Unapologetically Black: Activism on (and off) the Streets with the Black Youth Project 100
(Antigravity Magazine) – The pattern of American police murdering people of color, an everyday reality for some communities, came to the rest of the world’s attention in 2014. The ongoing governmental failure to prosecute some higher-profile cases triggered introspection, protests, and large-scale uprisings in many American cities.
New Orleans has its own martyrs, and its own roll call: Jenard Thomas, Raymond Robair, Henry Glover, Danny Brumfield, Ronald Madison, James Brisette, Adolph Grimes III, Dawonne Matthews, Wendell Allen, Justin Sipp… those are just a few of the names of Black New Orleanians murdered by NOPD within the last decade. If you go back a little further, you find many more. You find the Hot 8 Brass Band’s trombone player, “Shotgun” Joe Williams. You find Adolph Archie, beaten to death inside the NOPD First District Station, and you find Kim Marie Groves, assassinated by a NOPD-hired hit man for having reported police brutality. At present, there are only two NOPD officers on death row for having killed civilians; the vast majority of our police who murder walk free.
In cases where people of color are murdered by someone besides NOPD, the police and an increasingly complacent, incurious press must satisfy themselves with abusing the corpse, mounting a posthumous assault on the murder victim’s reputation. Mirroring a trend seen elsewhere, NOPD had a longstanding practice of responding to the murder of Black folks by trumpeting the victims’ arrest records, implying they had it coming. After the February murder of 21-year-old Penny Proud, the fifth trans woman of color to be killed nationally in the span of a month, NOPD and local corporate-owned news sneeringly misgendered her, disrespecting her identity and suggesting that Ms. Proud was a sex worker who thus somehow courted her own brutal death.
Is there any hope for a future different from this past and present? Several things distinguished New Orleans’ “Black Lives Matter” protests from our city’s usual sign-wavings, including that much of the visible leadership was young Black women, part of what may be an emergent new generation of civil rights organizers with a radically different analysis and approach. I sat down to talk to three of them: Toya Lovevolution Ex, Mwende “FreeQuency” Katwiwa, and Christine “Cfreedom” Brown, all members of the New Orleans chapter of BYP100, a new organization aiming to mobilize communities of color beyond electoral politics.
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