VNA Statement on Violence in our Community and our Country
The Vine Neighborhood Association and its Board of Directors believe that it is crucial to acknowledge the recent violent events that have led up to our need to release a statement:
- On Friday, May 1, a Black teenager named Cornelius Frederick was killed by staff at his residential youth facility.
- On Saturday, May 30, KDPS officers in riot gear appeared at a peaceful protest in downtown Kalamazoo. They entered the crowd and were physically forceful with protesters.
- On Monday, June 1, during the ongoing global pandemic, KDPS officers used tear gas and pepper spray on peaceful protesters engaged in a vigil for Black lives killed by police.
- On Tuesday, June 2, the City of Kalamazoo instated a curfew from 7 pm to 5 am. The National Guard arrived downtown and barricaded a significant portion of downtown to restrict travel. Again, peaceful protesters were tear gassed and pepper sprayed during a global pandemic. Arrests were made. On Wednesday, June 3, the curfew was lifted.
- From June 4 to June 7, suspicious arson fires have occurred overnight in the Northside, a predominantly Black neighborhood in Kalamazoo. Many have lost their homes and businesses, and one person has lost their life.
- On June 8, Kalamazoo Metro SWAT arrived to the Stuart neighborhood and performed a warrantless search and seizure of a family’s house supposedly in relation to a shooting on Vine St. This happened at around 12:30 in the morning, when the family’s children were sleeping. These children no longer have beds to sleep in as a result of this militarized abuse. The family asks for any donation, no matter how small, to help them heal financially, spiritually, and mentally.
- On June 15, the Kalamazoo Junior Girls building was vandalized.
There have been no apologies or accountability for the aforementioned events.
We also believe that it is important to reiterate that all of the aforementioned events occurred during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, a pandemic that has disproportionately affected Black communities and communities of color in our country. The Vine Neighborhood Association serves a racially diverse neighborhood in Kalamazoo, and many of our neighbors and those we serve have been disproportionately harmed by both the pandemic and the instances of police violence in our community.
Our mission is to improve and enhance the lives of the people in our neighborhood. We can’t talk about enhancing neighborhood life without speaking to the systems of power that fuse the oppression, disempowerment, and the murder of people of color. The VNA and its board are committed to becoming a more actively antiracist organization, and we believe that Black Lives Matter. As a historically white organization which has had predominantly white boards and employs a predominantly white staff, we acknowledge that we have internal work to do. We will strive to ensure our work and our service is equitable, contributes to justice, and actively dismantles and divests from white supremacy culture. We will not tolerate anything but antiracist initiatives, both internally and in our larger city and county government.
We, as a board, stand in solidarity with Kalamazoo County Commissioner Stephanie Moore’s resolutions that racism is a public health crisis and that police brutality needs to end.
We, as a board, commit to acting with urgency and also taking the much-needed time and introspection to deconstruct and divest from our own internalized white supremacy.
We, as a board, will remain accountable to the community we serve by updating you on our progress toward these goals.
Black Lives Matter.
The Vine Neighborhood Association and its Board of Directors