A Tipping Point in Our Nation
George Floyd plead for his life for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, as a cop knelt on the handcuffed man’s neck, until he stopped moving. Floyd was suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill.
Breonna Taylor was killed in a hail of bullets by police officers who mistakenly entered her house to execute a no-knock search warrant in a drug investigation. The emergency medical technician was sleeping prior to the deadly encounter.
Rayshard Brooks was fatally shot in the back by police after being reported asleep in a car blocking a restaurant drive-through lane.
Ahmaud Arbery was gunned down by men who decided to take the law into their own hands when they said they believed the young Black jogger resembled a suspect wanted in a string of recent burglaries.
An 18-year-old sister of color, while stopped at a red light, was doused with lighter fluid and set on fire through her opened window by four white males who shouted racial slurs in downtown Madison.
All the above is visceral, raw and real. The societal response by some seems to suggest that despite the long, historical cumulative racial trauma endured by Black people, they’d much rather continue to systematically deny the very human existence of people of color.
Despite those attitudes, Floyd’s death tipped the scales of activism and anti-racist action, amid the backdrop of Black Americans getting sick and dying at a higher rate that white Americans, during the novel coronavirus. Demonstrations erupted sending tens of thousands marching, shouting and singing in solidarity. Sick and tired of being sick and tired, Black Lives Matter supporters filed into the streets demanding an end to police brutality and a rise in racial equality.
“I march because I’m tired,” said Megan Berry. “I march because everybody I love, everybody I love, is Black. I came from a Black woman. I am a Black woman. I march because I would like to live in a world where I can go any place and feel safe. … To be honest, we are all just exhausted. It’s time for liberation.”
This summer’s Black Lives Matter movement is reportedly the largest racial justice event in United States history. Marches have taken place over the past few months in more than 40 countries and 2,000 American cities, compared with 100 U.S. cities in 2013 following the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the killing of Black teen Trayvon Martin.
More notably perhaps, as the movement gained more visibility amid a global pandemic, white allies have risen to the surface.
The historic landmark is nice on paper, but for those calling for an end to racial discrimination and police abuse have taken a collective vowel to ensure Floyd’s death, and countless others, will not be in vain.
“We aren’t going anywhere,” said Claude Gilmore, vice president of the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce. “Our strength, tenacity, resilience and blood runs deep within our soul. So, society, America and the world, you better buckle up. You have met the resistance to our systematic removal and it is us and those others representing the global diverse mosaic that stands with us. No more dying by choke holds, no more dying by no-knock warrant entry, no more shooting our folks while jogging, while sleeping, while driving, or while just being Black.”
More than 1,000 unarmed people died by the very people sworn to protect and serve them. The numbers, gathered between 2013 and 2019, are from data found in a Mapping Police Violence study. About one-third of the victims were Black. Additionally, despite increased media attention, just 1% of police officers involved with these deaths are charged with a crime and even fewer are ever convicted, according to the report.
UMOJA Magazine recognizes the countless contributions being made to the Black Lives Movement in Madison, Milwaukee and across the state to challenge the status quo. Groups like Urban Triage, Freedom Inc., and the Party for Socialism and Liberation organized daily marches around Capitol Square, with an estimated 2,000-plus in attendance.
This special Black Lives Matter issue applauds those fighting racism and working countless hours to bring real systematic change. From first-time demonstrators to seasoned civil rights leaders, each are playing a role to promote anti-racism and encourage police accountability. And to organizations who are digging deep in their coffers to support Black-led causes, hats off to you as well. We can’t forget groups like White Coats for Black Lives and our emerging Black community activists reminding people that “this is not a riot, it’s a revolt.” There are many more stories we wish we could have covered in this issue. This is just a sampling of the racial justice movement.
Absorb the images provided in the photograph collages; meet one of the handful of justice warriors leading the youth; and read concrete actions Madison needs to make right now.