On Saturday June 4, Black Lives Matter Sacramento hosted a vigil for Dazion "Jerome" Flenaugh, murdered by Sacramento City Police Department on April 8, 2016. Another life gone with no answers.
The 3 hour vigil was sobering yet powerful. Jerome's family came out in full force, wearing T shirts honoring their loved one, sharing stories with the assembled supporters.
So many times these headlines swirl by on the news and across social media. Those of us with strong consciences are outraged, but it's a different experience spending time with the families left behind. Their grief is magnified by the fact that a guilty police department, eager to avoid accountability, ends up treating families like enemies rather than grief-stricken members of the community in need of compassion. In need of answers. In need of a simply acknowledgement that their loved one's life mattered, that a human life should not be so easily lost.
And a commitment from law enforcement and the community at large that we won't sit idly by and let this continue.
A commitment to ensuring that when people seemingly break laws, or need help, that they will make it into a courtroom or hospital *alive*, and not have their lives taken so casually by people whose salaries we then have to continue to pay.
A commitment to working to demand police accountability and an end to murders by police, and to do this work until no mother must attend a vigil holding a sign bearing her slain son's name.
“I Know Black Lives Matter, But What Can I Do?"
That is a question often asked from those who support the Movement, but have yet to get involved. Some reasons are based on financial reasons. Some reasons are strictly personal. Some reasons are due to lack of knowledge about The Movement. There is something you can do, but let’s look back for a moment.
Say Their Names
Many remember the feelings of disconnect and despair felt when George Zimmerman was acquitted for the February 26, 2012, murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. How could a person with a gun believe he is powerful enough to take the life of a young man on his way from buying Skittles and iced tea? Zimmerman: tried but acquitted.
How did we feel when in April 30, 2014, Dontre Hamilton was shot 14 times in self defense and murdered while in the midst of a mental health episode? The officer claimed Dontre became a threat when he grabbed for his baton. Christopher Manney was fired, but not charged.
We’ve all seen the video from July 17, 2014, when Eric Garner uttered those words, “I can’t breathe,” in a desperate bid for him life at the hands of NYPD. Our hearts cried as his life was snuffed out on a city sidewalk. The nation waited almost 5 months to find out that Daniel Pantaleo could not be indicted by Grand Jury.
John Crawford III, did nothing but be a black man and pick up an air rifle in a WalMart in Beavercreek Ohio on August 5, 2014. Though the police said they repeatedly ordered him to drop the weapon before gunning him down, surveillance footage speaks to the real truth. Sean Williams was not indicted and is currently on desk duty pending the outcome of a Federal investigation. Let’s not forget the “concerned citizen” who initiated the deadly response by law enforcement.
Forgiveness Softens Anger, But Does Not Save Lives
On June 18, 2015, nine people lost their lives in Charleston in a terrorist attack. I will disagree with forgiving the murderer of the Charleston Nine on the premise that politically correct ignorance has done nothing for race relations. Many buy into society’s excuses for the mental instability of white mass killers. No one willingly recognizes the intention. He wasn’t having a bad day. He was trying to put a stop to “Helter Skelter.” I think it’s time we stop forgiving people who hate us so much; enough to walk into our places of worship and massacre us. It’s time to start asking for honest and clear dialogue on the current race relations in our nation.
We forgave white people when they blew up little girls in a church. We forgave them when they murdered our children for looking at a white woman. We forgave them when they poured salt and ketchup in our hair when all we wanted was a decent meal at the lunch counter. We forgave them when they poured corrosives in swimming pools we occupied. We forgave them as they sprayed us with water hoses, sicced their hounds, and beat us with billy clubs. We forgave them when mortgages we qualified for were denied. We forgave them when we denied our own children while we scrubbed your floors, cooked your supper, and ironed your floors. We forgave them when they took away our right to legally carry arms without threat of persecution or harassment.
Now we are having difficulty forgiving for the senseless murders of our children, the stolen opportunities for suitable housing, and the educational deficits affecting our children.
No forgiveness. Not now. Not ever.
After the Charleston Massacre, folks STILL wanted to forgive and move on. I was glad to see the unity marches and activities in honor of the dead and intrigued to hear that folks wanted to talk about guns. They wanted to pass legislation and talk and talk and talk…. There comes a point when talking becomes a waste of time and shouting gets more attention; shouting with voices, shouting with our bodies, shouting through the infiltration of safe white spaces with brown bodies. #infiltrate
At some point in our recent modern history, the NRA fully supported gun control. Why? Because Negroes had guns. Whenever we showed up with guns they used words like “invade”, “defiant”, “chaos”. When whites showed up in the same manner, words such as “peaceful” and “law-abiding” were used. A Black man with a rifle on his shoulder is a prime target for unnecessary harassment or even death. Hell, we can’t even play with toy guns in or out of the stores… In or out of the packaging... In or out of our neighborhoods... In or out of legality … President Obama was accused of using the deaths of the Charleston 9 as a platform for more gun control. He said that if someone had a gun in the prayer meeting at Mother Emmanuel, they could have stopped the mass murder or at least stopped the shooter before he killed so many. C'mon son?!?! White America as a whole needs to make up its minds and engage in the conversation: If the murders in Charleston did anything, they increased a call for increased gun control. As well, they increased a call for a much needed national dialogue on race relations. Both are necessary, neither is popular. In fact, neither of these is even registering for these folks, but they’ve got to make a choice. Which will they choose? Negroes with firearms, or talking about why Negroes should have every right to carry the same firearms as they do?
WILL YOU JOIN US AND MULTIPLY OUR VOICES FOR JUSTICE?
“The Black Lives Matter Movement is a call to action and a response to the virulent anti-Black racism that permeates our society. Black Lives Matter is a unique contribution that goes beyond extrajudicial killings of Black people by police and vigilantes.”
“It goes beyond the narrow nationalism that can be prevalent within Black communities, which merely call on Black people to love Black, live Black and buy Black, keeping straight cis Black men in the front of the movement while our sisters, queer and trans and disabled folk take up roles in the background or not at all.”
“Black Lives Matter affirms the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, black-undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all Black lives along the gender spectrum. It centers those that have been marginalized within Black liberation movements. It is a tactic to (re)build the Black liberation movement.”
In Our Own Backyards
The list continues to grow nationwide and even lays our hearts bare here in our own town:
Adrienne Ludd who, on October 22, 2015, was shot dead and left uncovered, in the street, for eleven hours with no information from law enforcement except a lie: That they returned fire. Show me the dashcam footage then try to repeat yourselves, Benjamin Green, David McEntire, and Troy Mohler. The fact that you are all on desk assignments holds true to the faith law enforcement has on your lot. #Justice4AdrieneLudd
Dazion Flenaugh, detained on April 8, 2016, in the back of a patrol car without handcuffs, only to be released for what seemed like sport, and gunned down. Officers had choices as to how they could have handled this. They chose the easy way out. #Justice4Dazion
What About The Guns?
The conversation often turns to gun control, but gun control for whom? These killings were not perpetrated by these young men, but at the hands of law enforcement due to officer overreach.
Many folks are angry and with good reason.
They want to do something…anything.
These folks don’t want to talk about guns, and I firmly believe no honest Black person believes that talking about guns is the only solution to the murders of Brown bodies throughout the land. What we really want to talk about is racism and how this nation was built on a division of race that still exists today.
Want to talk about the confederate flag still flying in public places in our nation, including the state capitol of when the Charleston Nine perished? That was a valid discussion, but it wasn’t going to take forgiveness and letter writing campaigns. It was going to take a group of people hell-bent on removing that symbol of racism, even if it meant climbing the pole and taking it down themselves. Take a moment to think about when and why that flag went up and it might make you angry enough to get on a plane to find other symbols of racism and rip them the hell down.
WE don’t want prayers of forgiveness. WE want calls for accountability. WE want to hear the proper vocabulary used in these tense conversations… systemic racism, oppression, white privilege, and ignorance. WE don’t want to hear forgiveness, tolerance, and gun control. WE want to hear calls for a revolution.
Hold on! Put the negative stereotypes away!
WE’RE not calling for riots (designed by infiltrators of course). WE’RE talking about a revolution for change: a revolution for that which is needed. WE call for recognition of the sickness that plagues our nation and WE pledge to arm ourselves to the teeth with knowledge to fight systemic racism and oppression with our fellow Black and Brown skinned brothers and sisters alongside our allies to be that change.
Dazion's Family at the Vigil