Greetings Sudo et al, I'm so sorry but I have to bring to your attention a recent, very unfortunate, inappropriate, and violent encounter a friend of mine, Deon Saunders, had with a guy named "Rob", who I don't think I know personally, although I'm sure he's well known around Omni in general. I don't believe he's a sudo member specifically, but I believe this incident sort of came into Sudo territory when Marc became involved; I also really respect and love what Sudo room provides to the community, and I know that Sudo is a powerful force within the Omni; as such, I'm writing to you all now because I believe this issue definitely needs to be dealt with, and not ignored or brushed aside.
Basically, Deon is friends with Phat Beets and Food First, and has been frequenting the Omni in order to do work and access the community resources that are available. To my understanding, he often works in the Sudo room space. Although this should not need to be said, I can personally vouch for Deon as an upstanding and generous member of the Oakland community.
Deon was having trouble accessing the space the other day and rung the Omni doorbell several times, at which point guy named Rob opened the door and started cursing at him and being very aggressive. After Deon was able to enter Omni, Rob then started following him around and harassing him, acting like a cop. Although this is egregious in and of itself, and a terrible counter-representation of the Omni's values, this all came to a head when Rob accused Deon of not being "an actual, normal, human being". Whether or not this was intentional, it evoked longstanding racist attitudes that black folks have been subjected to, suggesting that Deon was less-than, or sub-human. Deon was so offended that he promptly left the Omni and has not been back since.
Besides this very loaded and hateful comment, this general kind of treatment and attitude, overall, is the EXACT opposite of the way black folks should be treated when interfacing with the Omni. Rob's actions are not okay, at all, and I strongly feel that a serious accountability process should be implemented for this incident. This is not a small matter. I've spoken with Deon, and he has agreed to participate.
I've also heard that this type of incident has happened before at the Omni, specifically involving Rob. Correct me if I'm wrong, but apparently, the attitude that was expressed to Deon was that Rob is one of the main people that operates (i.e. helps to reproduce and sustain,) the Omni, and as such, people basically go along with what he says and does. If this is in fact the case, then an accountability process is even more imperative. In no way should labor, and by proxy, "power" derived from labor, enable a person to act with racism against members of the Oakland community. I think it's in the best interest of the Omni to address this issue immediately, for Deon, for the Omni, and for the Omni's relationship with the greater community of Oakland.
I believe Marc was present for part of this incident as well, and although I know, Marc is so busy doing vital work for Sudo and Omni, it might behoove him to also participate in this process, as a witness.
I am writing this email not because I am trying to "cancel" or ruin anyone, but because I care about Deon, The Omni, Sudo, and the Oakland community at large. This issue seems indicative of larger problems, and if addressed with love and respect and accountability, could seriously benefit all parties listed above, and improve the Omni and it's relationship with Oakland.
I'm not sure where to take it from here, as I am personally extremely busy with other community-based activities in Oakland right now, but a mediator/facilitator should be sought out, ideally a black person, but at the very least, a non-black poc, and probably someone that isn't personally involved in the day-to-day operations at Omni, sudo etc. If i am able, I could possibly be this mediator, but I hope other options are sought out first, because a.) I'm a non-black, mixed race poc, and b.) I have very little capacity at the moment.
But please keep me in the loop regarding an accountability process for Rob, and I'll do whatever I can to help move this along and reach a fair and just conclusion.
Sorry to bring such difficult news to you all, but I could not stay silent.
With love and Solidarity,