead serving the interest of corporations. 

A community fully resourced is a safe community. One way to ensure that Black Bodies live their best lives, is to invest in Black communities and not a large police budget. This is why we push to defund the police. 

Yusef Bunchy Shakur, is an author, educator and neighborhood organizer. He is the co-director of programs at Michigan Roundtable, Community Movement Builders and Mama Akua Community House. 

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