Here all along

Riots in Philadelphia: At BSR, this is why we said what we said

3 minute read
After a weekend in crisis across the city, boarded-up businesses line East Passyunk Avenue. (Photos by Alaina Johns.)
After a weekend in crisis across the city, boarded-up businesses line East Passyunk Avenue. (Photos by Alaina Johns.)

A pandemic has been stalking us for months, throwing artists into crisis as an entire way of life disappeared overnight, and our mayor proposed destroying what little remains. And while COVID-19 pinned millions of us inside, police forces around the country continued to murder Black people until a devastating, necessary riot flared in Minneapolis and sprinted across the country, quickly engulfing Philly.

Traumatized by months of rampant disease, now we’re on the rack of ongoing nationwide police violence, civil unrest, looting, destructive infiltrators, curfews, white supremacist gangs wielding bats, and a constant soundscape of sirens and helicopters. Our team members, especially the Black people and people of color, are exhausted and wondering what to say to you today.

Then it hit us. The voices are already here. They’ve been here all along.

A concerted, successful effort to diversify the voices at BSR on a platform committed to inclusive language doesn’t just make a stronger publication and a world we like to live in. Media outlets play an important role in fighting widespread ingrained biases that might seem innocuous, but actually exist on a spectrum that leads to overt violence.

BSR writers have been saying it. They’ve been saying what happens when gatekeepers thwart careers on the basis of race, gender, age, and disability. They’ve been saying what happens when mainstream filmmakers erase and appropriate their culture. They’ve been saying what happens when you go to school in brown skin. They’ve been saying what happens when a drumbeat of casual disrespect and low expectations downplays a world-class event powered by Black people and people of color. And perhaps most important, they’ve been telling us about the glamor and joy of Blackness.

Our current crisis is nothing new for America. Long have there been protests and movements for civil rights. Many of us will be on the ground, physically facing dangerous forces, and it’s our responsibility to honor these folks. Many of us are behind the scenes, supporting protesters, making donations, signing petitions, and calling our elected officials. We’re lending a hand to folks who may not be able to make their way out for groceries or voting or safely going to work. We’re elevating the voices who are using art to express resistance and broaden perspective, compassion, and understanding.

As a team, our editorial staff has worked diligently, especially in the past few years, to pivot BSR into a place that is inclusive and empathetic. And while we’re not new to this work, this moment of widespread civil unrest is the time for us to be more pronounced and more supportive in our efforts. Our work is far from done.

So we’d like to speak now by lifting up our writers’ voices (again). The world feels fiery, raw, and terrible—a new feeling for some, and a feeling that has wrapped others for generations. At BSR, it’s not “what do we say now?” It’s what we’ve been saying. And what we’ll continue to say. And we’ll continue to say it to stand up for you and with you.

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