An early morning phone call 

The call came as I was home getting ready to drive to work. The caller said his name quickly, and I couldn’t understand him. Finally he said he’s an advertiser in Community Word, and I recognized the name immediately. He was a valued advertiser.

He said he was upset about an advertisement/insert in the February issue of Community Word for the Patrisse Cullors Black Lives Matter lecture at Bradley University.

The caller said that group advocates killing police officers, and he objects that Community Word accepted the ad.

No, I responded, that is not the advocacy of Black Lives Matter, a group organized after the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. I said this is a lecture sponsored by a number of organizations and scheduled at Bradley University. None of us would be involved with an organization that advocates killing police officers.

But the caller was adamant. He heard no explanation by me and nothing dissuaded him. Finally he said, “I know what I’m talking about. My son-in-law is a cop.”

My response was the allegation is not true, and I’d be happy to meet and talk in person. He responded by canceling his ads and hanging up on me.

Why is this troubling? Because Black Lives Matter. Despite facts and reason, people can hold on to misinformation and allow it to shape their actions and beliefs. This is how hate grows and reason is smothered by irrational emotion.

Patrisse Cullors is a Fulbright Scholar, artist, writer and black woman who co-founded Black Lives Matter, a grassroots organization widely acclaimed nationally and globally.

Our judicial system and penal systems are disproportionately filled with African Americans. Statistics prove that African Americans have not committed more crimes than their white counterpoints yet they are convicted and incarcerated at higher rates. One response to that statistically documented, verifiable disparity has been to privatize prisons so corporations make huge profits from this institutional racism.

Black Lives Matter wants to combat that.

Co-sponsors of the Patrisse Cullors presentation at Bradley University included the Activities Council of Bradley University, the Anti-Slavery Coalition, the art department, Asian American Student Association, Association of Latin American Students, BE U.N.I.T.E.D, Black Student Alliance, Bradley Advocating for Diversity, Bradley University Student Senate, Feminists at Bradley, History Department, Men of Culture, Muslim Student Association and more. Community co-sponsors included Central Illinois Interfaith Alliance, Hope Renewed, Illinois Central College Social Sciences & Public Services Division, NAACP, Peoria Community Against Violence, Peoria Citizens Committee for Economic Opportunity. This is only a partial list.

So why was this phone call so discouraging? Because if facts don’t matter, democracy atrophies. If we don’t use facts to influence our thinking and shape our lives, the alternative is living with delusions and injustice. We can’t move forward and become a better, stronger and just community without facts and reason. We can’t count on a just and civil society. We can’t expect and hope that truth matters. (Clare Howard)

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