Letter of Accountability

Jun 13

Trigger Warning – Sexual Assault

This statement is on behalf of the women of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle: Nadirah Smith – Chief Operations Officer, Candace Handy – Events and Projects Curator, and Lady Brion – Cultural Curator. 

First, we would like to thank our partners and members of our base for your continued support. 

In this letter, we will be discussing allegations regarding sexual assault made by unidentified person(s) that have been posting on social media under the auspices of “MeToo Baltimore”. Though we believe we know who the accusers are, we have intentionally chosen not to identify them. The “call-out” and “throwaway/cancel” culture that has become so pervasive in society today is often not about justice or reconciliation. It is typically a projection of past traumas and is steeped in white supremacist notions of dividing and conquering. As an organization, we will not employ those anti-Black tactics. Thus, we will respect the wishes of the alleged unidentified person(s) to remain anonymous. 

Some may call into question the timing of this letter. It is nearly two years after the initial allegations surfaced. As an organization, we recognize the severity of such egregious claims as well as the pain and hurt it may have triggered for women across our city, state, and nation. Given the impact such issues have had on the Black community, we felt it was necessary to be quick to listen, slow to respond, and carefully avoid the usage of aggressive counter attacks that would create a larger public spectacle of this situation. We understand that would’ve been insensitive to the women and men in our base who have personal experience with instances like this. 

Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle does not profess to be a perfect organization. In our 10-year history, we have grown and changed tremendously. As the women of LBS (which is the majority of the organization’s Executive team) we have had to, on many occasions, challenge the patriarchy, misogyny, and sexism we have encountered within our organization, while participating in grassroots organizing and navigating Baltimore’s political landscape. Like many of our sisters who have stood on the frontlines of social movements, elevated the nation’s consciousness via the Black radical tradition, and risked their lives in search of a better tomorrow we are burdened with the dual responsibility of fighting racism-white supremacy and what feels like a nearly equally oppressive force, patriarchy. We lift up the work of Tarana Burke and are emboldened by her steadfastness in dismantling systems of oppression waged against Black women particularly patriarchy and misogyny which ultimately aid in the pervasiveness of rape and sexual assault. We know that Black women are generally not perceived as believable when speaking their truth and reporting acts of violence against them. 

With this in mind, it is critical that platforms like the MeToo Movement are not weaponized or used to wield trauma to vindictively attack Black men who are deemed to symbolize a broken and oppressive system. In doing so, the work of the white power structure is perpetuated and that wielded trauma becomes a dangerous appendage of white supremacy. 

Given the allegations made by this alleged anonymous group, we recognize that we are not trained in restorative justice nor do we have the capacity to adjudicate this matter internally. We believe this work is better suited for organizations, experts and legal proceedings designed to do this work. This type of systemic issue requires sensitivity and particular skill sets. which is why over the last two years our organization has made itself available to participate in any legal, or community based process. We have also consulted therapists, healers, mediators and legal counsel during this time. 

Our CEO, Adam Jackson, has publicly stated he has not taken part in any of the allegations made against him. Additionally, no representative of th this alleged anonymous group or third party including legal counsel, mediators, or community advocates have directly contacted LBS to make any formal complaint or allegations. Moreover, there has been no criminal or civil cases brought against our organization. Nor has any African-centered truth seeking forms of justice and mediation been employed. Furthermore, given that all communication from the “MeToo Baltimore” pages have been anonymous, there is currently no credible source of information from the alleged anonymous accusers. 

Therefore, until alternative findings are made, we will not participate in the aforementioned dangerous “cancel culture”  by honoring the listed demands on this alleged anonymous group’s social media pages.

Consequently, we demand the following:

  • The alleged anonymous accusers cease all harassment of LBS leadership including calling individual member’s place of work, organizational partners and funders to discredit the organization. 
  • The alleged anonymous accusers will refrain from spreading any propaganda, both physically or digitally, regarding any unproven allegation of rape or sexual assault by members of LBS including the article from the Afro Newspaper that has since been removed from the site.
  • The alleged anonymous accusers will stop erasing the impact of Black women by referring to LBS as a male-led organization, relegating executive women leaders to secretaries, and purporting that LBS doesn’t support women.

It is also important to note that we are clear, the primary objective of the “MeToo Baltimore” social media pages isn’t about justice. Rather, this is a smear campaign that is a part of a larger strategy to dismantle Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle as an organization. We acknowledge all the people who have experienced sexual assault and support their journey toward reconciliation. Still, we will not tolerate this kind of intimidation and fear based tactic against our organization to hinder us from doing the necessary work towards liberation by advancing the public policy interest of Black people in Baltimore. We can, both, acknowledge the problems surrounding rape culture while also, recognizing the underlying cause for this particular attack is political in nature.

LBS will continue its commitment to accountability and restorative justice. As such, we are open to continued conversations about ways to keep Black women and Black communities safe. We also remain open to speaking with any representative of the alleged anonymous group about aforementioned claims. As an organization we are always looking for ways to grow and better ourselves, as such, we are committed to continue working, internally, with therapists, healers, mediators and community partners. We are committed to holding space for Black women’s voices to be elevated and amplified.

Again, to our partners and the members of our base, we thank you for your continued support. We welcome a conversation based in healing and/or restorative practices about this matter. Finally, we hope that this transparent statement has provided clarity and insight. 

In Truth and Solidarity, 

Nadirah Smith 

Brion Gill

Candace Handy

 

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