Jacob Blake’s Sister, Letetra Widman: “I Don’t Want Your Pity. I Want Change.”

Letetra Widman has recently joined the ranks of family members forced into the spotlight after her brother, Jacob Blake, was shot seven times in the back by police officers on Sunday evening. 

At a press conference on Tuesday, Widman, 30, appeared alongside her family to speak on behalf of her 29-year-old brother, who is currently confined to a hospital bed in Milwaukee, paralyzed from the waist-down.

Calling herself her “brother’s keeper,” Widman said:

“When you say the name Jacob Blake, make sure you say father, make sure you say cousin, make sure you say son, make sure you say uncle. But most importantly, make sure you say human. Human life. Let it marinate in your mouth and your minds. A human life. Just like every single one of you all and everywhere … We’re human. His life matters.

“So many people have reached out to me telling me they’re sorry that this happened to my family. Well, don’t be sorry because this has been happening to my family for a long time, longer than I can account for.

“It happened to Emmett Till. Emmett Till is my family. Philando, Mike Brown, Sandra. This has been happening to my family and I’ve shed tears for every single one of these people that it’s happened to. This is nothing new.

“I’m not sad. I’m not sorry. I’m angry. And I’m tired. I haven’t cried one time. I stopped crying years ago. I am numb. I have been watching police murder people that look like me for years.

“I’m also a Black history minor. So not only have I been watching it in the 30 years that I’ve been on this planet, but I’ve been watching it for years before we were even alive.

“I’m not sad. I don’t want your pity. I want change.”


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Blake was reportedly breaking up an altercation in Kenosha, Wis., on Sunday evening when police arrived on the scene. As he was returning to his car, where three of his six children were waiting, one officer (the Kenosha Police Department has not released the names of the officers involved) grabbed him from behind and shot him seven times. It is unclear whether or not his paralysis will be permanent.

On Monday, Ben Crump, Blake’s attorney, said that he is currently in an intensive care unit at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, and is in stable condition.

Since the attack on Blake, protests demanding justice for Blake have surged in Wisconsin. On Tuesday night, the New York Times reported violence breaking out between protestors and police, with law enforcement assaulting protesters with tear gas, rubber bullets and threats of arrest.

This was quickly followed by two fatal shootings by a group of armed men who had been reportedly “verbally sparring with the arriving protesters” and “promising to protect” the gas station where the altercations were taking place prior to shots being fired.

A 17-year-old Illinois man was arrested in connection to the shooting on Wednesday morning.  

Widman highlighted a broader impact of systemic racism around Blake’s shooting— one that the families of murdered Black Americans have been highlighting for a long, long time.

Megan Belcher and Zietha Blake, Blake’s other sisters, along with both his parents, family pastor and multiple attorneys on the case all spoke as well. 

As police continue to kill innocent Black people in this country and families continue to face unending attention over the preventable and unjust loss of their loved ones, many still continue to find the strength to add their pain to a decades-long fight for an Black American existence without daily fear of murder and racially-motivated violence and harassment—an existence that somehow, still, has yet to truly change.


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About

Gavi Klein is a junior at Brandeis University majoring in American Studies with minors in Italian Studies and Journalism. She is a contributor at Ms.