Co-founder of BLM South Bend discusses history, work of organization
Mia Moran | Wednesday, February 9, 2022
Editor’s Note: This story is part one of a three-part series exploring Notre Dame connections to pressing issues in South Bend through interviewing civil rights activists in the community.
Black Lives Matter-South Bend (BLMSB) was initially formed in 2016 when Deshawn Franklin, a Black man, was compensated $18 by a jury after he was punched, tasered and arrested by South Bend police officers.
The South Bend community was further galvanized in 2019 in reaction to Eric Logan’s death at the hands of Sergeant Ryan O’Neill, who did not have his body camera on but claimed Logan approached him with a knife and disobeyed orders. BLMSB called for the South Bend Police Department and then-Mayor Pete Buttigieg to take accountability. Later that year, BLMSB became an official chapter of the Black Lives Matter Global Network.
Emmanuel Cannady, a co-founder of BLMSB and sixth-year doctoral candidate at Notre Dame, said BLMSB was able in 2019 to truly envision their mission to not only help the South Bend community with the implications and aftermaths of Eric Logan’s death, but also to help address the other communal issues that disproportionately affect communities of color, such as health and housing inequity and the school-to-prison pipeline.
“We’re trying to dismantle white supremacist structure — so structural racism,” Cannady said. “With that, we’re trying to secure resources for Black and brown people.”
Cannady listed the main goals of BLMSB in the South Bend community.
“We want better schools, we want more Black businesses, we want the city council to have parity in how the local government assigns contracts, we want people to be aware of how housing is incredibly segregated and how there’s lead poisoning in a lot of the kids in town,” Cannady said.
Cannady also called for more awareness of Notre Dame’s impact on the livelihood of the South Bend community, specifically on how the construction of Eddy Street Commons has gentrified a part of the east side of South Bend.
After George Floyd’s death in May 2020 — which sparked a global resurgence of Black Lives Matter protests — Cannady recalled the good and the bad that followed.
“It was legitimizing,” Cannady said. “I mean, the whole world is shouting what your organization is called for.”
However, Cannady also said that time was “only a moment” — a sentiment shared by many other activists around the country. Cannady referenced a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center and published in September 2021 that described how support for Black Lives Matter had declined, and the amount of support for is now similar to what it was before George Floyd’s death.
Cannady went on to explain that after the Capital Riot in January 2021, many states passed anti-protest laws — including the state of Indiana.
“They are having stricter punishments for people who protest, like seizure of property and an increase to felony six rather than misdemeanor one,” Cannady said.
The anti-protest laws are not the only hardships Cannady said activists experience, however.
“One of the biggest hardships that I see is that the people who choose to be activists are already struggling,” Cannady said. “They might be struggling through oppression or finding economic strain, housing and job insecurity.”
With South Bend being a small community, Cannady has witnessed people who speak out as activists not getting hired as a result of being “blacklisted.” Cannady urged those in the community to “realize that we are in the midst of a civil rights movement right now.”
Cannady also explained that aspiring activists posting on social media and participating in “slacktivism” is not enough.
“Do something tangible for somebody else,” Cannady said. “You should be getting your feet dirty. You should be existing in a space where you feel uncomfortable, whether you had a perception of the way the world works that was completely rocked or that you understand what white privilege is. You aren’t doing real work if you’re prioritizing your comfort over substantive changes.”
He also emphasized that civil rights should incorporate human rights.
“Civil and human rights means the equal access to the resources that are in the way of life that is promised by the country that one lives in,” Cannady said.