“A friend of mine called me and said he was in a discussion: What you do if you get stopped [by the police]? We talked for 40 minutes,” says Brian Taylor, one of the leaders of Black Lives Matter Cincinnati.
“Who has these conversations on a regular basis? You’re law-abiding. You’re established. What world do we live in when you have to spend 40 minutes discussing how do you survive? That’s a profound reality that people who don’t have that experience assume [is] an exaggerated thing.”
The local Black Lives Matter group started in 2014, around the same time the national effort entered the broader cultural consciousness, but Taylor (above) and other members are quick to point out that BLM Cincinnati is an independent coalition with its own set of ideals: They don’t identify as a chapter of the national movement. They believe in the fight for black equality and liberation. They organize teach-in sessions. They are multinational and multiethnic. And they don’t orient with electoral politics—which is why the group has passed up invitations by the mayor’s office and city leadership for sit-down discussions. (Holly Stutz Smith, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff, confirmed as much, though she added, “Our door remains open.”)
“[The local government’s] responsibility is to indict, prosecute, and jail cops [in cases of officer-involved shootings]. Until you do that, it’s an unserious discussion,” says Taylor. “It’s lip service.”
They aren’t merely Facebook activists, either. BLM Cincinnati believes the focus should be less rhetoric and lobbying, more organized action and specific demands of accountability from government and law enforcement.
“We are here to service the families of victims who have been lost to police violence,” says Jay Ali, a BLM Cincinnati member. “Long after the protests and marches, these families are still hurting, still mourning. Anybody can march up and down the street, but we have to make sure we are doing our due diligence for these families.”