Notes from 7/12 SURJ End White Silence Call

SURJ National #EndWhiteSilence: A Call To Action Against Police Murder Call Notes

The recording from the call is here. 

Notetakers: Emily Pieper, Elise Dunham, Julia Daniels, Eleanor Hancock

Here are the actions we've been asked to do in the movement for black lives.


Five different actions-

1) Sign and share the MBL pledge: If you are online now and haven’t signed the pledge- sign and share

2) Give to support bail funds in cities where there have been actions and lead organizations in the Movement for Black Lives 

3) Putting out a call for actions across the country. Register your action here. There are going to be actions across the country next week. If there isn’t a black action that is happening, then organize a white led action.

Maurice Mitchell isn't able to join us on the call but in the agenda notes he wrote "Where there's black leadership, they should be supporting their work or doing complimentary actions. Where there's not, that not an excuse to not act. Do it anyhow. White people's silence and lack of action is why we are in this condition. "How can we take on moving into our stretch zone. How can we be public.

4) Join a SURJ chapter- across the country moving into action. Connect with these groups- over 100 on web, over 100 in formation. Form a group if there isn’t one! You don’t have to wait to take action. We will be supporting folks in formation, help keep the peace in the streets. Calm principled action.

5) If you are in an area where there isn’t a SURJ chapter will you commit to finding 3-5 friends and taking action in your area?

 Apologies again that there were so many tech difficulties.

Introduction: From Dara Silverman - national coordinator of SURJ

We know that to explicitly move into action for many people is going to mean out of our comfort zone and into the stretch zone. With the murder of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling.  Also we know 5 Latinx citizens have died in the last week. It is the anniversary of Sandra Bland’s murder tomorrow. There have been 136 Black people who have been killed by the police so far in 2016. Part of the question that we have right now is what will it take? What will it take for the Police State to end in this country.


We’ve heard the call from the Movement for Black Lives to dismantle, de-militarize, defund the police.


Doing calls like this there are different experiences of folks in cities vs rural places. If you are in a Rural - press 1 to be in break out groups together. Crucial to be able to connect with other rural folks. About 16 percent currently on the call are in rural places.

We can be identifying ways to take action to end police violence. Next Thursday is going to be a national day of action. Goal to organize 100 actions across the country. We won't be able to do everything but we will build a powerful movement that will connect people across the country.

One of the most crucial things here for us is how this can be happening in ways that are relevant for where you are. Focus on accountability to the area that you live in.

SURJ was formed after Obama was elected, people of color didn’t want to be the only ones taking action. Goal is to follow the lead of local black leadership.

500 people on the call right now. We have 1500 who may still be trying to get on. We will schedule another call for folks who couldn’t get on this one. This is also being recorded, and we will share it out as soon as we can.

This is a pretty rare movement moment. It is crucial for us as white people to be out there as well. There have been so many white people taking action already. We need placed to plug in. What are the ways that white people can be supported in plugging in. How can we be building a bigger and broader movement to engage white people in this work.

Ground ourselves - hand on chest, deep breath. When so much violence, can be hard to ground ourselves. Take breath, feel back of heart. Third deep breath into hand, back of heart, think about what it is you are committed to, why on this call, taking time away from other things you could be doing.

Next part of agenda - reports from the field. Are having some technical difficulties.

Start with Meg Riley - SURJ minnesota, leader in chapter as well as Unitarian Universalist movement there.

What are the challenges, what are some of the highlights of the work you have been doing?

Meg Riley - SURJ Minnesota

In Minnesota where Castille murdered. Since then steady presence at Gov mansion. Nov same thing (3 weeks) when Jamar Clark killed. Around the clock, though no tents are being allowed. SURJ has taken over food, water, steady vigilance. And several actions

Biggest - shut down I-94 Sat night. Whites asked to be at perimeter, form circle around black folks, be arrested first. Put in jail … released Monday night? BLM managed to get bail for all of them (at 1500 per-person, a lot)!

Those at governors mansion keep saying folks need Large meeting Sunday, training about talking to family and friends

White people - don’t do media interviews. If ask defer to BLM folks. SURJ spreading word about this to other white people.

Police response - portraying themselves as victims.

Were outside agitators Sat night - organizers did everything could to restrain that. Police said … but in fact targeted leaders (inc 19 year son pepper sprayed at short distance and clubbed in head, concussion, when he was trying to get folks out of the way ..)

White media: falsely portraying people suspects… A uniting time for the community. This man was so beloved by so many. Now somehow being portrayed as at fault. So many different groups organizing NAACP, BLM,… SURJ works with all of the organizations organizing.

Cayce Utley SURJ Northern VA
We’ve been working for the last year with BLM DC on a local case, Natasha McKenna killed at Fairfax Detention in Feb 2015; lack of media around this. We’ve been agitating around McKenna for over a year, big demonstration, BLM DC set up a commission that they’ve been supporting. Non-indictments for officers who tased her repeatedly while she was naked and strapped to a chair; very little has been done. Family filed civil suit.

BLM had SURJ file a petition last fall to have the officers fired if not indicted; they shouldn’t have that authority. They delivered that back in May during a week of action for the SayHerName campaign. Did a banner drop around that same time. Still nothing from sheriff, no media, nothing. When SURJ put out call last week for a day of action to end white silene decided to bring this work up a notch. With BLM DC brought direct action to sheriff; delivered petitions in person again to her. Aide didn’t even open the door; had our people slide the petition in. Then our people came out to a demonstration outside of the jail; bullhorn, signs. Then after the march (20-25 people) up to the street where they blocked a major intersection for about 30 minutes. 4 arrested for civil disobedience. Made local news channels, were covering McKenna again after 8-9 months of silence. Our folks got out safely, released after about an hour. Made a statement on social media that our folks were released safely, but also made a point to acknowledge that white privilege was worked for our folks, seeing how well they were treated by police. Called folks to come out of their cars, for police to join them. This didn’t happen, though did have bystanders join in until the civil disobedience. Used this as a call to white people to end white silence. “Quiet VA suburb erupted yesterday.” The community voice had been silenced up until now, so the escalated pressure they are placing on the issue is making it impossible to ignore.

Thank you so much Cayce for that report- showing up for Natasha McKenna and putting their bodies on the line. There is such a need for white people to be putting ourselves out there. Our next speaker is Rashad Robinson who is ED of Color of Change.

Thank you for having me, we’ve been partners with SURJ over the last couple of years in many ways and appreciate the allies and organizations that stand with us in different ways that forces the decision makers to change.

A couple ways that folks on this call can engage (I can provide links). We are in a moment of having more voices the better. After Baton Rouge, we started a campaign to engage people who were seeing the videos and sharing them and knowing that they needed something to do so institutions (like the Department of Justice) that should be held accountable hear from everyday people. Having Black people at the center and allies with us. We were moving very quickly and then moved to Minneapolis, working to combine those two things, telling 2 unique and important stories as we saw over and over again these images and stories that are familiar in many ways.

We’re up to 300,000 people who have signed petitions and are in a challenging media cycle given changing news and the upcoming Democratic and Republican conventions. Hard to get the media we’ll be delivering those. I was just on a call with African American ministers to talk about delivering those petitions and we hope to have SURJ at the petition delivery.

We recognize that we continue to do this over again and need structural change. We talked yesterday about a pivot. Tomorrow I’m meeting with the President and law enforcement at the white house. We can continue to have the conversation but if the government is serious, they will make these changes because so much federal money goes to law enforcement. So much has gone to Baton Rogue in the past few years because they’re under federal oversight. We’ve been continuing to have the conversation to come together, but unless we change the incentive structures, we’ll still be having these calls in 5-10 years from now.

Obama is a symbol of a system but he does have a role and if we push hard enough we can get changes. We’ve seen how if they pull federal dollars from education it makes it hard to operate, so we want them to have that power with law enforcement. We’ll be moving with other organizations, particularly online orgs like MoveOn. We have the petition on our website., sign it, share it, put it on your social networks… building momentum so we can then escalate to build the energy necessary for folks to feel the heat … working with MBL to create a divestment strategy so this is all coordinated/

Finally I heard people talking about the media climate- the way that victims are continually dehumanized by mainstream media, and we’re working on that, we’re banned from mainstream media for the campaigns we’ve been running on them. We’re pushing back to at the very least create a climate of accountability for folks who go on and say whatever they want to say.

The larger campaign around structural reform, demilitarization, holding local law enforcement accountable and then the cultural change that we need are the 3 areas where we need allies like SURJ to be with us, to have the tough and challenging conversations with your communities. Thanks for having us because these moments where the world is watching only come around so often. People are paying attention we need to stand up and grab the opportunity so people can stand up and we can work for the health and safety of all people.

Thank you so much Rashad we see that you have had a long day. Vision of Black Leadership- getting government to divest and not support this racist policies.

We had a couple of other speakers that were suppose to join us but weren’t able to because of tech difficulties.

We will share those with people either tonight or tomorrow. Same time tomorrow, another call happening. This call isn’t over. We are going to follow up on what Rashad said. How can we be taking action in this moment. When there are murders and genocide in black communities that support the white supremacy….

Police unions, it’s their job to stop the killing of civilians. Calling for accountability transparency and respect from police. Not anti-police. Pro black community. Our friends, our family are being killed. When they can’t leave their home without the fear of facing the same fate as Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, etc. A big part for us on this call-how are we bringing more white people into this work. What are the ways that we are engaging more white people and moving them into action in this moment.

Small Group Breakouts

Share name, where you are located, what do you need to take action. What do you need in order to take action- what do you need in order to put your body out there, the murder of a black person every 24 hours cannot continue to happen.

(Notes from small group break-out of Northeast/Southeast region:

DC - infrastructure of reading groups, canvassing/outreach w BLM yard signs, grief circles; building cohesion and purpose; have not organized our own actions - rather, added capacity/turnout for black led actions (and offering orientation for other white folks who attend); with direction from SURJ national, this may be the moment for us to organize our own actions locally; we’ve had conversations with partner/poc led organizations about the need to be transparent with them, as our actions can bring more heat/backlash to their communities.


Richmond - not an active SURJ chapter; a lot of conversation about whether or not white folks engage in action, or only support poc led action; need for healing …


Action Questions


Will you sign and share the MBL pledge? Great, 85% said they would sign and share that pledge. If you can sign it we will send it to you. It is so crucial to be calling people into this work.

Will you give to the movement for Black Lives? Will you give to groups like Black Lives Matter, Southerners on New Ground, Baton Rouge, We believe that there is enough for all at SURJ and part of that is that we need to be funding our movement. Give to one of the organizations in the movement for Black Lives. We will send you the links later tonight or tomorrow. It is crucial that we be supporting our movements with our money and our bodies. Over 70% of the people on the call have volunteered to donate.

Will you take action next week? Where there will be people who will see that there are White People who will take action. One of the 100 white lead actions - with our bodies on the street. Committed to take action. Work with neighbors, family co workers. Police murder - not on my watch. Over 60% of the people on the call (we have 500 people on the call) are willing to take action against police violence and murder.

Will you join a SURJ chapter to move into action? We will connect you with a SURJ chapter in your area, we have over 100 chapters and more in formation so we want to connect you. We’ll connect you with other white people who are committed to engaging other white people to end white supremacy. 70% of people on the call are committed to joining a SURJ chapter in their area.

If you are in an area where there isn’t a SURJ chapter will you commit to finding 3-5 friends and taking action in your area? Will you bring your friends together and maybe make the first step of starting a new SURJ chapter. If you can do an action where you are, even if there isn’t a chapter there. We have a lot of people with chapters on this call and we’re committed to supporting people in taking action where they are. If you will pull together 5 friends and do an action where you are. We have over 22% of the people on this call have said that they will form a group to take action.


We appreciate you for sticking through the technical difficulties, to being committed to ending white supremacy. Thank you for taking this time and if you have any questions you can e-mail us at and we look forward to seeing you on fb, twitter and in the streets. Have a great night, I’m Dara Silverman and I’m happy to have been on this call and to be in a movement with you, committed to fighting for black lives and ending killing.