BCN Executive Editor Wesley Brown — April 24 — As the Arkansas General Assembly prepares to adjourn on April 30, local community activist Osyrus Bolly encouraged “everyday people” to remain engaged in policymaking and the political process. His words come even as lawmakers look to pass legislation aimed at hurting those with little power.
“Everyday people have to be involved in the (legislative) decision process,” said Bolly. “These are public servants – they work for us, and that is our tax dollars at work. So, we have to be involved in that process.”
Bolly, the racial equity coordinator and community organizer for the Arkansas Public Policy Panel and Little Rock Freedom Fund, was the weekly guest for Friday’s edition of BlackConsumerNews.com (BCN) Headlines on KABF, 88.3 FM. Each week, the show spotlights top local, state, and national headlines impacting Black consumers each week. Past guests have included leading political and business figures such as Remix Ideas CEO Benito Lubazibwa, Innovation Hub Executive Director Chris Jones, Mayor Frank Scott Jr., Sen. Joyce Elliott, City Board Director Antwan Phillips, a local attorney, and former Arkansas Court of Appeal Judge Olly Neal.
This week, the one-hour news show produced by BCN Chief Creative Officer Angel Burt, highlighted key city initiatives announced this week by Mayor Scott, the public reaction from the Derek Chauvin guilty verdict in Minneapolis, and next week’s adjournment of the Arkansas legislature.
Bolly, who advocates for public policy and legislative reforms for law enforcement in Arkansas, highlighted several bills recently passed by the Republican supermajority that is part of a national trend to enact Pro-Trump laws after the defeat of the former president in November.
In discussing Mayor Scott’s local one-cent sales tax initiative and plans for the city’s first Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Bolly said citizen-led committees must include a broader spectrum of people. He said that only selecting people on local task forces with corporate interests and ties to city leaders does not foster real inclusion.
“Nothing about us, without us,” said Bolly. “We have to be inclusive in our decision-making process.”
Bolly also pushed back against the myth that Black people are not engaged in the voting process. During the November 2020 election, he noted Black people in Arkansas and across the nation voted in record numbers and were the main reason former President Trump was kicked out of the White House. However, he said white-led liberal groups in Arkansas and the U.S. must educate underserved white citizens not to enter the voting booth uneducated about public policy matters that impact their livelihoods and pocketbooks.
“This all boils down to these white liberals and allies that are not doing enough voter education in these rural communities where they are voting for these people who pass these laws that favor corporate interest,” said Bolly. “We have a lot of people in these poor, working-class communities that constantly vote against their interests because they are more concerned with these hot topics that have nothing to do with their finances. They are more concerned about gun laws, abortion, LBGTQ issues, and surface things that don’t really (affect) them personally.”
During the 60-minute show, Burt also quizzed Bolly about civil unrest and protests following the Chauvin verdict on Tuesday in Minneapolis, and the nearby police officer-involved shooting death of 20-year Daunte Wright in Minneapolis. Also, news outlets nationwide on the same day reported the fatal police shootings of 16-year-old Ma’ Khai Bryant and 42-year Andrew Brown Jr. occurred in Columbus, Ohio, and Elizabeth City, N.C., respectively.
Nationwide, according to BCN analysis, there have been at least three dozen fatal and non-fatal incidents in April involving police and Black and Brown citizens. Those incidents come as President Joe Biden plans to unveil sweeping reforms to the nation’s justice system and law enforcement ranks next week.
“I’m optimistic,” said Bolly the Biden administration reforms. “I’ve heard the phrase ‘defund the police’ on the national level, but I know that is not what they are trying to do. But if you don’t want to defund the police, at least you’ve got to unbundle the police and refund our communities.”
Bolly also said “Back the Blue” laws passed by the Republican Caucus in Arkansas will “fuel mass incarceration” of Black men. Those same laws, he said, will also loosen regulations that hold law enforcement accountable for shootings, violence against citizens, and rogue white supremacist cops. For example, Bolly mentioned two bills filed during the recent legislative session that would force citizens to pay for crime scene video and incentivize arrests of Black and poor citizens to increase revenue streams for local and county law enforcement.
“They are just doing a lot of things to empower and Back the Blue’ and forget the people, so we have to stand up to that,” said Bolly. “I don’t believe in the criminal justice system we have now. I believe it is working exactly the way they want it to work.”
Still, the ever-positive Bolly said despite hurtful legislation approved and signed into law by the Republican supermajority, Black citizens must remain engaged. “We must vote,” he stressed. The millennial activist also said local churches, nonprofits, and citizen-led organizations must work with lawmakers, community advocates, and public policy groups to write their own laws to rescind regressive legislation now on the books at the state and federal level.
Bolly also noted that he plans to participate in a rally Sunday (April 25) at the State Capitol to protest several bills that organizers say will disenfranchise Black and underserved voters. State legislatures in Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina recently passed similar bills in response to Trump’s ongoing lie that the 2020 election was fraudulent and stolen from him. Some of the laws have ignited calls for boycotts in those states.
One bill signed into law by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia in late March makes it a misdemeanor to hand out food and drinks within 25 feet of voters waiting in line to vote. Holly Dickson, ACLU of Arkansas executive director, said Act 728 approved by the Republican-led legislature on April 13 goes even further than the Georgia law to restrict voting access in Arkansas by 100 feet. Click here to read Black Consumer News’ latest story on Sunday’s protest and several that will add cumberson voting restrictions to Arkansas’ election laws.Leave a comment