by Tiny aka Lisa Gray-Garcia
“We are determined to get justice for our children,” said Sala-Haquekyah Chandler as she and other mothers stood outside the San Francisco courthouse where the alleged murderer of her son and three other young African sons in a quadruple homicide Jan. 9, 2015, was being tried. Little is known yet about all of the facts surrounding the arrest of the alleged perpetrators, who are being charged with code 187 for homicide of the four boys, but one thing is known for sure: Had it not been for the endless resistance, marching, speaking, praying and fighting on the part of the mothers and families of the four murdered boys, this case would not have gotten this far.
Back to the beginning
“They are killing our indigenous children,” said Sala-Haquekyah Chandler as she stood on the corner of Laguna and Page streets. It had been a few weeks since the execution of four young African sons from the Fillmore District of San Francisco and the mothers and their supporters gathered near the scene of the quadruple murder to demand justice. All the mothers held a beautiful banner at the murder site with the faces and names of the four young sons, Manuel O’Neal, David Saucier II, Harith Atchan and Yalani Chinyamurindi, who is Sala’s son.
Powerful sister, mama and community leader Sala has been family with POOR Magazine since my mama Dee and I first started in 1996 doing journalism workshops for other poor mamaz and daddys like us. Sala, like many low-income Black, Brown and poor mamas, including my mama Dee, was struggling to raise her children on the crumbs of welfare and she was also determined to tell our truths and make our own poor and indigenous people-led media.
Fast forward to 2001, Sala launched the effort to stop the senseless violence perpetrated by us killing us with the guns so easily attained by our young people of color in our own hoods, towns and barrios. This became the powerful march she called the One Life Walk.
Then in January of 2015 I received a horrific call that brought me to my knees. Four young African sons murdered execution-style while driving in a van in the Fillmore District of San Francisco, a neighborhood violated by an onslaught of displacement led by one modern day colonizer developer and politrickster after another and most recently an influx of what I call the gentryTechNation pushing low and no-income communities of color into smaller and smaller pieces of what used to be a thriving Black and Brown neighborhood, transforming it into the FillNoMo, as coined by A. Faye Hicks, Po Poet Laureate of POOR Magazine.
It was in the FillNoMo, struggling with this insane climate of removal, that these young men were executed. As I prayed, wept and reflected on this horrible murder and because of my own experience through the violence of displacement this formerly unhoused, evicted and displaced mama’s first mind went to a gentrification motive for these murders or what author and L.A. poet laureate Luis Rodriguez refers to as police-fueled gentrification.
“They came into our communities offering money and guns to young people. Sadly, some of them took the bait. They became informants for the police,” Luis said and went on to describe how in L.A. in the 1970s the police were buying off young xicano members of the community to help fuel the dismantling of a strong Brown community. We focused on this important and frightening connection in an interview with Luis for one of our Poor News Network radio shows on KPFA’s Hard Knock Radio, focused on the rise in gun violence when a community is undergoing gentrification.
“We will not stop fighting for our sons,” said Sala at POOR’s Community Newsroom circle last year. She along with other mamaz and community leaders like Yolanda Banks Reed with the Hebrew Cultural Community, refused to let up on the politricksters, the police or each other.
No matter what the motivation of this horrible murder of our children, Sala and the other fierce mamas will not give up until the truth comes to light. As a parent of a 12-year-old son, my heart cries every day for Sala and so many mothers who have lost their sons and daughters to community violence and police violence, who like Sala says, will never give up fighting for justice for their babies.
Tiny – or Lisa Gray-Garcia – is co-founder with her Mama Dee and co-editor of POOR Magazine and its many projects and author of “Criminal of Poverty: Growing Up Homeless in America,” published by City Lights. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit POOR at www.poormagazine.org.