Gil Scott-Heron- The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised
Will not be televised, will not be televised
The revolution will be no re-run brothers
The revolution will be live
#RekiaBoyd #FreddieGray #NatashaMcKenna #MikeBrown #TamirRice # #LennonLacy #WalterScott #EricHarris #TonyRobinson #JohnCrawford #TerranceKellom #AiyanaStanleyJones #AnthonyHill #JasonHarrison #Toomanynamestoomanyhashtags
Hashtag after hashtag flood my Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook page. Another black men, women, and/or child beaten or even killed at the hands of the police. Women already in restraints, men who are unarmed, a child playing in a park or sleeping in a bed, and an elderly person simply walking home. Why? Because someone feared for their lives. Why? Because a child was sleeping in a home soon to be raided by police. Why? Because a off-duty cop wanted to subdue a crowd with a weapon. Why? Because a black child is obviously playing with a loaded weapon in the park. Why? Because they fail to understand or take different precautions when dealing with a person who has a mental illness. There is a problem and the revolution continues to be televised, publicized, and heard through our feet, our chants, our pens and papers, our social media outlets, and most importantly through our cameras.
In this call for justice, we all watched the uprising in West Baltimore as Freddie Gray succumbed to his injuries from a brutal beating while under the custody of the BPD. The citizens responded in ways people both approved and disapproved of. As you may know, police brutality particularly against men and women of color is not a new issue facing our nation; it is deeply embedded in this nation’s history. As you may also know media coverage has been skewed, news outlets turn to anyone who is quick to speak about the looting and “rioting” as oppose to the actual issue at hand–a young man’s spine was internally decapitated from the BPD’s notorious rough rides, but hey that is another issue when it comes to media representation. What upsets me the most where the Facebook post from friends calling black people animals and thugs and expressing their lack of understanding of Gray’s death. He should have followed police orders. He had a criminal record. Why can’t y’all be peaceful like Dr. King? As if Dr. King was not beaten for being peaceful. People are impatience with injustice. Injustices that extend beyond the hands of police, but into equal opportunity, access, affordable housing, healthcare, and even police investigations.
After the protest in December, I finished the semester at Simmons and worked until the 21st. I flew home, spent time with family, and remained posted on the news particularly a story that hits close to home, forty miles south to be exact. It is the case of Lennon Lacy, a story that has washed away from the headline news. Lacy was found hanging from a swing set in Bladenboro, NC. He was a gifted athlete who planned to play for the NFL in the future. It was mother who found something odd about the alleged suicide the police ruled for her son held too many hopes and dreams.
When I looked at him I knew–I said–I said to myself–I said, ‘He didn’t do this…He couldn’t have.
The autopsy reported the cause of death to be “asphyxia due to hanging.” It was also reported that Lacy had been depressed due to the recent death of his uncle.
How do you psychologically evaluate a dead person? He was just too happy for life.
It was his mother who noticed that the shoes he was wearing were a size and a half too small and not even his. It was his mother who express concerns over the racial tension in the area. It was his mother who realized the belt he was hanging from was not his. It was his mother who called this a murder, it was the police who ruled it a suicide. The state’s NAACP President Reverend William Barber II states, ” …And what concerns us about that is that if Lennon Lee Lacy was white and was found hanging in a …predominately black trailer park that was known to have some drug involvement and other things, we just don’t believe that it would have been this quick rush to say it was a suicide. It would have been a very, very, very intense investigation.” The NAACP hired an independent pathologist who raised multiple questions concerning the handling of the body and even if Lacy’s could hang himself from the swing set without it breaking under his weight.
“While the investigation is ongoing, and no final determinations have been made, to date we have not received any evidence of criminal wrongdoing surrounding the death.”
Following the initial headline of this story, Lacy’s white girlfriend, Michelle Brimhall, 31, broke her silence and stated that it was their interracial relationship that led to his murder. His mother disapproved of the relationship and A sign “Keep Niggers Out” was placed around their trailer (they were neighbors) as well as a Confederate flag. The town is 80% white and 20% black and to this small population the city is known as ‘Crackertown’ because of the everlasting tension. His mother call her son’s death a murder that has been covered up. Even after his funeral, his grave was vandalized raising further suspicion around his death.
I share this story because you may have not heard of Lennon Lacy or even this small town in North Carolina. With all of the reports coming to light about police brutality there is another aspect we have to focus on–the lack of proper police investigation on top of police brutality, gentrification, affordable housing, education, and gun violence. After the December protest, I wanted to do more than march, I wanted to help with action. I decided to volunteer with a local organization and join the NAACP. In late February, perhaps early March, I began to work with Mass Action Against Police Brutality. When I joined MAAPB, they were in the process of securing a permit for a march that was to take place in a few weeks. This march was unique for it would be held in Roxbury, a community greatly affected by stop and frisk as well as police brutality, as oppose to holding the march in downtown Boston. Midway through the meeting, a pastor rushed in. He spoke about a shooting that happened an hour earlier. Cops pulled over a vehicle, a man got out shot at the officers, and was killed. Children witnessed the event and a woman was caught in the crossfire. The details of the incident were not clear; therefore, our meeting was quickly wrapped up and I met Chris, Jen, and Tahia. Together, we traveled to the scene.
Roads were blocked off, officers were stationed at nearby intersections, and the community crowded around the intersection. What happened? They demanded. Who’s body is on the ground? They shouted. You could quickly make out the scene in seconds. A car was stopped in the middle of the road, all doors opened, and broken glass everywhere. Two police cars behind the vehicle and bullet shells littered the ground. Further down the road, a body was covered with a sheet. Tensions were high. The police chief made his way to the crowd. People again demanded to know what happened and who’s body laid on the ground. His answer was not sufficient. The crowd was growing impatient. To make matters worse, a police car sped down the street where we stood, a man immediately stopped in its path yelling, “You already killed him!” I still do not know why the officer drove down the street, but he returned to his car after two minutes. It only made tensions even higher. The incident was witnessed by kids and others, so word got around as to who was shot, but no one knew for sure. About a half hour after we arrived, his family arrived. Words cannot even describe how heartbreaking that was to watch them wait and wait and wait. His wife cried in the arms of loved ones and waited. We left around 11:00pm and the coroner arrived shortly after with the family still waiting.
Honestly I was unsure of how to feel. Why did he fired first? Why did he have to shoot? Why did he try to run? Did he even have a chance? Why these feelings? Because it is easier to defend someone who is unarmed than armed. He was not the perfect victim, yet I had to check myself, he was someone’s child, a father, and a husband. When was he checked for life? Which shot was the final (20-30 rounds were fired)? Why were so many rounds fired? The following Monday, I attended a NAACP general members’ meeting. His family sat in front, beside, and behind me. Despite the media’s vilification of him, I learned he was a new father, businessman and barber, and that Saturday was the 29th anniversary of his brother’s death, his life lost to gun violence (not sure if it was police violence). His sister’s words echoed through the building, “PTSD is real in black communities.” NOW, before anybody says anything. His family neither justified nor understood his actions. They also offer their condolences to the officer who was wounded and his family, but they were clear, this man’s children, wife, and loved one could still be with him, they can’t be with their loved one no more. The family also shed light on some huge issues that took place. They did not suspect it was their loved one until police try to illegally search their homes. They did not learn that it was their loved one who laid on the ground until the world knew the next day on the news. They were not invited to speak with the BPD or shown the video of what happened. It was NAACP President had to describe to them what happened on the screen. Also his sister wanted to know why no counselors were provided to the children who witnessed the incident. Memorials made by the community were also destroyed. No he was not the “perfect victim”, but this again was someone’s child.
The day of the protest came weeks later and despite the small turnout of hundred or so people, we took the streets after a speakout rally. My job before the march was simple, I was assign the task of marshaling days before and honestly was not looking forward to it. Why? I rather march than dictate. Before the march, a few of us stood alongside the roads to inform the community of why we were there. A few cars, hell even city buses honked and some took flyers. Still, it was a relatively small crowd despite online and street outreach. Families of those killed by the BPD spoke as well as members of our organization. We soon took the streets. The numbers were discouraging, yet I quickly realized power is not always found in numbers, but united voices. As we marched and chanted songs like ‘Glory’, ‘Fight the Power’, and ‘They Don’t Really Care About Us’ played in the background. As oppose to the march that took place in downtown Boston, this one was different. People stopped and watched, rose their fist, pulled their cars over, and honked horns. Kids in front of their homes held their hands of in solidarity. It was encouraging and beautiful especially when a mother joined in with her young child.
“One of my son’s favorite phrases that he learned, just by living, is, ‘We can’t breathe.’ He sings that with his ABCs,” said Sirad Zahra, her nearly 2-year-old son Jibral on her hip, to the crowd assembled outside the Roxbury Police Station before the march. “I want a better world for him. That’s why I’m doing this.”
Then the death of Freddie Gray sparked another flame in our nation and the world’s eyes were on WEST Baltimore. As the attention shifted from the real issues plaguing this community to looting and “rioters”, I turned to Twitter for my news. Listen to the people, not the observers. MAAPB called for an emergency rally. In one day 1.2K responded to our FB invite, MAAPB realized it was better to organize a speakout and then a march. The day came for the event and being the noisy person I am I scoped out the area three hours before. Barriers were already in place surrounding the police station and news teams were already present. I went home after work, changed, grabbed a snack, charged my phone, and left for the event. After a few hours of preparations, people gathered. Nearly 1500 people gathered. The tone was quickly set as someone sung ‘Change is Gonna Come’ and ‘We Shall Overcome’. It was a peaceful protest and we were gathered to showed our solidarity with Baltimore. Mothers spoke, fathers spoke, pastors spoke, and a community spoke through a march. I was unable to stay until the end, but I watched them march into the night and headed to work for a late shift.
I found myself in deep thoughts over the past few weeks. I sit in bed for hours starting to think, write, and process my thoughts. You know, I start to envy those who distance themselves from social justice. It is tiring work–staying educated, attending meetings, going to town hall groups, and speaking to friends about injustice upon injustice. But, I have to care. I cannot stand back and observe. I told myself after working in diversity affairs at a PWI that I was done for a few years because you become so drained, yet here I am still going, still pushing, still fighting in a revolution that will be televised, publicized, and known. I am still finding my voice in Boston and learning the politics of this city. I am more comfortable in this city, but I am more uncomfortable with the city’s politics, segregation, gentrification, and this launch of Boston Olympics 2024. Guess all that to say, I am tired, but I will stay awake.
Until the next post,