Say Her Name......Sandra Bland
Yesterday an official report and recommendation regarding Waller County police and jailer policy was released almost a year after the questionable death of Sandra Bland in police custody. Almost two years after thousands of people have poured into street across the country to protest the shooting death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. To protest the shooting death of an unarmed African-American teen by the hands of those charged with the duty to serve and protect citizens. Sound familiar? It should, or have we forgotten Tamir Rice gunned down a few months later by Cleveland Police within seconds of arriving to the scene? Or when Oscar Grant was fatally shot in 2009 by BART officers? Or when Sean Bell was fatally shot in 2006 by the NYPD? Or when Amadou Diallo was fatally shot in 1999 also by the NYPD?
Beside the public displays of outrage illustrating the pain of America’s festering racial wounds, these protests have not lead to the guilty conviction of a single officer. Not a single one. Despite the dash cam footage, despite the protests, despite the hashtags, saying her name, cameos from Al Sharpton, and donations to GoFundMe campaigns. Not a single conviction. Which begs the questions You posted a hashtag. Now what? You took a picture with your hands up. Now what?
You said her name? Now what?
How can this generation move from social media moments to movements that create meaningful change? Why are we calling on LeBron to bring justice for Tamir Rice, the entertainment industry to save Flint, Beyonce to rebuild New Orleans instead of affecting change ourselves? I discuss this and more in Episode 4 of The Grind with Konota Nicholson Executive Director of Hip Hop Gives Back and Jasmine Crowe CEO of Black Celebrity Giving.
In a statement to Newsweek, Atlanta based Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) stated that what happened in Ferguson reminded him of the civil rights struggles he fought decades ago. It is this precise reason we need more than just statements and cameo appearances from those who lead the path to civil rights. Although the Congressman has support Hillary Clinton for President he nor the presidential hopeful herself have done more than appeared with the mothers of the slain.
Now is the time for those like Congressman Lewis who have faced these institutional challenges, encountered this kind of police brutality, and successfully ushered in legislative change nationwide to mentor a new generation in ways to do the same. Now is the time to take the passion and mobilized voices of thousands and dedicate them towards a thoughtful organized strategy to change the landscape of American police and gun culture that is costing communities everywhere (Chicago, the Aurora theater shooting, Sandy Hook elementary school, Trayvon Martin, etc) innocent lives.
Where are the organizing groups of the 1960’s that spoke as a unified organizing voice for the type of change and methods of change that marked the civil rights movement? The SCLC, the NAACP, or the later Rainbow Push Coalition and National Action Network lead by Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton respectively? The NAACP made its appearance on Ferguson by issuing a press release stating it would, “remain vigilant until accountability and justice are served for the countless individuals who lose their lives to misguided police practices throughout the country.”
But just how is the NAACP being vigilant in the first place? The NAACP website states under their Justice programing they have enacted an Effective Law Enforcement campaign. However, no substantive information on the campaign or steps individuals can take to join the campaign is given on the site. After a bit of internet searching you will find a standalone 2010 powerpoint on the campaign which states their approach will be creating model standards and policies. It is not until three years and another tragic death surrounded by public outrage later the organization introduced a series of bills called Trayvon’s Law targeted towards repealing stand your ground and racial profiling. The sad irony is that nearly one week prior to Mike Brown’s death, August 2nd 2014, marked the one year anniversary of the Trayvon’s Law package launch. BET reported NAACP having some success with the bill package. The success noted was distribution of the bill package to NAACP chapters nationwide. Not the support of members of Congress to push any bill in the package forward. Not the repeal or amendment of a single Stand Your Ground law, but rather, distribution to its internal membership.
Reverend Al Sharpton, of the National Action Network (NAN), is no stranger to these causes organizing marches for Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo. In existence since 1991, the NAN claims it, “works within the spirit and tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King,” and “has been in the forefront of the movement to end gun violence.” However, despite his years of experience fighting for justice, not a single statement has been given on strategies the NAN plans to take in its upcoming talks with local leaders or strategies the protestors should take outside of marching to exact change in Ferguson. The Reverend quickly came to the scene of Ferguson, Missouri, held a rally, a press conference calling for justice, and pictures of him alongside the Brown family were promptly plastered across the media much in the way the Clinton campaign is using the mothers of Martin, Bland, Davis, and Garner to bolster black emotional votes.
Hillary has power and connections..real power..real connections but is she really working towards some productive end that will actually bring justice to the Sandra Bland's and Mike Brown’s across the United States?
Not to diminish the obvious fact that marches, protests, hashtags, and selfies gave this issue the voice it needed. The media has listened for its cycle and while, I’m sure the families of Brown, Ford, Bell, Diallo, Martin, Sandy Hook, Aurora, and Chicago appreciate the public outpouring of love and support, press releases from notable organizations, and 'hand written notes' from notable leaders but a real plan for sustainable change needs to be created and executed.
Those in a position to change institutional injustice and oversight need you the passionate and mobilized to tell them how they can do better. Civil Rights leaders/organizations, the new generation needs your wisdom to guide it in a thoughtful organized way. Media we need you to report the facts responsibly and with integrity. Elected officials we need you to move on these bills and turn them into legislation with executory power. Only then will this move past a hashtag movement and protests in the streets, to meaningful legislation, enforcement of standard practices, and hopefully less lives lost. The time for strategic action is upon this generation.
So now what will you do?