The killing hasn’t stopped. Tyre King, a 13 year old boy, was shot by police in Columbus Ohio on Wednesday, September 24th. Police allege that upon chasing Tyree and one other male after responding to a call about a group of people demanding money, including one armed with a gun, he pulled out a gun and one officer shot him multiple times. The gun that police allege Tyree pulled was a BB gun. Two years ago, on November 22, 2014, right before Thanksgiving, Tamir Rice, a 12 year old Black boy, was killed by police after someone called the police about a “man” with a gun in the park. Although the caller said the gun was probably fake, literally seconds after pulling up to the park, Timothy Loehman shot Tamir. He was holding a BB gun. As I was writing this piece, three more videos of police killings of Black people have surfaced. The men who lost their lives are Terrence Crutcher, Keith Lamont Scott, and Alfred Olango.
Police violence against Black people is just one type of state sanctioned violence that claims untold numbers of Black lives every year. If our lives aren’t being taken by police or vigilantes, local government officials are making decisions that result in the lead poisoning of water and soil. The people of Flint, Michigan, and recently East Chicago, Indiana, are suffering from the impacts of lead poisoning, including long-term health problems, housing instability, and psychological trauma. With over 500 homicides so far this year, the people of Chicago are continuing to deal with violence: not only community violence, but also the violence of poverty, closed schools, and lack of access to mental health care.
As the world has seen, Black people are not, and have never, just taken the blows that come our way. The Movement for Black Lives, or Black Lives Matter movement, was ignited by the 2014 killing of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, and it continues to evolve and sustain itself by utilizing a variety of strategies to demand some form of justice for victims of state violence, including direct actions, protests, and policy and advocacy. In August of this year, a coalition of organizations named The Movement for Black Lives, released a radical, comprehensive, and transformational platform demanding an end to the criminalization of Black people, reparations, investment in Black communities and economic justice, community control of institutions in Black communities, and political power, along with specific actions that must be taken at the city, state, and federal level to make these demands a reality.
There have always been artists and writers who have used their gifts to expose injustice, challenge our complicity and complacency, and move us forward to radical change. In a 2013 talk hosted by The Opportunity Agenda in 2013, artist Favianna Rodriguez stated that “Art is where we can change the narrative, because it’s where people can imagine what change looks and feels like.” From Langston Hughes, to James Baldwin, to Audre Lorde and Nikki Giovanni, our legacy of wordsmiths has done exactly what Favianna stated, change the narrative and help us imagine what change can look like. Four books released this year continue in the truth-telling tradition of the writers mentioned above. These books provide invaluable information, necessary historical context, and important personal narratives that illuminate many of the issues addressed by the Movement for Black Lives platform and the work of local, grassroots organizations across the country. If you are someone who is struggling to understand the meaning of the direct actions and protests you encounter in your city, or the connections between various issues our just want to understand the root causes, then these books are for you.