[Photo credit: Central Oregon Peacekeepers]
Those who know about Allyship in Action (AiA) may be most familiar with us as a company or name. Behind the name, we are two non-Black, women of color living in Central Oregon who partner with a team of consultants with different lived experiences and identities. The formal work we do as a company evolved from our lifelong efforts to combat oppression based on our identities and of those we love. We started the company knowing that words are not enough and that action from all of us is necessary to usher in a new, equitable world.
Right now, the new world seems far off. We are heartbroken and outraged over the murder of Barry Washington, Jr. (BJ). Paired with everything else going on in the community and world, we are also to some degree exasperated. As non-Black women who didn’t know Barry personally, we know this is not a moment we lead. As the criminal legal process moves forward, we do feel it is important to share a statement about our work with the Deschutes County District Attorney’s office (DCDA), our understanding of the charges in this case (while not an expert in criminal law, LeeAnn is a former civil attorney and is helping Kerani with no legal background, understand the legal process), and our call for action moving forward.
Our Work with the DCDA’s Office
District Attorney John Hummel issued a press release on June 8, 2020 with a call for criminal justice reform and stated his intention to “partner with Allyship in Action to advance equity and social justice in our office through customized assessment, education, and long-range planning and support.” After that press release, Hummel approached AiA to work with the DCDA’s office and we agreed to a more limited “Phase I” scope of work that included supporting the formation of a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work group, an internal baseline assessment to inform the DEI work group’s goals, and a series of foundational DEI workshops. That work with the DCDA’s office under that contract was recently completed.
If you have questions about AiA’s work with the DCDA’s office we can share more about the limitations of our scope of work there, which focused on laying a basic foundation for the DCDA’s office to apply to their work and office culture. And while we hope our work with the DCDA’s office will support more equitable outcomes in the prosecution of crime, our scope of work did not involve charging or sentencing decision-making.
Our Understanding of the Charges in the Case
We join our community in the outcry about how responding Bend Police Department officers initially charged the crime as only second-degree manslaughter over the weekend, allowing for the corresponding $10,000 bond to be paid and a killer released from jail. We are anxious to see if the the DCDA’s office will present a case for murder to the grand jury on October 5th and if the grand jury will find there is enough evidence for a murder charge. We have seen Hummel exercise his authority and power as a check and balance to law enforcement before, and we hope to see that again.
Our Call to Action
Our systems were built to allow this to happen. From the discretion allowed to law enforcement in initially charging crimes on the scene (and legal protections from making biased and fatal decisions), to concealed carry laws, to the white supremacy norms embedded in the fabric of our community. We call on our community to dig deep into self-reflection about how we all participate in and uphold these systems…and commit to dismantling these systems.
We believe in the power of collective voices demanding justice and true criminal justice reform. We have contacted John Hummel as individuals imploring the office to make good on its claims that it protects the safety and thriving of Black and Brown people in this community and encourage individuals to direct any advocacy and questions around the handling of Barry’s case to John Hummel and the DCDA’s office. We have contacted Mike Krantz imploring accountability within the Bend Police department for how responding officers initially charged the crime and encourage others to do the same.
We also encourage you to donate to the GoFundMe Campaign set up on behalf of Barry’s mother. Finally, we ask folks to use their voices and power to demand that Central Oregon News Daily take down the video posted of the killing of Barry. Call and/or email Central Oregon Daily News and Zolo Media demanding they take it down (541-388-7704, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org). Contact their advertisers to demand they withdraw their support. Contact the Bend Chamber of Commerce to hold their members accountable.
Barry’s death is just one more tragic reminder that social justice and equity work is a labor of survival for those of us from communities oppressed by white supremacy. Our hearts go out to Barry’s friends and family and we pledge to continue doing the work and taking action. We recognize that this work takes many forms, and we are grateful for the many ways our community and local groups are leading in pursuit of #JusticeForBarry and our collective liberation.
Kerani & LeeAnn