It is nearly impossible to write an appropriate introduction for this interview piece. Amid overwhelming heartbreak and anger over the murder of George Floyd, I reached out to two exceptional women who are leaders in our community and serve as leaders in the local chapter of Moms of Black Boys United. We want to thank Stacey Ledbetter and Sabrina Prichett-Evans for taking time out of their busy schedules to share with our readers.
Tell us a little about yourself?
STACEY – I am “Black & Blue.” A Black woman – mother of two young adult Black sons, wife, sister, cousin, aunt, friend. God ordered my steps with a Blue career – I am a retired Captain (2017) who served over 25 years in law enforcement at the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety. My expertise is in community policing, and I established numerous trusting and lasting relationships with community members over the years, to date. I am now the CEO of Black & Blue Networking & Consulting, LLC, we do training, facilitation, and team-building with a cultural awareness and equity lens. I am also on the Leadership Team with Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) Kalamazoo.
SABRINA – I am a child of God with wants, desires, love, joy, and fear like all other human beings. My race and gender do not change what God has for my family and me. As a mother of two sons, my desire is for the world to accept them for the wonderful souls they are and the uniqueness and beauty that they bring to our world. It is also my desire that they use the gifts that they have been bestowed for the betterment of themselves, family, and humankind.
I’m also a business owner for over 27 years. I own two insurance and financial service agencies located in Kalamazoo & South Haven.
Tell our readers about M.O.B.B.
SABRINA – M.O.B.B. (Moms of Black Boys) United for Social Change, Inc (MUSC) is dedicated to positively influencing how Black boys and men are perceived and treated by law enforcement and in society. The founder is Depelsha McGruder, located in New York, NY, and the executive director is Vanessa McCullers, located in Los Angeles, CA. It started as a friendly Facebook support group in 2016. MUSC is the advocacy arm and sister organization of Moms of Black Boys United, Inc. Its goal is to influence policy at the federal, state, and local levels to ensure that Black boys and men are treated fairly and equitably. MUSC is focused on eradicating harassment, brutality, and unwarranted use of deadly force by law enforcement. We want our sons and law enforcement officers to make it home safely every night.
I first became aware of the group through the Facebook page. I later became interested in the advocacy side and joined as a dues-paying member. After I found out that there wasn’t a Michigan chapter, I started a local SW Michigan chapter. We needed nine members to form a chapter, and we made it happen. We all want the same things for our sons. We want society to view them as the wonderful human beings we nurture that brings joy to hearts and creates a sparkle in our eyes.
Why is it so important to not generalize and say, “all lives matter”?
STACEY – “All Lives Matter” should be a given, but countless horrendous incidents against Black people – both historical and current – have, among other things, magnified the lack of inclusivity and marginalization, which has resulted. A very general example is that All Houses Matter, no one wants their home destroyed – but if your house is on fire, you want the fire department to spray water on your house and put out the fire, not the one down the street that is not on fire. The point is to focus on the issue, not to smother it with statements that are a given, and unnecessary at that time.
What are the essential questions we all need to be asking in our community?
STACEY – I think that people need to start by asking themselves questions. Turning to wonder when you hear about things that you simply do not identify with, have preconceived notions about, or have not experienced. Checking one’s own biases is an intentional activity. What brought me to that conclusion? I wonder what that person has gone through in life?
Questions to be asked in our community are about disparities, statistics, stories you hear about but don’t grasp.
What are your thoughts regarding the killing of George Floyd? How would our community react to and handle a situation like that? At what point in your life did you become aware of racial differences? What were you taught about people who are unlike you?
SABRINA – We should be asking for transparency in how laws are enforced. How many people actually use drugs based on race and gender versus who is charged? We had a racial profiling study in 2013, and it proved that the police were racially profiling. What happened? What changed as a result of the study? Does the community feel that there was change? How are certain people policed versus other communities? Listen closely to how groups are discussed depending on where they live or what they look like and then ask why? Is there any validity to what is believed, or is it based on media? We know what diversity looks like, what does inclusion look like? How often have you had honest conversations with someone who doesn’t look like you or didn’t grow up in the same neighborhood?
Sometimes we don’t hear what is being said; we hear what we want to hear. What is the message we need to hear from the Black community?
STACEY – You need to hear personal stories from Black people who are willing (e.g., via Racial Healing Circles), in person. Everyone has their own story, and groups of people should not be generalized or stereotyped with 100% broad-stroke assumptions or negative comments about everyone in that group. Organizations like MOBB exist for a valid reason, research them, and have discussions with members about their realities.
SABRINA – We need to hear what has been said for centuries. The black community is over-policed. It’s not a matter of police training to deescalate. It’s a matter of heart and what is right and wrong. Police know how to deescalate.
What can people of other races do to support and encourage Black people and other people of color in our community?
STACEY – Continue to do profiles in this magazine, support Black businesses, speak out against racist acts and comments that you witness, educate yourselves on the history of this country to understand why we have racism and discrimination issues in this country in 2020, be an ally in advocating for equitable systemic changes in the Criminal Justice System, at all education levels, hiring and opportunity practices. Work on building relationships with people unlike yourself, and contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need assistance with learning about specific advocacy initiatives that you can help with right now.
SABRINA – Find about laws and stress transparency. Advocate for less incarceration and breaking up of families. Advocate for increasing the age of reason from seven in Michigan. Laws like this seem to be used disparagingly against people of color. Push for settlement of disputes in school at school. Children need to learn to solve social issues without the harsh penalty that comes along with law enforcement.
Remember, we are people representing the human race just like you.