Black AIDS Institute ( BAI ) Policy, Advocacy and Mobilization Senior Coordinator Maximillian Boykin addressed a packed, standing-room-only crowd about "How Racism is Killing us, and How We Stop it" during the morning session at the Midwest LGBTQ Health Symposium Sept. 15 at Malcolm X College.
Boykin previously worked at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Enroll America and on various political campaigns. He is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health leader, a member of the Black Youth Project 100 ( BYP100 ) and a Cook County Collaboration on Health Equity steering committee member.
"I ask you to lean in because this discussion may be triggering at times but it is important to have," he added.
Boykin showed a video of him being thrown to the ground by seven Chicago police officers a month ago on the South Side at 71st Street and Jeffrey Avenue.
"A Black man was shot and killed by a police officer that day and we were out there protesting but they wanted to break up what was happening," said Boykin. "They used that excuse to throw me on the ground and when I said I could not breath one of the officers said it did not matter. I was thrown in the back of a police car along with another young man who was leaving work and not involved with the protest. He lost his phone and other belongings and I lost my ID. Just this morning, I got my ID back and this is because I live in Atlanta. Georgia and Illinois government offices do not talk to each other which is why it took so long."
Boykin said he would not focus on the explicit racism that is taking place in Chicago because of how often it happens to people of color ( POC ). He explained that institutionalized racism, like redlining, is what frustrates him the most.
"Last night I went to a friend's funeral, Dejanay Stantona Black trans woman who was shot to death in Bronzeville," said Boykin. "Both state and interpersonal violence contributed to her death due to the various barriers she faced in society."
In terms of statistics involving police shootings by race, Boykin showed a slide that said it is 1.47 per million white people and 31.17 per million Black people. He said state violence is perpetrated by elected and other governmental officials who do not allocate resources equitably so everyone can live and have their basic human needs met.
"There is a fear of Black bodies," said Boykin.
Boykin explained that the two different forms of anti-Blackness are overt racism that occurs on an everyday basis and the structural systems that keep Black people "in their place." This anti-Blackness not only comes from white people, it is also done by other POC. This is all about keeping power, Boykin said.
Delving into white fragility and guilt and why it is so hard to talk to white people about racism, Boykin said there are ways to change this including: stopping the oppression Olympics; embracing the discomfort; challenging one's own racial reality; attempting to understand the racial realities of POC through authentic interaction rather than through the media or unequal relationships and taking action to address one's own racism, the racism of others and the racism embedded in institutions.
Boykin showed a video of Dr. Kimberle Crenshaw explaining the definition of intersectionality, saying that embracing this way of thinking will help fight institutionalized racism. One example is the Expanded Sanctuary initiative, Boykin explained, which is a collaboration between Organized Communities Against Deportation ( undocumented immigrants from the Latinx community ) and BYP100. Boykin brought up the work that Black Panther Illinois Chair Fred Hampton did in the 1960s around talking about solidarity before he was murdered by Chicago cops.
"I am not in the business of fighting other oppressed people," said Boykin. "I am in the business of fighting the oppressors."
Boykin turned to the work the HIV Racial Justice Now group, of which he is a member, is doing and how to build a racially just and strategic domestic HIV movement. He said the ways to achieve this include embracing everyone's culture, addressing anti-Blackness, undoing the myth of exceptionalism in the U.S. context, ending systemic inequity and dismantling racist institutions.
Some specific examples Boykin outlined are to listen and uplift POC, centering the leadership of the most impacted, supporting existing campaigns, donating directly to resisting communities so they can continue their work, knowing that police do not equal safety and stop othering people.
"We have to continue to organize around these issues, bring people together and have these hard conversations in order to end racism," said Boykin. "We do that with transforming campaigns of all kinds. As we do that we define and create a culture of health. This means a better value system, having equitable resources, continuing to be collaborative, having representation of people who are impacted by this and making sure institutions and governing bodies are accountable to the people."
A Q&A session followed.
Howard Brown Health and the Center for Education, Research and Advocacy were the symposium's presenters.