“1966 in Oakland, California; my grandfather and his best friend founded the: “Black Panther Party for Self Defense.” You see, police brutality was bad back in those days, much like it is again now, they would patrol black neighborhoods protecting people against the violence that would happen. I wish I had been around to see the original time of the group; although it was rough back then with the oppression that our people were facing, it would have been worth it to have been able to see the forces of the party working to improve black quality of life. With everything happening, we need the party back in charge now more than ever. My grandpa died two years ago. My mom never had anything to do with the party. It’s left on me to reinstate the party to stop the injustices my people are facing. The president released a statement telling officers to “not be that is going to cause black people? The havoc that is going to rain down on us? Just yesterday in my neighborhood a pregnant lady, who already had five children was shot and killed when police showed up to the scene of a robbery that she had called in. We are amid what could become a black genocide, if we don’t step up and become a part of the change, we are going to be the next ones on the receiving end of that gunshot. Thank you.”
“Megan what did we say about promoting your political views in my class?” “The project was on a political party we were passionate about and supported. I support this one.” This is the only white teacher in the entire school. She tries my patience every single day. “Principals office at the break” There it is, I have been anticipating that from the time I started my presentation. “Yep. Daily routine.” I don’t know how she works here or why she works here for that matter. We are in an all black neighborhood, and all black school. Let’s see what kind of bullshit punishment she tries to come up with for me this time. Mrs. Lewis dragged on with some brief lesson before the next presentation, while my friends and me whispered in the back. “What’s with her man? She is always on your ass.” “Girl who knows, she’s always got something to say.” My friends and our families all agreed, something needed to happen. Our communities were being brutalized and no one was doing anything about it. The next presentation was about the black lives matter movement, a few more on the black panther society. Mrs. Lewis stopped the presentations and told everyone to listen up; she wrote three letters boldly on the board that made everyone outwardly gasp.
“The Ku Klux Klan.” Where in the hell is this woman going with this? “This is a political party everyone in this room should learn a little bit about.” You can’t be serious. I knew she didn’t like any of us, but I didn’t think that it ran this deep. “You people need to learn not to interact with people that aren’t your kind. You don’t deserve to be around the more civilized.” I’m going to get this woman fired; I took out my phone and started recording the entire thing under my desk. “Learn from the examples of the Tulsa race riots, Emmett Till, Michael Donald, and so many other savage people of your kind that were rightfully murdered by our clan.” Of course, she is a member of the Klan. I can’t believe it has taken her this long to snap and finally show her true colors. “You all need to realize that just for interacting with me, you all will be next. You’ll all end up exactly like them.” Our classroom door burst open and two black police officers came in and took her away. There’s very few of them, but man is it nice to see some of us on the force. We live in St Louis, Missouri; in Hazelwood. Our population is twenty-five-thousand-seven-hundred and three people. We have sixty-seven police officers, ninety-nine percent of which are white; I wish that were an exaggeration. The school was dismissed for the day due to “stress the students may have endured over the course of having Mrs. Lewis teaching their class.” On the walk home, my cousin and I were told to stop by two white officers. Our mothers had already given us the talk on what to do if we ever were stopped. Be respectful, don’t talk back, keep your hands where they are visible always. Do not give them a reason to “fear” you. Ever.
“Where do you two think you’re off to during school hours?” I tried my very hardest not to roll my eyes or nothing. Jordan and I both slowly folded our hands in front of us. “Our school was cancelled for the rest of the day Sir.” Both officers came closer to us and smiled. It made me uneasy. “And why exactly do you think we would believe that from you two?” Oh boy, this isn’t going to end well, I can already tell. I put on the most innocent smile I could muster up. “Sir we really don’t mean any trouble, our school was let out because our teacher ended up being a KKK member and due to stressed it my have caused the students involved with her they let us out for the day.” There is no way they are going to believe this. I realize now we’re screwed. The bigger of the two officers chuckles a mean belly laugh. “You negroes really just think everybody is out to get you. You know just because someone isn’t perfectly aligned with your black lives matter agenda doesn’t mean they are automatically part of the KKK.” The second officer chimed in: “You know we could arrest both of you right here, right now?” I saw Alicia’s mouth start to open out of the corner of my eye and lightly tapped her shoe with mine to stop her. “Sir with what charges? I don’t mean no disrespect, but we haven’t done nothing wrong.” “And you think skipping school is a clever idea? You could use all the classes you can get to learn how to speak our language properly.” Second officer chimed in again. “Girls hands behind your back, turn around and get down on your knees, you’re under arrest for slander of an innocent person and truancy.” I obliged, but Alicia was set off. “You think just because we’re black you can manipulate us and disrespect us like this man its bullshit! I am tired of living my damn life in fear—” She got cut off. “Get on the ground or we will take you down.” I looked up at her and pleaded. “Alicia, come down here. Now, please! I am not playing with you.” Officer one tackled me onto the ground and started punching me in the head and yelling at me to stop resisting. “I’m not resisting! I’m not resisting! You’re hurting me for no reason!” He punched harder. Alicia turned to the officer on top of me: “Officer, please, stop! You’re hurting her! You’re hurting her!” She went to reach for his arm and I heard multiple shots. Six to be exact. Alicia slumped to the ground and collapsed next to me. She was already gone. The officer on top of me yanked me up and took a step back. “Let this be a lesson to you girl, don’t disrespect the police.” I couldn’t move. The policemen got back into their car and drove off. I sat down next to Alicia's lifeless body until their car was out of sight; then I ran all the way home.
I burst through the door beside myself in tears. My momma and my auntie were sitting at the table together. The second they saw my face they knew. “Momma they shot Alicia right in front of me.” She ran over and collected me in her arms. My auntie had sat back down in her chair. We walked over to meet her at the table, both of us flanking her on either side. “What happened?” “They stopped us randomly when we were walking home from school because it was let out early because Mrs. Lewis got arrested and they didn’t believe us and tried to arrest us, and I got tackled and Alicia tried to stop it and they shot her six times.” The room fell silent. It felt like hours passed by before anyone spoke. My mom was the first to break the silence.
“I know its been years since the party was active; but maybe its time it comes to surface again. We can’t let Alicia’s death go by and just be another nameless face on the news. People will remember her name.” “Jayla, how are we going to pull this off? We don’t have even half of the connections Dad used to.” “I am in contact with the main organizer of all the black lives matter protests. If we can join forces with them to reinstate the party, we would be a forced to be reckoned with.” They deliberated back and forth for quite sometime. They finally reached a decision. “My daughter will not die in vain. Make the calls you must to make this happen. It will not just be centered around Jordan. I want there to be a protest with everybody’s picture that has died from police brutality recently and make sure nobody is forgotten.” My aunt turned to me. “Megan, would you be willing to speak at the protest? Maybe if we get younger voices out there, people will see that it’s not just a problem that affects the older generation.” “Absolutely Auntie Kimani, I want to help make sure Alicia’s death does not go by for nothing.”
Weeks passed as my mom and aunt prepared for the upcoming protest being held just a few blocks away from the police station that the officer that killed Jordan worked at. There were hundreds of black activists that showed up in support of our movement. My mother went up to the podium first.
“Thank you all for joining us. This is for the real organizers all over the country – the activists, the civil rights attorneys, the struggling parents, the families, the teachers, the students that are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do. It’s basic mathematics – the more we learn about who we are and how we got here, the more we will mobilize. Now, this is also in particular for the black women who have spent their lifetimes dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves. We can and will do better for you. Now, what we’ve been doing is looking at the data and we know that police somehow manage to deescalate, disarm, and not kill white people everyday. So, what’s going to happen is we are going to have equal rights and justice in our own country or we will restructure their function and ours. Now… I got more y’all – yesterday would have been young Tamir Rice’s 14th birthday so I don’t want to hear anymore about how far we’ve come when paid public servants can pull a drive-by on 12-year-old playing alone in the park in broad daylight, killing him on television and then going home to make a sandwich. Tell Rakia Boyd how it’s so much better than it is to live in 2012 than it is to live in 1612 or 1712. Tell that to Eric Garner. Tell that to Sandra Bland. Tell that to Dorian Hunt. There has been no war that we have not fought and died on the front lines of. There has been no job we haven’t done. There is no tax they haven’t leveed against us – and we’ve paid all of them. But freedom is somehow always conditional here. “You’re free,” they keep telling us. But she would have been alive if she hadn’t acted so… free. Now, freedom is always coming in the hereafter, but you know what, though, the hereafter is a hustle. We want it now. And let’s get a couple things straight, just a little side note – the burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander. That’s not our job, alright – stop with all that. If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression. If you have no interest, if you have no interest in equal rights for black people then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down. We’ve been floating this country on credit for centuries, and we’re done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil – black gold, ghettoizing and demeaning our creations then stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit. The thing is though… the thing is that just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real. Thank you.”
The crowd erupted into applause and my mom introduced me to give my speech. I pray I don’t blow this; I need to do Jordan proud.
“Treyvon Martin. Sandra Bland. Kathryn Johnston. Sean Bell. Eric Garner. Rakia Boyd. Amadou Diallo. Mike Brown. Kimani Gray. Kenneth Chamberlain. Travares McGill. Tamir Rice. Aiyana Stanley-Jones. Freddie Jones. These are the most recent names of those who have died from police brutality and received no conviction for their murder. However, they are missing the most recent. Alicia Newton. I watched my cousin get shot in cold blood in front of me. The white officer fired six shots into a sixteen-year-old girl. She did them no harm. She was simply protecting her cousin from a wrongful beating and she was shot and is now forever in the ground because a white man “feared” her. The first thing I want to do is just pay homage to Dr. King … part of the reason why we’re here. I would also want to recognize and stand in solidarity with the families and the surviving sanitation strikers (because I think that’s important) who asked an especially important question or made an especially important demand. Thank you, I AM A MAN, which talks about the dignity that we deserve and have always deserved as black people in this country. Right. So, I’d like to say that I believe I’m a bringer of truth. My name means bringer of truth. And so sometimes it’s tight, but it’s always right. So first…I’m going to …I just want to play a part, a small part. It’s about to be a hood-tastic presentation, but a small part of Dr. King’s last speech in Missouri. ‘…All we say to America is, “Be true to what you said on paper.” If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand some of these illegal injunctions. Maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn’t committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right.’ And so, thank you, Dr. King but I believe the greatness of America that he’s talking about should also apply to the greatness and the vision he saw for Missouri. So, I want to talk just for a moment about why we’re here, so of course, of course we pay homage to these heroes. But I think it’s especially important for us to understand that 50 years later, we still haven’t seen the progress that we deserve. And that is not just true for Missouri. It’s true for America. There was an election that took place in 2016 that took us back. Church people call it backsliding. We went backward, and we don’t have to go backward. We the people don’t have to stand for going backward. We the people have never stood for anything but progress. It’s important for you all to know just a little bit about me. I come from someone who was once called a perpetual troublemaker. A friend of his thought that was a joke. I didn’t know that was his friend, so I was ready to fight somebody on behalf of my daddy on an elevator. I call my dad a protester proudly. My dad is an activist where I’m from in Seattle, Washington. My dad is true to this he’s not new to this. He named me after Angela Davis, which is why in part I’m wearing my beret but also “Black Panther” just came out. But it wasn’t just my dad seeing his … His mother was a labor union member and part of an organizing committee where she worked at Boeing. See, my grandfather was a part of the National Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. He also … being a union man. These are people who always fought for the dignity of what it means to be black in this country to just be paid what we deserve because we worked for free for far too long. And I’m also here because I stand on the shoulders of some activists who are awfully familiar. Some advocates who are awfully familiar to the Missouri family here — those folks are Tami Sawyer, Shahidah Jones, Keedran Franklin, Andre Johnson and Earle Fisher. … If you all would stand, I just want to thank you and acknowledge your work… Thank you. So, I wanted to give you this frame because I’m so pleased to be here with you all, because my standing here means that you’re not afraid of progress. Either that or you didn’t do your research. You wanted to have a reverse march today and you couldn’t, and you couldn’t because we can’t honor progress that doesn’t exist. The black child poverty rate is the highest in the nation. One of the highest rates of disconnected youth in the nation. The City of Missouri spends more on policing than on education. There’s unlawful surveillance of activists and grassroots leaders… Eerily familiar to what Dr. King went through with J. Edgar Hoover. We do not want to replicate what the FBI has done and had to apologize for. In our cities, there’s an existing ACLU lawsuit because of the requirement that certain activists and advocates in Missouri must have escorts in City Hall. The Fed-up campaign, which purports to be tough on crime, but is overwhelmingly adding to the number of black people who are serving mandatory minimums in your prisons. We can’t be afraid of progress Missouri; it’s tight but it’s right, and we can walk forward together, but the choice is on you. Your campaign is called “I Am Missouri.” But is this the Missouri that Dr. King would have seen in the promised land, where the right to protest for rights is met with the blacklisting of activists? Are you proud of this Missouri — this Missouri that sounds entirely too familiar to the Missouri that rejected Dr. King in 1968? Are you proud of this Missouri? This Missouri is rejecting today’s Dr. Kings. Don’t you understand? Revisionist history is what makes us love Dr. King. It’s the pulling of the quotes that are the easiest to digest. It’s the harsh truth of his word. And I’m crying from frustration because we can do better as a people. We must do better as a people. Our lives are literally on the line. Because you wanna honor Dr. King and the sanitation workers. Don’t just pay restitution to the sanitary workers survivors. Pay the families of those who are no longer with us. If you want to honor him and the sanitation workers’ legacies, give awards to the activists that called for the removal of the Confederate statues even when their lives were on the line. If you want to honor him, support a livable wage, that’s $15 an hour in the city where I’m from. Put it on the books. You can do this, Missouri. Our people are hungry. Their starving their babies for tips to keep their lights on. This is not the Missouri that Dr. King would have appreciated and talked about going into the promise land. If you want to honor him. You paid me a large fee to be here. I’m going to be honest with y’all, I don’t lie to family. You paid me a large fee to be here Missouri. And I’m grateful. But with that fee … I’m going to give $5,000 to the C-3 Land Cooperative. And I’m going to give another $5,000 to the Official Black Lives Matter Campaign, who has … the Missouri Community Bail Fund. Join me. Put up your $5. Put up your $10. Put up your $15. We’ve got work to do, to build the legacy of the I Am Missouri that you wanted to do the reverse march. We can enjoy the progress. We can celebrate the progress. But let’s not lie to each other about where we are. You can be better. We can be better. I will stand with you in becoming better. But if you won’t, don’t tell me about his dream when you support policies that make the reality for far too many a nightmare. If you won’t, don’t tell me about the content of my character when you’re profiling, stopping, and frisking, setting unaffordable bail, doling out our citizens, my brothers, and sisters. If you won’t, don’t tell me about love when you are cowering to fascism, and racism and bigotry cloaked in Trumpism. Don’t tell me about justice rolling down like waters when your silence is deafening, and you’ll sit at the feet of Jeff Sessions. What kind of radical action will you take that mirrors the Dr. King that we know and not the one they put in commercials? The kind of Dr. King that insured our progress, our forward movement, and our freedom. If you want to honor Dr. King’s legacy, don’t just dream, work. If you want to honor Dr. King’s legacy, don’t just stay woke, work woke. If you want to honor Dr. King’s legacy, don’t just fight for equality, fight for equity. If you want to honor Dr. King’s legacy, don’t just pursue justice and love, pursue power in love.
All power to the people.
Ku Klux Klan | Definition & History
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Black Panther Party | History, Ideology, & Facts
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12 Horrific crimes
https://www.essence.com. (2018). Essence. Retrieved 16 June 2018, from https://www.essence.com/culture/horrific-kkk-crimes
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Ashkenas, J., & Park, H. (2015). The Race Gap in America’s Police Departments. Nytimes.com. Retrieved 16 June 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/09/03/us/the-race-gap-in-americas-police-departments.html
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