Monday, February 13, 2017

DURING BLACK HISTORY MONTH: Remember Our Names

Several groups worked together on Monday in Berkeley to lift up the names and stories of people who have suffered from police violence and other forms of systemic racism in the US. The vigil by members of Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action (BOCA), Justice 4 Kayla Moore, and Berkeley Copwatch was titled "Remember Our Names Black History Month Prayer Vigil" - and took place for five hours between noon and 5:00 p.m. in the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, facing Berkeley City Hall and the headquarters of the Berkeley Police Department.


Members of St. John's Presbyterian Church share names and stories.
(Photo: Mark Coplan)


February 13 is the anniversary of the murder of transgender African American woman Kayla Moore by the Berkeley Police Department 4 years ago. (See SAY HER NAME: Kayla Moore and the Struggle for Justice)

"Remember Our Names Black History Month Prayer Vigil"
(Photo: Mark Coplan)
The photo at right shows the backdrop for the event: the Justice for Kayla Moore banner at left, images of victims of killings by police at right, and artwork by event founder (and BOCA executive director) Rev. Daniel Buford on the raised central area. Rev. Buford is at center, wearing the beret. Kayla Moore's sister, Maria Moore, stands at the far right.

Many people gave testimony about the violence being carried out by representatives of the state all across this country, and particularly against people of color. Dozens of accounts, from research compiled by Rev. Buford, were read and discussed. People shared stories of violence and killings and other injustice that they had been subjected to, or that had affected their friends or families or other members of their communities.

Many people from the congregation I attend, University Lutheran Church (ULC), participated in the vigil. We at ULC have made an intentional commitment to anti-racism work, joining in solidarity with other justice activists in our city, our state, and nationally.

For my own part, I used my time at the microphone during the vigil to lift up the names of some people I have known and/or learned about through my work in Chicago before coming to Berkeley.

I talked about Flint Farmer, who was shot in the back by Chicago police and killed, as he lay face down on the ground. (See: We need to get the police off the streets of Chicago. QED. ) And I talked about Flint's father, Emmett, who I has become a tireless campaigner for justice on behalf of all people subjected to police violence. I said that each time I see the way Maria Moore has devoted herself to activism in response to what happen to her sister, Kayla, I always think of Emmett Farmer.

"Remember Our Names Black History Month Prayer Vigil"
(Photo: Mark Coplan)
I talked about Rekia Boyd, who was shot in the head by an off-duty Chicago police officer. (See: Chicago Vocabulary Lesson: "Overcharging" and "Undercharging") I talked about how people in Chicago made a commitment to #SayHerName, so that everyone would know Rekia's story. I talked about how the systemic injustice included not just the police, but the also the district attorney's office that failed to hold the police accountable. And I talked about how the people of Chicago voted states attorney Anita Alvarez out of office for her failures in cases like that of Rekia Boyd.

I talked about people who had suffered from police torture in Chicago -- people like Darrell Cannon and Mark Clements. I talked about seeing Mark show up to speak at protest after protest after protest against police crimes. If Mark -- freed after spending 28 years imprisoned on trumped-up charges -- can find the energy and courage to keep showing up to be an advocate for others, what's stopping the rest of us?

In the course of the afternoon, we lifted up the names of stories of people from dozens of places around the country. Systemic violence against people of color is not just a Bay Area thing, it's not just a Chicago thing, it's happening everywhere. (Flashback: National Forum on Police Crimes, May 2014)


A full album of photographs from the event is available on Flickr.


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CHICAGO: Accountability ... Police AND City Council
Chicago Justice: Connecting the Dots


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