November 27, 2007
A few weeks ago I was at a vigil in North Miami for a Haitian youth that had been murdered by Metro-Dade Police. It had been a while since I attended a demonstration of its kind. All throughout the crowd I felt an uneasy array of emotions; extreme sadness coupled with unresentful hatred. I repeatedly chanted just as the crowd did, “No justice, no peace! No justice, no peace!” A few of my students were among the activists who organized the gathering. They immediately spotted me and asked me what I was doing there. I explained to them that I was there for the same reason they were; I wanted justice for the child’s family.
As I stood on the front lines, I watched as one by one community leaders spoke in outrage over the manner in which the young brother was killed. I learned that that this young brother had been washing clothes for his father at a laundry mat across the street from his home a few nights prior. When coming out of the laundry mat, he was stopped and harassed by a police officer because he “fit the profile” of a black male who had robbed a store in the area earlier that night. While searching the youth, the officer proceeded to yell and insult him. The young brother responded with yells and insults back. This is what triggered the officer to pull out his gun and shoot the brother three times in the chest. The officer claims that the young brother was attempting to take his gun. Yet, eyewitnesses tell a different story.
It was indeed painful meeting with the family during this mournful period and listening to them talk about what a good son the young brother was. However, what has been much more painful is how typical this story is, especially in the past month in Miami; four murders of black youth at the hands of police within nineteen days. This comes in the midst of a wave of murders that have taken place in poor black and Latino communities of Miami-Dade County at the hands of young people.
In the area of the school that I teach at alone, there were murders that took place practically everyday for a whole week at the beginning of November. Could this wave of violence be in reaction to the level of violence that police have inflicted on poor black communities? There are more signs in this possibility on a national level.
I’ve come to learn in my communication with others throughout the country that this wave of murders on the part of young blacks has recently been part of a larger national trend. There’s been a national wave of violence by whites against blacks since the Jena 6 march; including the highly unusual rape-torturing of Megan Williams in West Virginia, the appearance of nooses in public places throughout the country (hung by whites) and most recently, a cross burned in front of a woman’s yard in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Thanksgiving.