On April 5, as part of a Civil Rights exchange, Wendy Carty-Saxon (Avalon’s Director of Real Estate Development) and I had the honor and privilege of meeting with the Bloody Sunday delegation and Paul Doherty. Paul’s father was killed by the British Army on Bloody Sunday in 1972. The exchange was hosted by Éist, the Hush House Black Community World museum in Detroit, and the Museum of Free Derry. Paul traveled to Detroit and Ann Arbor with Ciara O’Connor, a youth organizer, to meet fellow activists and build bridges between civil rights struggles in the US and Ireland. Paul also gave a lecture hosted by the Donia Human Rights Center during his visit.
I learned about the history of the people of Derry, where Bloody Sunday took place. Led by the families of the victims, the people of Derry have overcome the injustice they’ve endured. They’ve also written a new chapter in the history of civil rights, which has become a source of international inspiration. In fact, during the racial uprising in 2020 the autonomous zone in Capitol Hill (CHOP) Seattle was modeled after Free Derry. Free Derry’s work is about our future together as much as it is about the past. The struggle of Free Derry is part of a wider struggle in Ireland and internationally for freedom and equality for all.
The delegation was interested in learning about both the work of Avalon Housing, and the Coalition for Reenvisioning our Safety (CROS). I was surprised to hear that the history of Bloody Sunday has ties to public housing in Derry, and the subsequent housing justice work that led to more widely available social housing. It was a powerful conversation. The group reminded me that community organizers can and should train across borders, and lend one another international solidarity and support. We discussed similar patterns between the state-sanctioned violence they’ve experienced, and what is happening in the United States. And we recounted how state-sanctioned violence is tested time and again before it’s brought to scale. Before Bloody Sunday, there was the Ballymurphy massacre. Before George Floyd’s murder, there was Edward Bronstein’s murder (among others).
We shared in our commitment to stop negotiating violence, and to end it. Their work reminds us to engage in peace-building efforts that exchange knowledge and strategies, while upholding truth through storytelling that pays homage to survivors.
I walked away from this conversation inspired and reminded that our work is always part of something larger than what is happening here, today. While Avalon and CROS are place-based, the patterns and lessons are global. Our interconnection is an important part of the path to collective liberation.
I encourage you to learn about the history of Bloody Sunday, and how the families impacted have transformed their experience into long haul justice work. See more about the work of Éist.