When They Call You a Terrorist

by

Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele

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When They Call You a Terrorist: Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Patrisse, Opal, Alicia, and Darnell Moore (a professor who will help build out the BLM network) decide they have to go to Ferguson. Some organizers on the ground tell them to come, but others say they should only come if they can offer medical, legal, policy, or reporting support. They decide to organize a Freedom Ride to Ferguson in two weeks, coordinating buses from Northern and Southern California, Texas, New York, and more. Hundreds join a national planning call, and they raise $50,000 for buses and food.
That Patrisse and the other organizers are able to coordinate buses from across the country, fundraise $50,000, and plan a call  with hundreds of people all in just two weeks’ time shows the power and momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement.
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Patrisse, Darnell, and friends fly to St. Louis a week early and then drive to Ferguson, which feels like an occupied zone. Local police and the National Guard are there with tanks on street corners. They notice how much money is spent on community repression rather than support. They listen to the car radio and are surprised to hear local newscasters talking about Mike Brown with love. Patrisse wonders, “Could it be that we matter?” They talk about how Trayvon was killed in a gated community, a place meant to separate people from one another, whereas Mike was known and loved in Ferguson. Out the windows, they see people protesting and wearing Mike Brown T-shirts.
The extreme police response to the protests in Ferguson—National Guard tanks on every corner—shows how law enforcement is not about keeping Black people safe but about containing and controlling them. Patrisse is amazed to see how locals are referring to Mike Brown with love and is reminded of the power of Black community coming together to heal one another in the face of external threats.
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Patrisse, Darnell, and others meet up with organizers at Harris Stowe University (the local HBCU), and the president of the school says they can use the campus as a meeting place for the Riders. They are thrilled and identify hotels where people can stay before meeting even more organizers from Dream Defenders and BYP 100. They head back to LA, feeling like they have the lay of the land. Two days before the ride, the Harris Stowe organizers back out of their promise, but a pastor in St. Louis calls and says they can use his church as the meeting place. Patrisse pauses and then notes that many of the Riders are queer and trans, but he says all are welcome.
The amount of coordination involved in the Freedom Ride to Ferguson planning suggests that BLM has become a serious and strategic movement. Still, that Harris Stowe backs out of supporting them shows that people are still wary of supporting a movement that seems radical or controversial. When a pastor offers up his church as their new meeting place, Patrisse pauses because she worries that this man will discriminate against the queer and trans members of their group. 
Themes
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The Riders send out a final press release and hold a call with 600 organizers across the U.S. The buses leave the Thursday of Labor Day weekend—it will take 38 hours for Californians to arrive. Many Black trans women risk their lives to travel through the Midwest and, after, tell Patrisse and the other leaders that their presence should have been made more visible. Black trans women are the most criminalized people on the planet. After this, the leaders make sure to always name that they are queer- and trans-led, and to work with Black trans organizations. BLM also decides to always have an evolving political framework.
Patrisse notes that the Black trans women are risking their lives to travel through the Midwest, implying that they are safer from harassment or physical violence in their more progressive coastal cities. Patrisse’s attunement to the particular intersections of oppression that Black trans women face is another example of her commitment to healing together in community. She accepts that she and other cisgender leaders did not do enough to amplify their stories and commits to doing better.
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Everyone arrives at the church on Friday night, and Patrisse meets Opal for the first time—they are happy but also somber because they know there’s work to do. Darnell and Patrisse welcome everyone and review the safety guidelines. The next day, they are in the streets by 10 a.m., standing in front of tanks. Palestinian protestors have taught them to douse their eyes in milk after tear gas attacks. That evening, some of them join a peaceful occupation of the police station, calling for Darren Wilson to be charged (which he never will be). Others (mostly women) use the church to rest, including locals who have been protesting for four weeks.
Patrisse uses the fact that Darren Wilson is never charged for killing Mike Brown to suggest that law enforcement and public officials treat Black people as expendable. Despite all of the police violence at the protests, Patrisse and the other organizers show that healing is also an important part of their movement, opening up the church for people to simply rest.
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In the church, they process what’s happening: two Black women have recently been imprisoned for defending themselves against abuse. They talk about their own experiences, too—poverty, abuse, police violence, feeling unseen in the movement despite the fact that 80 percent of protestors in Ferguson are women. The media, of course, focus on the men. This will continue to be true as news outlets cover the growing BLM movement; Patrisse, Alicia, and Opal will not be invited to speak on news programs at first. Patrisse notes, “it is always women who do the work, even as men get the praise.
Though Patrisse cares deeply about the police killings of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, she—and the other Black women in Ferguson—take the time to address the fact that Black women are also actively harmed by the police. In fact, they exist at the intersection of racism and sexism, sometimes navigating both domestic violence from male partners and police violence. Sexism also leads to the media ignoring Patrisse, Alicia, and Opal’s role in starting the BLM movement, choosing to amplify the voices of Black male protestors instead. 
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This erasure of women’s work is exacerbated by social media; the number of followers someone has supplants the work of people who don’t have time to tweet. Like the many women who organized, marched, and cooked for the civil rights movement, Patrisse, Alicia, and Opal are being erased. They don’t want to be the center of the movement but they don’t want to be forgotten either. Infuriated, Patrisse tells Black women journalists about their erasure, including asha bandele, her co-author and a writer for Essence. asha asks for the whole story and publishes an essay about Patrisse in late 2014. Then, Essence turns BLM into a front-page story, the first article to center the three women’s experience.
The Black women protestors at the church start criticizing the media for erasing their role in leading the protests, highlighting again how Black women exist at the intersection of at least two different types of oppression—racism and sexism. Patrisse also notes that historically speaking, Black women played a major role in the civil rights movement. Yet most people only think about the men who co-led the movement, demonstrating that this type of sexism has always been something Black women have had to navigate.
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Related Quotes
On Sunday, the church has a service dedicated to BLM, and many protestors attend. The pastor gives a sermon calling congregants to commit to the movement. After, Patrisse helps pass out flyers in the prosecutor’s neighborhood, asking people to tell him to indict Darren Wilson. Their final day there, they host a discussion on patriarchy in the movement. Darnell describes how he knows, even as a gay man, that he is prioritized. Meanwhile, Mark Anthony and others have turned the church basement into a healing space, where protestors can access massage, therapy, acupuncture, and art supplies. They deserve a place to restore. Before leaving, Patrisse shouts out Assata Shakur’s declaration that it is their duty to fight and support one another, and the crowd repeats it back.
By taking part in an action to get Darren Wilson indicted, hosting a discussion on sexism within the Black Lives Matter movement, and working with Mark Anthony to set up a healing space in the church all within the span of a day, Patrisse shows that in order to create a world where Black lives finally do matter, it will take policy changes, police accountability, an acknowledgement of the intersectionality of identity, and community healing.
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In December, Alicia and Opal come to LA to discuss building out the BLM network. The movement is growing: people want to organize by region and also by expertise and hundreds of organizers across the globe join biweekly calls. Meanwhile, Patrisse’s relationship with Mark Anthony is changing. She learned from Cherice that love is best expressed through labor rather than affection and, as she works around the clock, their relationship loses its romantic charge. Patrisse feels like Mark Anthony will fight alongside her but not for her. At dinner one night, they agree that they love each other but that they are not working. The break-up is painful for both of them, but they know they will always be family. They continue to work well together on Dignity and Power Now.
The fact that the Black Lives Matter movement is growing so quickly suggests that they are successfully building power and have a shot at winning their campaigns to make the world safer for Black people. Patrisse and Mark Anthony’s decision to end their relationship in an amicable and loving way shows how much effort they have put into building a relationship where they genuinely value and respect each other.
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Patrisse begins to date again—first a trans man who doesn’t agree to nonmonogamy, and then JT, her longtime friend who is part of BLM. They are talking about having a child together when they hear about Sandra Bland, a young Black activist who was pulled over by a Texas state trooper for failing to signal a turn. Sandra refused to put out a cigarette she was smoking, so the state trooper pulled her out of the car and slammed her to the ground. Dash cam footage circulates in which he threatens to “light her up.” He will be fired for perjury, but not until after Sandra is found dead in her jail cell. The police call her hanging a suicide, but Patrisse says that no one with sense believes this—she was on her way to a new job and had talked to her sister about putting together bail.
As Patrisse describes, Sandra Bland was found hanging in a Texas jail cell in July 2015 a few days after a routine traffic stop led to her arrest. The way that the state trooper targeted her for such a minor offense (not using a turn signal) combined with how he spoke to her (threatening to “light her up”) are examples of Patrisse’s argument that police officers are primed to treat Black people with aggression. Patrisse doesn’t believe that Sandra killed herself, implying that it was a police officer or jail employee who took her life.
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The African American Policy Forum begins using the hashtag #SayHerName to acknowledge how state violence affects Black women, too. The day after Sandra is found dead, Kindra Chapman (18) is found hanging in her cell after being there for 90 minutes on a stolen cell phone charge. There are so many other stories: Miriam Carey (age 34) killed by federal officers when she made a wrong turn near the White House, Rekia Boyd (age 22) killed by Chicago police while talking to friends in a park, Kathryn Johnston (age 92) killed by Atlanta police who had the wrong address, and many more.
The hashtag #SayHerName is intentionally used to highlight that Black women’s names and stories go untold when they are the targets of police violence, an example of how Black women navigate both racism and sexism. Patrisse intentionally shares other Black women’s stories to suggest that Sandra Bland was not the only Black woman unjustly targeted by the police.
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Women have historically been left out of the story, even though many Black women were lynched, too. Some have been killed while pregnant or had their babies cut out of them. Sandra’s death ignites something in Patrisse, maybe because she’s an activist, or because death inside facilities is so rarely talked about, or because women have been leading BLM since the start. Patrisse knows she has to amplify this story and reaches out to friends at Dream Defenders, Mijente, and BLM-Los Angeles (there are 20 chapters at this point). They decide to meet at the Netroots conference in Phoenix, where it’s unlikely people will be talking about Sandra’s death.
Again, Patrisse notes that Black women’s stories are so often erased from both history books and modern-day media—when people think of lynching victims, they almost never think of Black women. Patrisse also wants to tell the stories of people who die inside prisons and jails, which are often left out of the narrative and show that prisons can be just as violent as overly policed communities.
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Patrisse has some regrets about the action—now, she would tell the full BLM network what they’re planning. But in 2015, they move fast; less than a week after finding out about Sandra’s death, they are meeting in the back of a restaurant in Phoenix, planning, singing, and crying. Someone says that they are doing a candidate’s forum the next day, and that Bernie Sanders will be there. Patrisse suggests they shut it down. She lets the moderator know that they are coming, and the next day, 100 of them storm the forum.
This is another moment when Patrisse and her fellow activists intentionally combine public direct actions with private moments of grieving and healing together. For Black lives to fully matter, Patrisse suggests, policymakers must be held accountable, but the organizers will not wait for that day to come—they will heal one another now, too.
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Patrisse and the other BLM members sing “Which side are you on?” and one activist gets on stage to talk about immigration. The crowd of Democrats boos, which motivates Patrisse to jump on stage and yell back at them “How dare you boo her, boo us?! Our people are dying!” The audience stops booing and they continue their action, sitting down and saying in unison that if they die in police custody, people should know that they were killed, protest their deaths, and tell the world they wanted to live. The protest makes headlines globally and Patrisse feels the impact of their work. Back in LA, as she is gearing up for the first Movement for Black Lives gathering (to take place in Cleveland where Tamir Rice was killed), she finds out she is six weeks pregnant.
The direct action that Patrisse engages in intends to highlight how Black people who die in police custody may have been killed rather than taken their own lives, suggesting that prisons are not a safe place for Black people. That the Black Lives Matter organizers are working with Mijente (an immigrant rights organization mostly led by Latinx people) points to their deep understanding that their struggles are connected—identity is intersectional, and just as the Black people Patrisse grew up with were targeted by police, Latinx immigrants are targeted by ICE.
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