by Anna Rohleder
Originally published: August 3, 2016
On a hot Sunday afternoon in July, The Carl Braden Center at 32nd Street and West Broadway became direct-action headquarters for the Black Lives Matter and Showing Up for Racial Justice movements. Around 60 to 75 people of a range of ages and races, many in Black Lives Matter T-shirts, were packed into rows of folding chairs, so many that they had begun to trail into the other rooms of the house. Even after the meeting started, people continued to file in. They clustered in the doorway and along the back wall.
At the front of a room was a board reading: “How can we position or align Black Lives Matter to address issues of injustice in Louisville and other blacks/Africans across the diaspora?” Addressing the group was Chanelle Helm, 36, a local Black Lives Matter core leader. As the chairs and chairs of people watched and listened, she began to outline a strategy for defeating the “Blue Lives Matter” bill, which state Rep. Kevin Bratcher recently proposed, to make an attack on police and firefighters a hate crime. Civil rights groups say it may weaken protections for minorities, because they cannot change their identities or public visibility by simply taking off a uniform.
“If this goes through, it’s the beginning of martial law,” Helm told the group in her usual matter-of-fact tone. Even when discussing dire circumstances, Helm rarely raises her voice or becomes emotional. “I know it’s hard for white people to understand, but don’t worry about it. Just do white people work, and let us educate black people.” To explain this division of labor, she told the group that white people should work on voter enrollment and talk to white legislators. Then she paused to make an additional request: