Norman Collective for Racial Justice (NC4RJ) - formerly Norman Citizens for Racial Justice - is an advocacy and action-oriented collective of grassroots activists in the Norman, Oklahoma, area.
Many of us first connected through a fight against the All Plains American Pipeline in 2016, as it set out to desecrate Absentee Shawnee sacred land and contaminate the water supply for the whole Norman area. One activist then brought us back together for a fight to remove the name of a KKK Grand Dragon from a street sign in our community. We formed NC4RJ in October 2017 and ran a successful campaign that removed this racist's name from Norman for good. Since then, we have continued to grow. Together we fight for our collective liberation from white supremacy and all sources of oppression.
Defund the Police – Invest in Community
On Saturday, June 6th, 2020, NC4RJ blockaded the intersection Flood and Main in Norman. We stopped traffic in all four directions and read off our 5 demands:
1. Defund Norman Police Dept (NPD)
2. Demilitarize NPD
3. Transparency and Accountability in NPD
4. Justice for Marconia Kessee and all victims of NPD
5. End the School Resource Officer Program in Norman Public Schools
Our blockade lasted an hour, until we were granted a meeting with our Mayor, the Chief of Police and the City Manager. On June 9th, we attended the Norman City Council Meeting to pass the annual budget. Joined by close to 200 supporters, we pressed for the City Council to postpone their budget vote to the following week.
On Tuesday, June 16th, after an 11 hour special budget session, filled with many powerful stories from the community about our experiences with NPD, the City Council voted to cut $865,000 from the Police Department’s salaries and benefits by eliminating 9 vacant positions from NPD’s budget. This was a historic first step towards building a community alternatives to policing.
Work for an Inclusive Community
The City of Norman has boasted for over a decade that it is "Building an Inclusive Community." Progress towards this goal has been slow. As the racist pushback against removing a KKK Grand Dragon's name from a street sign shows, our town has many racists actively upholding white supremacy.
Only recently, in 2020 - following the efforts of a number of our group members who served on the City's Inclusive Community Subcommittee (ICS) - did the City of Norman issue an apology for its history as a Sundown Town. The place we call home did not allow black folks to be outside after dark until the early 1970's. Our community's first black family to own land in Norman moved to town in 1967.
The City of Norman's apology was long overdue, and yet it still received a negative response from white supremacists who filled City Hall on February 4, 2020, to rail against the recommendations of the ICS.
It is absolutely necessary that there is a powerful racial justice force pushing Norman to be the inclusive community it claims to be. Our members have fought for this and will continue to fight for this, because none of us are free until all of us are free. White supremacy and institutional racism must be dismantled in every facet of our town.
A Vision for a Citizens Advisory Board
Following the unjust death of Marocnia Kessee in 2018, NC4RJ members sought justice from Norman Regional Hospital, the Norman Police Department, and the Cleveland County Jail. We did this alongside Marconia's uncle, as he filed lawsuits against the three agencies. The collective racism and lack of empathy of these agencies killed Marconia when he was in crisis.
Our members circulated a petition to form a Norman Citizens Advisory Board, which we hoped would provide much needed accountability for the Norman Police Department. We held community listening sessions and put forward a proposal for an independent and transparent board responsive to community needs.
We are sad to say that this process was hijacked and the result is a PR tool for NPD. The existing NCAB has no power to hold NPD accountable.