April 21st, 2021
Yesterday’s news of the guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial was welcome, especially compared to the alternatives. Like many of you, I have come to hope for the best but prepare for the worst when it comes to our institutions’ ability to deliver anything resembling justice for people of color who continue to face unceasing police violence and anti-Blackness on a daily basis.
This week is a very important week for Kandelia. But to be honest, my mind and my heart have been with my friends – especially Black activists, educators, former students – in my former home of Minneapolis. They risk escalating police violence in order to make their voices heard, to fight for a bare minimum of accountability from a system that has too rarely worked or delivered justice for Minnesotans like Daunte Wright, Philando Castile, Jamar Clark, Terence Franklin, and Justin Teigen, among too many others.
One verdict doesn’t change all of this history, but the attention being paid to Minnesota is a starting point for a national conversation about real criminal justice reform and public control over policing. It’s hard to know how to respond and process when nearly every week, we have a new reminder of police violence against Black and brown young people like Daunte Wright or Adam Toledo in my hometown of Chicago. These stories remind us of Seattle’s lives cut too short by police violence: Charleena Lyles, Renee Davis, Tommy Le, Che Taylor, Shaun Fuhr, Isaiah Obet, Jesse Sarey, Giovonn Joseph McDade, Jack Sun Keewatinawin, John T. Williams, Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens, among too many others.
George Floyd’s story hits hard because he left his family and came to Minnesota, as many of us find our homes, to start a new life. As an organization supporting people of color who are immigrants and refugees newly arrived in Seattle in search of the opportunities we all deserve, we know that the young people and families we serve are using their voices not just in this moment, but as part of an undeniable movement for legal and structural change and defunding racist institutions. This didn’t start yesterday, and it didn’t end yesterday. There is a long way to go from a status quo of 400 years of police violence enforcing white supremacy.
We amplify the signal of those who struggle, those who fight until no officer of the law can make choices that deny that Black Lives Matter and until police can no longer pose an existential threat to Black and brown people and their stories. We demand protection from those who would protect. We demand justice that is not merely symbolic but substantive and restorative, with unjust power given up by the powerful. We demand the long-needed changes that ensure that George Floyd and his story are never forgotten.
With respect, service, and in memory,