RUBBER bullets and tear gas rain down on American streets. A teenager in Redfern is brutalised by a police officer having a bad day. As the messages of Reconciliation Week recede, people around Australia planned Black Lives Matter rallies, big city style. In a COVIDE-19 world context this created an on-again, off-again war of words, threats and overcrowding.
In Bass Coast, last Thursday night, a small group of traditional owners, allies and people of colour decided to show solidarity locally. Starting from scratch and adeptly using social media to activate a network of can-do people, they organised Solidarity in Surf at Eagles Nest. Bass Coast style.
As the sun rose over the horizon on Saturday morning dozens of cars were parked at the Eagles Nest car park. The walk to the beach was signposted by a Black Lives Matter surfboard and many people were carrying surf boards down to the beach. The light rain eased, the sun started to emerge and the MC walked up to the microphone.
A welcome to country and a smoking ceremony accompanied a number people talking about what it is like to live in a country where people can die because they fall asleep on a train or get kicked to the ground for saying the wrong thing to the wrong person.
The final part of the gathering involved 435 gum leaves, 432 to represent the known deaths in custody since the 1991 Royal Commission which was meant to put an end to this longstanding & serious issue of black deaths in custody in Australia. The final three were to represent George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. Each of these leaves was individually numbered to mark each one of those deaths in custody. They were dropped into the sea by Board riders who had paddled into the waves and people on the edge of the sand.
As the gathering drew to an end, those leaves were drifting on the tide, a poignant reminder of lives lost and hearts broken.