Would you like to hear a story? I have got to be honest; it is not a happy story with a happy ending. It has many chapters and they all say the same thing, but it is a story that needs to be told.
May 7, 1966; an 25-year-old African-American man named Leonard Deadwyler was speeding through the streets of Los Angeles and running several red lights. He refused to pull over or stop, so the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) shot and killed him. The LAPD then discovered that Deadwyler’s wife, Barbara, was experiencing labor pains and Leonard was trying to get her to the closest county hospital, which was 20 miles away from their home. His last words were “My wife is having a baby.” Barbara and lawyer Johnnie Cochran attempted to sue the city of Los Angeles for wrongful death, but lost the case.
Feb. 26, 2012; a 17-year-old African-American boy named Trayvon Martin is fatally shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer named George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman turned himself into law enforcement and was charged with second-degree murder. After sixteen hours of strenuous review over the case and Zimmerman’s claim that he “shot Martin in self-defense,” a six-person jury rendered him not guilty of all charges. On May 11, 2016, Zimmerman posted an auction of the firearm he used to shoot Martin and wrote that the gun was “an American firearm icon.”
July 17, 2014; a 43-year-old African-American man named Eric Garner was approached by the New York Police Department (NYPD) on suspicion of selling “loosies” (single cigarettes) from packs without tax stamps. When Garner told the police that he was not selling cigarettes and was tired of being harassed, the officers on scene attempted to arrest Garner. Officer Daniel Pantaleo tried to put Garner’s wrist behind his back, but Garner pulled his arms away. Pantaleo then put his arms around Garner’s neck and brought him to the ground. After Pantaleo removed his arm from Garner’s neck, he pushed Garner’s face into the ground while four officers moved to restrain him. Garner repeated “I can’t breathe” eleven times while lying facedown on the sidewalk, until he eventually lost consciousness. He remained lying on the sidewalk for seven minutes while officers waited for an ambulance to arrive. Garner was pronounced dead at the hospital approximately one hour later. On Dec. 3, 2014, the Richmond County grand jury decided to not indict Pantaleo. The City of New York would later pay Garner’s family a $5.9 million out-of-court settlement.
These are just three chapters of a sad story that has been going on for far too long. These chapters have all had unhappy endings, but the story is not over and does not need to have an unhappy ending. That is why athletes are locking arms, kneeling and raising fists during the National Anthem. That is why Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. helped organize peaceful and nonviolent marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, Washington D.C. and many other places. That is why the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) and Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) conducted “sit-ins” at lunch counters as early as the 1940’s. That is why Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors organized the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement on July 13, 2013 after Zimmerman was acquitted of Martin’s murder. These organizations and people did/do not want this story have an unhappy ending full of acquittals, bloodshed, police brutality, lynchings and beatings.
A famous sign from the BLM movement states, “Yes, all lives matter, but we’re focused on the black ones right now, okay? Because it is very apparent that our judicial system doesn’t know that. Plus, if you can’t see why we’re exclaiming #BlackLivesMatter, you are part of the problem.”
This story does not have to have an unhappy ending. Make a difference. Use your rights. Share your voice. Educate yourself. Research the issue(s). Recognize and speak out against racism. Take a stand against racial violence. Remember that we the people of the United States of America are created equal and are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit and happiness.