Colombian port workers in solidarity against police violence

by Unión Portuaria – translated and posted with permission

Declaration Supporting the Movement Against Racism from the Port Workers Union, Buenaventura, Colombia:

Black lives matter in Buenaventura!

Today we are proud to stand with our brothers and sisters across the United States and around the world in response to the recent police killings of Eric Garner, Mike Brown and countless other victims of state violence. We unite with the international community to say that “Black lives matter.”

‘Black-Lives-Matter’-port-workers-Buenaventura-Colombia-1214-web-300x200, Colombian port workers in solidarity against police violence, World News & Views
Port workers in Buenaventura, Colombia, join the worldwide Black Lives Matter protest because 80 percent of their population, which is 90 percent Black, lives in poverty.

While it should be implicit that all lives matter, communities in recent days have risen up to reinforce the fact that Black and Brown human beings have an equal place on this earth, because often times it feels that we do not. As residents of Buenaventura, Colombia, we know that our city could not be a clearer example of state imposed racism, segregation and inequality.

Buenaventura, a city whose residents are 90 percent Afro-Colombian, is Colombia’s most important port, exporting over 60 percent of the country’s goods. In spite of the wealth that passes through our community, we suffer from an unemployment rate four times higher than the national average, and 80 percent of our city’s residents live in poverty.

While we support the ongoing talks being held in Cuba in order to end our country’s 50-year armed conflict, the only development that we have seen locally are emerging gangs that recruit our children and use increasingly brutal ways to murder our neighbors such as the casas de pique (chop houses). So today we take a stand as a community to say that “Black lives matter.”

‘Black-Lives-Matter’-Madres-Comunitarias-Buenaventura-Colombia-1214-web-300x199, Colombian port workers in solidarity against police violence, World News & Views
Buenaventura’s Madres Comunitarias (Community Mothers) expressed solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement

We stand here today as port workers whose bodies are broken every day to export the wealth of the country, while we don’t earn enough to feed our families. We stand as residents of one of the rainiest regions on the planet to demand that the city return our running water, something that disappeared when the system was privatized.

We stand as workers with dangerous jobs, who live in a city that recently closed its only hospital. We stand here as parents afraid to let our children play outside or even go to school because gangs are trying to recruit them.

We stand here today as people who have worked our entire lives but don’t have anything to show for it. We want a change. We stand here today as proud Black people who demand that the local and national government stop ignoring our community and ensure basic human rights, such as access to healthcare, dignified jobs, essential infrastructure and to the right to live in peace.

The residents of Buenaventura are uplifted by the tidal wave of people who have swelled into the streets of cities around the world to put an end to state-sanctioned violence against communities of color. We stand in solidarity with Ferguson and New York City and can feel the rumblings of marching feet in our own community.

This story first appeared on PASO International.