I constantly stayed refreshing my Twitter feed this weekend as people in Baltimore protested the murder of Freddie Gray, a 25 year old Black man, who was stopped, arrested, herded into a police van for a “rough ride”, and emerged from that police van with his spine severed and voice box crushed. He spent a week in the hospital, where he eventually died. Freddie Gray’s family, friends, and the Baltimore community still do not know what happened to him inside that police van, and the police officers who murdered him have not been held accountable. We can barely mourn one death, when we learn of another Black life taken at the hands of police officers, whom we are taught from the time we are children, are supposed to serve and protect us. On Monday night, long held pent up rage and frustration spilled out onto the streets of West Baltimore, egged on by the actions of Baltimore police, who earlier had attacked children after they were let out of school, and released a false press release accusing members of the Blood and Crip gangs of plotting to kill police officers. Fires blazed, stores burned down, cars were torched, and some people used to the opportunity to obtain the basic necessities that they probably had trouble getting before because of the astronomical unemployment rate. Everyone from President Obama, to the Baltimore Mayor, tv pundits, and social media users, had something negative to say about people participating in the rebellion.
But on Tuesday night in Chicago, which experiences its own brand of police terror, over 500 people rallied and marched in solidarity with the people of Baltimore. There was no moralistic shaming, no throwing around select MLK quotes about non-violence, only genuine love of all Black lives, and righteous anger at how our lives are so expendable in the place we call home. Reading, it seems almost daily, about another Black person murdered at the hands of the state, has been really getting to me lately. Participating in last night’s rally and march lifted my spirits; I needed to be surrounded by people who share my not only my anger at the loss of Black life, but my deep and abiding love for Black life, all imperfect, messy, flawed and beautiful Black life. Every speaker at last night’s rally spoke empowering and inspiring words, but it was poet and activist Malcom London’s riff on Kendrick Lamar’s new song, “Alright”, that stuck in my head; we gon be alright, and I do believe, with young people in BYP100, We Charge Genocide, Furie, Black Lives Matter Chicago, Village Leadership Academy and other grassroots organizing group, and movement veterans leading the way towards a world without police and prisons, that we will eventually be alright. To end on freedom fighter Assata Shakur’s words,
It is our duty to fight!
It is our duty to win!
We must love each other and protect each other!
We have nothing to lose but our chains!