Michael Brown was gunned down by police in his Ferguson, Missouri, neighborhood six months ago today.
Trayvon Martin, killed by a self-appointed “vigilante,” would have turned 20 years old last Thursday.
Also last week: the 16th anniversary of the death of Amadou Diallo, who was shot at 41 times by NYPD when reaching for his wallet.
To be a person of color in America means to constantly have these birthdays and anniversaries flitting in and out of your mental calendar. To constantly be reminded of how institutional racism snuffs out Black lives.
As Crunk Feminist Collective co-founder Brittney Cooper explores in the upcoming issue of Ms., a new civil rights movement is emerging from the police killings of Black youth. And unlike the ones of decades past, this revolution will not only be televised but Facebooked, Instagramed, tweeted–all with the hashtag that became the emblem of a movement: #BlackLivesMatter.
Created by Black women activists Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, #BlackLivesMatter has become both an epitaph and a battle cry.
And it isn’t going anywhere.
The lack of police indictments, the hijacking of justice, has only further galvanized activists–especially women and young people of color. They are increasingly pushing for overdue changes that will add accountability to policing. Changes that include an end to “hot-spots” policing (which often leads to racial profiling), a program that allows officers to blow the whistle on other officers without fear of retaliation and a requirement for officers to reside in the neighborhoods they police.
A critical solution–one that’s overlooked and rarely mentioned in the press–is requiring police departments to mirror the demographic makeup of their communities. That means not only hiring more officers of color, but more women. As studies of law enforcement have shown, “women officers are less authoritarian in their approach to policing, rely less on physical force than men do, possess better communication skills and increase police response to violence against women.”
The powers-that-be are facing mounting pressure to create lasting change in how communities of color are policed.
Early this morning in St. Louis, protestors assembled in front of the home of Mayor Francis Slay. They planted mock tombstones in his yard and marched around his block carrying a fake coffin that they left at his doorstep before they dispersed.
Slay seems to have found all this amusing, tweeting this out shortly after:
The group leading the demonstration, the Artivists, decided to come to the mayor’s home after he repeatedly barred them from protesting at City Hall. They will continue going to the homes of city officials, dubbing the protests as “Monday Mournings.”
A sign left on the mayor’s yard quoted a Mexican proverb: “They tried to bury us, but didn’t know we are seeds.”
With funerals for people of color lost to police brutality feeling commonplace, America has a lot of buried seeds. Seeds that–thanks to the work of activists like Cullors, Garza and Tometi–are sprouting into an intersectional and resilient struggle.
Photos of today’s St. Louis protest from Twitter user @AaronWBanks