The Black Lives Matter movement has officially made its way to Albany with organizers Monday holding a press conference calling on people to come together to fight racism upstate.
“This is a really exciting time . . . despite tragedies [in places like Ferguson and Baltimore,]” Amani Olugbala, one of the co-founders of the Upstate Chapter of the Black Live Matter said outside Albany City Hall. After the short press conference, the group went inside and interrupted Mayor Kathy Sheehan’s state of the city address.
The international Black Lives Matter movement began in 2013 after George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the death of 17-year-old Treyvon Martin in Florida. The movement, intended to fight racism, at first spread in part via social media using the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.
“We will not allow this to continue,” said Olugbala. “Until there’s police accountability and they stop killing us we will be here.”
Taina Asili, a longtime activist on black and Latino issues in the area, said now is the right time to launch the new group.
The group’s formation was prompted in part by the April death of Donald “Dontay” Ivy in Albany, members said. Ivy, a 39-year-old black man, died after he was shocked by a police Taser. An Albany County grand jury investigating the death cleared the three police officers involved of wrongdoing in late October.
But members expressed other concerns as well, including what they said was the denial of racism by white people in the area, the loss of services, biases in the law, and the disparagement in the Albany city schools between black and white students.
“Black children are three times more likely to be punished than white children,” Olugbala said.
The issues also have an effect on those who try to enact change, according to Olugbala.
“People of color in the most high offices in this city are unheard — further evidence that voices of black people do not matter,” she said.
Desiree said that he and Olugbala have been working for a couple of weeks to make the announcement and formation of the chapter possible.
“Black Lives Matter as an organization is a way to mobilize people, to allow people to come together in upstate,” said Sean Desiree, one of the co-founders.
The group will hold a public town hall next Monday at Punta Cana Lounge, 92 Second Ave, Albany. Those interested in learning more about the movement or becoming involved with the new chapter can reach them at @BLMUpstateNY on Twitter, or on Facebook. More information on the national movement can be found at www.BlackLivesMatter.com.