Families of police victims come together in Bay Area for Oscar Grant Legacy Weekend

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by Cephus ‘Uncle Bobby’ Johnson, uncle of Oscar Grant

The Oscar Grant Legacy Weekend was all about unity. Mothers of police victims from all over the country came together in mutual support, forming strong friendships. Here, Leslie McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown from Ferguson, Missouri, hugs Theresa Smith, mother Caesar Cruz from Anaheim, Calif. – Photo: Love Not Blood Campaign
The Oscar Grant Legacy Weekend was all about unity. Mothers of police victims from all over the country came together in mutual support, forming strong friendships. Here, Leslie McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown from Ferguson, Missouri, hugs Theresa Smith, mother of Caesar Cruz from Anaheim, Calif. – Photo: Love Not Blood Campaign

The 2016 Oscar Grant birthday “Love Not Blood” Campaign and the Oscar Grant Foundation sponsored a Policing in the 21st Century event, about “Where do we go from here,” on Saturday, Feb. 27, at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, 3701 Telegraph Ave. in Oakland.

The community packed the event to witness the testimonials from police victims’ families across the United States. Since the murder of Oscar Grant on Jan. 1, 2009, there has been an increase nationally in the number of murder and manslaughter charges filed against officers for on-duty shooting, according to data compiled by Philip Stinson, an associate professor of criminal justice in Ohio.

Only 18 officers were charged in 2015, more than in the previous four years combined, though 1,140 people were killed by the police, according to The Counted, a project by the Guardian.

In a packed First AME Church in Oakland, the mothers of police victims sat together listening as each of them spoke. – Photo: Kelly Johnson Revolutionary Photography
In a packed First AME Church in Oakland, the mothers of police victims sat together listening as each of them spoke. – Photo: Kelly Johnson Revolutionary Photography

This increase in police prosecutions is significantly the result of families’ involvement in the Black Lives Matter Movement. Eric Holder described the prevailing lack of data collection as “unacceptable” before he stepped down as U.S. attorney general in April 2015.

The U.S. government has no comprehensive record of the number of people killed by law enforcement. This lack of basic data has been glaring, amid the protests, rebellion and worldwide debate set in motion by the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old, in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014.

The Guardian agrees with families, analysts, campaign groups, activists and authorities who argue that such accounting is a prerequisite for an informed public discussion about the use of force by police. Between 2005 and 2012 just 1,100 police departments – a fraction of America’s 18,000 police agencies – reported a “justifiable homicide” to the FBI.

In order to grasp the pain of this genocide committed against children of color and the mantra of Black Lives Matter, we must remember Mamie Till Mobley’s decision to open the casket of her son’s beaten, swollen body.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee of Oakland honored the mothers by speaking at the Oscar Grant Legacy Weekend. – Photo: Love Not Blood Campaign
Congresswoman Barbara Lee of Oakland honored the mothers by speaking at the Oscar Grant Legacy Weekend. – Photo: Love Not Blood Campaign
Eric Garner’s mother, Gwendolyn Carr of New York City, speaks. – Photo: Kelly Johnson Revolutionary Photography
Eric Garner’s mother, Gwendolyn Carr of New York City, speaks. – Photo: Kelly Johnson Revolutionary Photography

She urged the world to look at her son.

Beatrice Johnson, aka Auntie B, co-founder of the Love Not Blood Campaign says: “These families realize –understanding the legacy of Mamie Till Mobley’s decision to leave the casket open – that in order to come to grips with their tragedy, they must see their child as being crucified on the cross of racial police injustice.”

Wanda Johnson, mother of Oscar Grant, addressed the crowd. – Photo: Kelly Johnson Revolutionary Photography
Wanda Johnson, mother of Oscar Grant, addressed the crowd. – Photo: Kelly Johnson Revolutionary Photography

“They must feel that in order for their child’s life not to be in vain, they must use these moments to illuminate all of the dark corners of policing in America and help push the American community toward what we now call the Justice Or Else Movement,” said Johnson.

These families, like Mamie, have become activists, speaking to large crowds about police brutality and advocating for justice for their child.

What has empowered them to speak? Unity. “If you want to hear the truth, you must let the suffering speak.”

Sean Bell’s mother, Valarie Bell of New York City, speaks. – Photo: Kelly Johnson Revolutionary Photography
Sean Bell’s mother, Valarie Bell of New York City, speaks. – Photo: Kelly Johnson Revolutionary Photography
Samaria Rice, mother of 12-year-old Tamir Rice from Cleveland, Ohio, addresses the gathering. – Photo: Kelly Johnson Revolutionary Photography
Samaria Rice, mother of 12-year-old Tamir Rice from Cleveland, Ohio, addresses the gathering. – Photo: Kelly Johnson Revolutionary Photography

These are the words from mothers about their experience at Oscar Grant Legacy Weekend:

Theresa Smith, mother of Caesar Cruz, Anaheim, Calif., said: “I was overwhelmed with emotion. Being with the other mothers and families of those who have lost a loved one to police brutality gives me the strength to continue the fight. We must continue to stay united.”

Marian Tolan, mother of Robbie Tolan, Bellaire, Texas, said: “The Oscar Grant Legacy Weekend was a tremendous experience. The families of police shooting victims and gun violence victims bonded like never before. We will get justice for our sons and daughters. We will never give up.”

Ericka Huggins, director from 1973 to 1981of the Oakland Community School, founded by the Black Panther Party, and now a college professor, stands with Beatrice X of the Love Not Blood Campaign and co-organizer of the Oscar Grant Legacy Weekend. – Photo: Love Not Blood Campaign
Ericka Huggins, director from 1973 to 1981of the Oakland Community School, founded by the Black Panther Party, and now a college professor, stands with Beatrice X of the Love Not Blood Campaign and co-organizer of the Oscar Grant Legacy Weekend. – Photo: Love Not Blood Campaign

Greta Willis, mother of Kevin L. Cooper, age 14 years old, Baltimore, Md., said: “The panel discussion was awesome! It encompass courageous mothers standing together in unity and strength.”

Darlene Cain, mother of Dale Graham, Baltimore, Md., said, “It was a day of remembrance with royalty, style and class.”

Toni Ball, mother of Cary Ball, St. Louis, Mo., said: “I felt so much love and support from all the mothers. I met a lot of people in person and I thank you and your family for inviting me to such a wonderful honoring ceremony of life. The entire weekend was amazing.”

Chante Bland, Sandra Bland’s sister, Wheeler, Texas, said, “This was one of the best weekends of my life seeing families come together from across the globe to support one another and fight against police brutality.”

Uncle Bobby, Cephus Johnson, uncle of Oscar Grant, who organized the gathering with his wife, Beatrice X, speaks. – Photo: Love Not Blood Campaign
Uncle Bobby, Cephus Johnson, uncle of Oscar Grant, who organized the gathering with his wife, Beatrice X, speaks. – Photo: Love Not Blood Campaign

Vickie McNeal, mother of Tinoris Williams, West Palm Beach, Fla., said: “I found the Oscar Grant Legacy Weekend to be very powerful – a nation full of hurting families. The United States is in need of stiff legislation in place on how law enforcement should approach mentally disabled citizens.”

Marion Hopkins, mother of Gary Hopkins, Prince George County, Md., said, “Being in the presence of mothers who feel and understand the pain of the loss of a child to circumstances such as ours was one of spiritual healing, empowerment and most importantly unity.”

Geneva Reed-Veal, mother of Sandra Bland, Wheeler, Texas, said: “To have attended the Oscar Grant Legacy Weekend and say I’m the same is an understatement! Everything was so impactful from the panels to the dinner. The accommodation were splendid!”

Cephus “Uncle Bobby” Johnson, is the uncle of Oscar Grant. For more information, please contact him at uncle.bobby.johnson@gmail.com.

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