Kailee Scales is the Managing Director for Black Lives Matter Network Action Fund and Black Lives Matter Global Network, Inc. Black Lives Matter Global Network is a world-renowned global movement that began as a rallying cry to end state-sanctioned and vigilante violence against Black people and achieve Black liberation. In her capacity, Kailee has built a sound infrastructure around this global phenomenon and has keenly focused on evolving the movement from a hashtag to a political and cultural powerhouse for Black people across the globe. Kailee has helped pave the way for sustainable legacy building for BLM, launched its Arts+Culture platform, its presence in the fine art world, as well as created BLM’s WhatMATTERS2020, a civic engagement campaign targeted towards Black Millennial and Gen Z voters at risk of disenfranchisement in one of the most important election cycles in our lifetime.
Signing off: It’s been a great 2 and a half hours. Thank you so much for all your questions. Feel free to visit us at www.blacklivesmatter.com for more information.
In love and solidarity!
For those who can't physically protest and may not be able to financially donate to many causes, what is the most important thing we can do to be supporting the BLM movement?
I really appreciate this question, not everyone can be on the front lines. I think staying vigilant on the road to freedom is important. Staying aware, informed, signing petitions, sharing content, joining town halls, participating in the conversation, etc. A lot of organization work has moved to the digital space in the age of COVID, so follow blacklivesmatter.com and your local chapter to get involved and stay engaged.
I have seen some movements calling for defunding of police, and you agreed with that sentiment in another comment.
The call for defunding the police force is based in simple facts:
More than 1,000 people are killed by police in the US every, single year. 220 lives were taken by police this year alone.
Modern-day policing institutions have their roots in slave-catching. These systems were created to hunt, maim, and kill Black people -- and are the result of centuries-old anti-Black attitudes codified into law.
Simply put the criminal justice system in this country -- including law enforcement and incarceration -- is actually working the way it is intended to.
We are calling for a re-focused effort to transform and nurture our communities. We are calling for divestment in police in order to support more teachers, mental health and restorative services, and community resilience departments, social workers, and government resource liaisons.
In truth, the most 911 calls are for mental health services, health and EMT and fire service and in a 2017 report, the NYPD halted proactive policing in late 2014 and early 2015. Analysis found that civilian complaints of major crimes (like burglary, felony assault, and grand larceny) decreased during and shortly after reductions in policing.
So we know decreased policing works.
What is being done to actively separate the peaceful BLM movement from the destruction and riots that are using it as a cover? This question is specifically not regarding altercations with law enforcement, but rather looting and destruction of third party property. In the part of the country I am in, this issue is consistently used as a way to discredit the movement as a whole.
Let me be clear: we do not advocate violence in protests of any kind -- not by any protester and not by police. We do not advocate or condone destruction of property. We believe in the value of human lives.
What are the specific things we need to push for to be changed? I often ask this question as a D&I consultant to those on the frontline, and it’s often genetically “Black Rights”?
Then, how do we communicate that specifically so everyone understands what they need to be doing beyond the protest or tweet itself? Since the ballot or heck a company policy change, won’t just be “Black Lives Matter click here”
I appreciate the question. People should be doing things at all levels including policy, corporate, and in their communities. On a community level, people can: -- Vote: the entire ballot is important. Voting controls who your police chiefs and judges are. -- Pay attention to budget spending in your community. --Call your city council advocate for funds to be spent on community needs. --Repeat.
Have you ever travelled to different countries and experience the different views on race there? Ie there basically is no white privlige in Scandinavia, 2 years to become apolice officer, etc. Or in countries in Africa where black privilege exists? I think a lot of people throw everyone into the white privileged thing, due to it being a thing in the U.S
I have worked in 14 countries all of over the world. I can tell you people from the African diaspora (Black people around the globe) face challenges everywhere. This movement is for all those around the world who feel marginalized and oppressed by the dominant culture where they live.
Hi Kailee, thanks for doing this AMA. One of the primary goals of BLM at the moment seems to be defunding the police, to me this it seems like this is solely being done for retaliatory reasons and could have some serious negative consequences. What is the ultimate goal of defunding the police, and how do you think this will affect society at large?
It is less about retaliation and more about repairing what is broken so we can get out of the streets and on with our lives. So that Black people can be assured that we will not only survive, but thrive. The ultimate goal of defunding the police is to repair the systemic oppression that has bought us to this breaking point -- and to repair the pain inflicted upon Black people. But defunding is not enough -- we need to reallocate the funds to build and transform our communities.
Hi Kailee, thanks for doing this.
I'm a strong supporter of the BLM movement but I do have concerns with the current protests in the times of COVID.
Clearly the huge number of black deaths in custody and police brutality are major issues that must be addressed. At the same time, it's highly likely that the current protests could lead to a spike in COVID infections which may in itself result in 1000s or tens of 1000s of deaths. These deaths would likely be disproportionately black due to both the composition of protests and overall poorer access to healthcare for people of colour (at least in Australia, I'm making the assumption that it's similar in the US).
In your opinion, how should someone like myself who is concerned about both these issues, go about deciding whether to join protests or indeed support the decision of others to protest (and potentially put the safety of others at risk)?
I understand both concerns -- they are real. It is truly amazing to see people in this pandemic moment put their bodies on the line to fight for justice and equality. I would suggest following safety precautions for attending protests like social distancing as much as possible, wearing masks, and, most importantly, staying home if you feel sick. BLM Global Network has shared some safety tips compiled by M4BL and BlackOUT Collective. You can find them on our website, if you sign up for emails as well as if you text "Transform" to 24365.
How do you manage the brand? Isn't it open to anyone to say they're doing X, Y or Z in the name of Black Lives Matter?
No, but very good question. We clearly communicate our goal, values, and principles on our website along with the Chapters that are affiliated with us. Chapters each function autonomously, but agree these values. You can find all currently affiliated Chapters listed on our website: blacklivesmatter.com
There are many other groups who do work as well, but BLM Global Network cannot vouch for the goals, values, and principles of other groups.
What’s your thought on the looting and smashing local businesses?
We advocate for peaceful protests in every instance and do not condone looting or destruction of any kind. We also believe violations of property should never be equated with violations of human life.
Simple: Yes I do. Over-policing and economic inequality has led to deep trauma within our communities that has impacted us for decades. It has impacted our mental and physical health from the stress it causes. Investment in our communities will allow us to envision and plan for different futures for ourselves, it will allow us to attain what can feel like the unattainable dream. We need education, employment services, a track to gain wealth, art, beauty, joy, peace. When these come, we can thrive.
What do you think is the most important reform we should be pushing for?
We are pushing to defund the police force and transform our communities. I know that sounds like a lot to take in, but simply, it is the idea of creating the "American Dream" for all -- less cops on streets and better schools and social programming.
I am an outsider, I am just curious to know why now, why the protests being held at such a time ? ( Aware of George Floyd's death). What exactly is that you want to achieve from this moment.
I believe these protests we see happening all across the world are the cry of people saying enough is enough.
Your organization has been accused of anti-semitism both by its members, it’s alliances, and its reverence for avowed Jew haters. For example, the myth that Jews were particularly involved in the slave trade seems to be particularly pervasive and pernicious, and is entirely fabricated by the Nation of Islam. Jews on the streets of Brooklyn have been repeatedly targetted by black citizens in violent crimes. BLM has turned a blind eye to antisemitism in its support of the Palestinian cause, a cause in no way related to black equality in the United States.
It should be obvious that equality for blacks people cannot be achieved through bigotry and subjugation of another oppressed group.
What are you doing to fight bigotry within BLM?
I am not sure where you receive your information, but BLM is a political home for all those marginalized, invisible, and oppressed by the dominant culture. We do not support or express hate speech or bias of any kind.
What do you think is the most important thing that we as a society should be focusing on?
It is an exciting time for transformation. As a society, we must lean into this spirit and lean far. We need to know that we can have the fair, just, equitable world we are fighting for. It is in our reach -- anything is possible. We should continue to push at all levels for justice and liberation for all.
Hi Kailee. What is BLM doing to promote the value of life within the African American community, particularly in areas where gun violence has become a societally acceptable way to resolve conflict?
Our call to transform our communities is a result of our deep love and commitment for one another. This is why we call for reinvestment n our communities and a divestment in police. The presence of proactive policing -- which involves systematic and aggressive enforcement of low-level violations -- is directly connected to reports of major crime.
Police are trained to de-escalate using force. We know that the over-presence of police -- in schools, on every street, patrolling neighbors, as first responders to domestic issues and mental health crisis, does not make a neighborhood feel safer and more protected -- it has the opposite effect.
When people give money to Black Lives Matter, where specifically does it go? What’s financial transparency like for your organization?
Hi -- great question. Right now, our programs are focused on civic engagement, expansion of chapters, Arts & Culture, organizing and digital advocacy resources and tools. Please visit our website and subscribe to blacklivesmatter.com for updates and more information to come!
What do you think when you see looters stealing the headlines from the real cause you are fighting for?
I believe that violations of property should never be equated with violations of human life.
Why are the BLM goals so broad? There is language on your website about not only Blackness, but also the nuclear family and sexual orientation. Does this dilute your message and turn off potential supporters?
There are a multitude of issues and concepts to address that will lead us to collective liberation.
What do you do to decompress at the end of the day? How much "quiet" time do you allow yourself...free from social or outside communication? Or do you?
I really need to do much better and "quiet" time. But I do meditate -- even for 5 minutes! -- and regularly attend therapy sessions to prioritize my mental health. That is important for all of us.
Hi Kailee, it's nice having people like you around.
Anyway here's my question, do you believe that "All lives matter" is just some kind of racist movement made by white supremacists ? I also believe in "All lives matter" but not because of jealousy towards the black communtiy, but due to the fact that we seem to ignore things happening all around the world and only focus on the west, mainly the USA. For instance, white people genocide is South Africa, "racism" (not really racism but well) between Indians and Pakistanis, concentration camps in China.
We believe that all lives WILL matter, when Black lives matter.
I realize this is a bit of a loaded question but...some of the older protests by black people lasted 30, 60, almost an entire year. But they did enact change.
Do you...I want to believe but...do you believe this is the same? Do you think the issues presented are impossible to ignore now? Whether we protest for a month or a year, do you think we can actually enact many of the changes we need?
I'm scared if things slow down that this will be forgotten =/
What we are seeing now is a multi-cultural coalition of people saying: Enough is Enough. This will enact change.
Hi Kailee, thanks for doing this. How are you doing personally during these times? Have you been threatened IRL or over social media?
Hi there! I am feeling pretty tired today! Actually, it's been a range of emotions all month. And everyone has been very supportive.
Hi, Kailee thank you for doing this. I just wanted to know when y’all started the Black Lives Matter movement did y’all have an idea as to who should participate in protests and marches to spread the message? Or was the idea mainly just to let everyone know that systematic violence against the African-American community is still a problem in America? Again, thank you for your time.
We support all those who stand up for Black people and feel moved to spread the message.
What are the best ways I can speak up as an ally to help your cause without coopting/speaking over your cause?
I appreciate this question. The best way is to amplify the messages and work of Black-led groups that have been doing this work for decades. You can follow blacklivesmatter.com, of course, and @blklivesmatter, as well as the Movement for Black Lives, a consortium of hundreds of Black-led groups. We provide sharable resources and information for you to amplify.
I still don't really understand "defund the police", could you explain or point to a resource that best explains it? Do you think it could be worded better?
"Reform the police" sounds like a much better idea (and message).
Which authors would you recommend to an ally looking to expand their knowledge in order to be able to more effectively be an ally?
Oh so many! Try Michelle Alexander, Ta-nehisi Coates, and Angela Davis just to name a few...
Quite obviously in America, this fight has been going on for decades. What do you think has lead to this level of support for BLM, recently?
Yes, this fight has been going on for centuries. For me, this current moment brings up one of my favorite poems -- Harlem, by Langston Hughes:
What Happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore- And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over- like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
I was born in the deep south and saw racial prejudice, in all of its hateful forms, from day one. And it's still going on today, continued by the same idiocy that fed it back then. It seems to always come from the same group think and I wonder sometimes if that will ever change - it's like they WANT to be prejudiced or something. I kept hoping they would die off but new racists took their place. And no they won't change their minds. So what to do from here? I really hope the demonstrations will change minds but I fear it may not change enough to end racism in the US. Does BLM have any ideas to that end?
Changing racism is a big goal. We fight for the eradication and white supremacy every day. Many say that racism will end when white people and the dominant culture confront and release their privilege and commit to rebuilding from the ground up.
Thank you for standing up for Black people. I can see the you are already doing a great job -- by staying aware and vigilant, by sharing messaging and by participating in these forums and not being afraid to have what can be hard conversations.
Because the NAACP seems to be missing the youth and BLM has more recognition on the ground, do you think the BLM group will continue to lobby for new policy and policy reform post the recent movement? I understand money is an issue.
Our organizers have been working and will continue to work to improve the material conditions in their communities. We are fighting to impact policy all over the country -- to great success.
What actions are you exploring to promote registering to vote and to actually vote this fall? Seeing the turn out from the Pennsylvania primary last week, Dems were almost non existent in a lot of polling places while Reps still came out.
We are excited to launch civic engagement campaign, BLM's What MATTERS 2020, to engage, educate and mobilize people to the polls. For more information, please text: WHAT MATTERS to 24365