Last summer, protesters took to the streets of Las Vegas in the name of George Floyd and other African Americans killed over the years by police.
It was the first time in a long time that the city had seen hundreds of people march throughout downtown, the Strip, and the community.
One protest and rally organizer who’s worked in the Black community is Minister Stretch Sanders. He’s the President of New Era Las Vegas. But after more than five years as a protest organizer for Black Lives, he’s calling it quits to start a new venture, The People’s House.
Sanders told KNPR's State of Nevada that he feels like it is time for evolution. He said after five years of organizing rallies and protests it is time for something more.
“I think at this point, going through four years of Trump, now we’re trying to go through another four years unraveling what Trump did, it’s time to take the organizing efforts that we have to the next level,” he said.
During the Black Lives Matter protests over the summer, a lot of people new to the movement started helping organize rallies. Sanders believes it is time for them to take over that part of the effort and time for him to move on.
“I want to focus on organizing in a different way," he said, "I think the best way I can lend my voice, my platform and my freedom fighting spirit is to just focus on programs and resources in the community.”
Sanders believes there is a purpose for the Black Lives Matter organization, but he believes it has to be about more than just policing and police brutality.
“Now it is just starting to look like it’s a movement that’s only focused on police killings," he said, "That’s another thing I feel. We can’t be so loud when the police kill us, but then we’re silent when Black people kill Black people.”
He said he wasn't trying to play the 'Black on Black' crime issue because the reality is people kill people they are in proximity to, “but we can’t ignore those issues in the Black community as Black leaders and Black organizers.”
Sanders believes the movement is about more than just racial inequality in policing. It also encompasses the problem of food deserts in communities of color, the lack of good healthcare, issues of domestic violence and childcare.
"So just keep spending time only on the march and rally in the name of Black Lives Matter from the police devaluing us, I feel like is not enough when 99 percent of our problems stem from other white supremacy roots," he said.
Sanders' new project's aim is to address what the people in the community need day to day.
“The People’s House is basically our community center," he said, "It’s not the biggest place but it’s a place to start off for us.”
He believes that every organization that says it is fighting for the Black community should have programs to help the community. The People's House will have a food pantry, clothing closet, a computer lab, tutoring and classes on financial and real estate literacy.
“We can’t just talk about Black Lives Matter and not provide you the tools to better your Black life,” Sanders said.
He sees the center as a hub for the whole community to help people connect to whatever resources they might need to make their lives better.
Sanders sees connections between this project and projects during the Civil Rights Era. He says people in the Black community are struggling right now and that's where the People's House comes in.
“We have to create spaces, whether it’s the People’s House or your house or my house, that can be avenues to just give people hope. If we can change the mentality, folks can change their own reality,” he said.
While Sanders is committed to helping the community in any way he can, he is not looking at running for office anytime soon. He told KNPR's State of Nevada that he thought about running for office next year, but after asking himself some hard questions, he decided against it.
For one thing, Sanders said people have to blend in to get the resources to run for office, but if they don't know who they are to begin with, then 'blending in' means they become a whole new person.
Sanders said he refused to be the person who calls out racial injustices in the system before he gets into office only to get amnesia about those statements once he's in the system.
“That’s not what the people need. We need real deal leadership," he said, "I don’t care if I’m in the White House or the dope house. Whoever I’m working with, my energy, my fire, my passion should not change.”
The People's House opens March 27. Sanders sees the new center as a jumping-off place that will eventually expand and evolve to meet the needs of the community.
Minister Stretch Sanders, President, New Era Las Vegas;
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