April 11, 2016
FUMBLE: BLACK LIVES MATTER
A double-Fumble of late for Black Lives Matter, the protest group that has been staging occupations in Toronto to press its demands for more discussion and disclosure of information related to police shootings of black men. After an extended stay in front of Toronto Police headquarters, protesters took it up a notch last weekend by turning up at the north Toronto home of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. That was the point where the first Fumble was committed. Regardless of the organization or issue at hand, when a communications tactic (i.e. protesting at the Premier’s home) swamps the underlying message, the opportunity has been blown. As is always the case, the media focus and discussion by pundits immediately shifted from the issues Black Lives Matter were trying to highlight onto the propriety of demonstrating at a politician’s family home. Later in the week, Newstalk 1010 host Jerry Agar revealed a Tweet that had been posted on February 9th (and subsequently deleted) from BLM co-founder Yursa Khogali which said “Plz Allah give me strenght not to cuss/kill these men and white folk out here today plz plz plz.” Khogali has been unreachable ever since. BLM spokesperson Sandy Hudson went on CP 24, but refused to discuss the Tweet at all. “I won’t comment on it,” she said. “It would be besmirching the memory of Andrew Loku, of Jermaine Carby, and the people who have died in our community. This is tabloid,” she said. “It’s not public interest news. It’s not news.” Smart spokespeople are able to minimize discussion on points which are negative or detrimental to their organization – but having absolutely nothing to say about a matter that directly involves the co-founder of your group was a colossal Fumble. So was BLM’s whole approach to managing this issue. There is a time to take your lumps, and an on-the-record comment like Khogali’s is one of them: retract it, apologize, blame the heat of the moment and own the mistake. Otherwise, it will (and is so doing) continue to derail the messages you are trying to put forward.