Lesley Phillips and Sharena Thomas founded The People’s Community Medics. Photo Credit: East Bay Express
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Blue Heart: How did People’s Community Medics get started?
Lesley: We started in 2011. Sharena and I were part of the Oscar Grant Committee Against Police Brutality and State Repression and we met with a fellow from the Oakland Fire Department, whose role is to go behind the EMTs and make sure that they do their jobs correctly. We had a conversation about how long it took the police to call an ambulance for Oscar Grant, who had been shot. It took the police 20 minutes to even call for an EMT. We talked more broadly about how the ambulances respond in our communities, in Black communities and in low-income communities. Our observation was that they take a long time to arrive and if it’s any kind of emergency medical incident at all, really, the EMTs usually don’t get out of the ambulance right away. Usually police come first and tell them that the scene is not safe. Meanwhile our injured loved one is either bleeding out or not getting any medical attention whatsoever. Despite the fact that the police have excellent first aid training and they have an excellent medical kit in the trunk of their car to provide medical care, they don’t do anything for people.
That was a big red flag for us. When they say “the scene is not safe,” why? Because we’re crying over our loved one or community member who’s injured? Because there is a crowd of people who are more upset and disturbed at this traumatic scene? We had a problem with that. We felt that was really unjust. On our way home, with my late husband driving, all