From August to August, Philly’s black activists have occupied the streets.
The death of Mr. Michael Brown, a black teenager, in Ferguson, Missouri, at the hands of Mr. Darren Wilson, a white man, wasn’t lost on those who reside in the nation’s fifth largest city, where police violence is not a new phenomenon.
Police violence in Philadelphia during the 60’s and 70’s was so routine, suggested magazine publisher, Mr. Sonny Driver, the word brutality wasn’t used often because it was just another day at the office.
Given the corrupt nature of this city’s past and present, it should surprise very few that, like other cities, Philadelphia’s young people rose up after the August 2014 slaying of Mr. Brown, though, to the dismay of many, the black rage has been both sustained and effective.
Techbook Online’s earliest account of black rage in Philadelphia following the August 9th officer-involved shooting was on the 16th of the same month, when Mr. Keith Wallace, an “Actorvist” born in Philly studying theater on the West Coast, laid in silent protest of police brutality at Love Park in Center City Philadelphia.
Mr. Wallace was face down, recreating Mr. Brown’s crime scene, with several bullet holes in his back and his baseball cap in his left hand. There were no words spoken during this demonstration; it was, in effect, a silent form of black rage.
The next noteworthy movement recorded by Techbook Online was in late November, following the Ferguson grand jury’s decision not to indict Mr. Wilson for the death of Mr. Brown, who was unarmed when shot multiple times.
Hundreds of people on November 25th gathered in front of City Hall to react to the announcement, among them were Ms. Del Matthews, whose son, Mr. Frank McQueen, was shot multiple times and killed by Chester Police.
Also in attendance were several black clergyman, most notable among them were Rev. Mark Tyler, who pastors the historic Mother Bethel A.M.E church and Rev. Dwayne Royster, the Executive Director of P.OW.E.R (Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild).
Rev. Royster denounced the idea that a post-racial society existed in the 21st century, stating “We continue to live in racist America!”
Five days later, Rev. Tyler, at his Society Hill church, hosted CNN Commentator, Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, for a talk that would soon transition to an outlet for Mr. Hill to express his pent-up black rage.
“It wasn’t that he (Mike Brown) was just killed – though that should spark outrage – it was the fact that he was rendered disposable. Babies, children, adults, his own family had to watch his body in the middle of the street unprotected, uncovered… like he didn’t belong to anyone… our collective outrage was rooted in the sense of disposability, Dr. Hill said, following his most recent trip to Ferguson.
That day, in church, was the first time Dr. Hill had a chance to speak about the non-indictment of Mr. Wilson away from the staring lens of television cameras
Three days later, a mass of people, estimated in the high hundreds, met at the 30th Street (train) Station for a die-in, a trend that became very popular after Mr. Brown’s death. After 4 1/2 minutes, the protesters left the station and moved into the streets, eventually convening at City Hall and surrounding a Christmas tree that was soon to be lit.
10 days later, on the 13th of December, again at City Hall, a sizable group of youth, led by Mr. Shakeil Greeley, participated in the national “Day of Resistance” with an artistic response entitled “Trials of Silence.”
Mr. Greeley, who that day wore white pants with a white t-shirt that listed the many names of individuals killed by police, told Techbook Online that the response was birthed from a research project that aimed to investigate the killings of unarmed civilians by police since the year 2000.
Mr. Greeley and Mr. Wallace, who both expressed a silent black rage in their varying forms of protest, were a bit more vocal when they joined fellow Philadelphians Mr. Kelvyn Anderson, Executive Director, Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission; Mr. Anton Moore, a South Philadelphia activist; and Mr. Isaiah Thomas, an activist who ran twice for Philadelphia City Council At-Large, for an online town hall – broadcasted three days after more than 10 black Philadelphia lawyers performed a die-in at the Criminal Justice System – hosted by Dr. Vibe entitled “Black Men, Police Officers and Post Ferguson America,” which I moderated.
After that broadcast, activism in Philadelphia heightened dramatically, as the City now had its own fatal officer-involved shooting to grapple with: the death of Mr. Brandon Tate-Brown, who was unarmed when he shot and killed on December 15th, 2014, by a rookie police officer who is still patrolling the streets.
Mr. Tate-Brown’s mother, Mrs. Tanya Brown-Dickerson, had attended and spoken at her first protest, the Philly Black-Out March, on December 22nd, which attracted nearly a thousand Philadelphians.
Mrs. Brown-Dickerson spoke again, just five days later, at a protest in Center City Philadelphia, and that’s where she connected with Ms. Matthews, who shows up to almost every protest in the City with a banner that has her son’s name, Frank McQueen, plastered on it.
In late January, a march in the name of Dr. Martin Luther King attracted more than a thousand Philadelphians into the streets to demand everything from raising the minimum wage to ending racial profiling by the police department.
On the 11th of February, Techbook Online, the largest and most active publisher on Comcast’s www.PhillyinFocus.com, organized #PhillyAfterFerguson, a town hall aimed at improving policing, political participation and public perception of the black community, black men and boys in particular.
The event, which Ms. Brown-Dickerson spoke at, didn’t go over as planned, as black rage stemming from the City’s silence regarding Mr. Tate-Brown’s death had reached a boiling point.
Activists demanded to know who killed Mr. Tate-Brown and the Deputy Police Commissioner, Mr. Kevin Bethel, didn’t have any answers.
Activists, including Mr. Tate-Brown’s mother and his cousin, Mr. Asa Khalif, continued to press the police department for answers well beyond the February event.
In March, Mr. Khalif and a handful of activists, who would later be dubbed the #Philly10, were arrested on disorderly conduct charges after clashing with police during a town hall meeting where Philadelphia Police Commissioner, Mr. Charles Ramsey and Philadelphia District Attorney, Mr. Seth Williams, were speaking.
By May, Mrs. Brown-Dickerson, who in April was an interviewer at a Mayor’s forum on police and criminal justice reform co-organized by Techbook Online, had honed her public speaking skills and delivered, in front of thousands, her most impassioned speech to-date.
Mrs. Brown-Dickerson demanded accountability and made a bold, yet not direct in name, proclamation to police officers, particularly Mr. Nicholas Carrelli, her son’s killer: “I want you held accountable; I want you dealt with; you don’t get to kill us no more and get away with it!”
May of 2015 also marked the 30th anniversary of what could be possibly one of the worse, most deadly cases of excessive force by police officers. In May of 1985, after a stalemate with the radical back-to-nature group, MOVE, the City, under the leadership of Mayor W. Wilson Goode, Sr., a black man, dropped a bomb on a West Philadelphia home in a predominantly black neighborhood.
11 men, women and children were killed on the 13th of May thirty years ago and only one woman, Ramona Africa, and one boy, Birdie Africa, survived.
Mr. Linn Washington, an assistant journalism professor at Temple University, was on the scene at the MOVE bombing thirty years ago. On the 30th anniversary, Mr. Washington spoke exclusively to Techbook Online and said, regarding the fact that none of the officials responsible for the mass murder were ever held accountable, that what happened on May 13th, 1985, is not too dis-similar from what we saw in Ferguson last summer when a grand jury allowed a police officer who murdered a young kid to get off.
“This country has historically treated black people and persons of color in a manifestly unfair and unjust way,” he added, noting that the injustice surrounding the MOVE bombing underscores the synergy with the black lives matter movement.
At the 30th anniversary rally, held at the end of the block where the bombing took place, nearly 200 protesters had gathered to speak out against a corrupt system.
And in the spirit of black rage, much profanity was used, including, of course, “f*ck the police!”
In June, The Brothers’ Network, a high-art and culture non-profit organization, co-produced “Hands Up,” a critically acclaimed, two-week performance that was unapologetic in its racially charged content.
One of the actors, Mr. Lee Edward Colston, during a panel discussion after a Friday night performance – which happened to take place on Juneteenth – said what he really enjoyed about the experience was being able to share a room with black men and talk about the feelings of rage, anger and grief.
“Often times we’re not afforded the opportunity to talk about race,” said Mr. Colston, adding that the black community is often “rushed to forgiveness” in instances that involve violence against the black body.
Mr. Colston’s performance, entitled Hands Up, was particularly noteworthy because he requested the audience keep their hands up throughout the duration of his monologue.
“I want you to feel as uncomfortable as I do,” he said.
In late July, Mother Bethel A.M.E hosted a vigil for Ms. Sandra Bland and Rev. Tyler introduced someone he said “makes comfortable people uncomfortable.”
Ms. Laniece Williams, a member of the Philly REAL Justice Coalition, vocalized her black rage to the point where tears flooded her eyes.
The theme of her speech was patterned after Ms. Bland’s comment to her arresting officer: You just slammed my head into the ground; do you even care about that?
“She (Sandra Bland) is the third person to die in that Waller County jail cell. Do you even care about that? Do you even care about the fact that she is joining a long list of women who have been victimized and brutalized by police? And in Philadelphia, this doggone police force is brutalizing women every day. They show up to rallies where we demand that black women’s lives mater and assault us and throw us in jail, do you even care about that?”
On Monday, August 10th, at 7:30am, Mr. Khalif, who’s also a member of the Philly REAL Justice Coalition, along with a handful of activists – including Mrs. Brown Dickerson and Ms. Erica Mines – protested in front of the District Attorney’s office to demand he re-open the criminal investigation into the shooting death of Mr. Tate-Brown since new evidence – an admission from the police commissioner who said Mr. Tate-Brown wasn’t reaching for a gun when he was shot and killed – has come to surface.
Mr. Williams, whose more vulnerable than he’s ever been considering the black clergy who initially sided with him on the Tate-Brown case have joined the family, has refused to follow orders from the taxpayers and allow a grand jury to decide if a crime was committed.
In response to Mr. Williams’ insubordination, Mr. Khalif and Ms. Mines occupied the lobby of the DA’s office and demanded he confront them. Instead, the two were confronted by Philadelphia police officers whose eardrums got a double dose of black rage.
“We’re tired of paying into a system that murder us,” screamed Ms. Mines.
Attempts to placate the activists just increased the tensions.
“I have a f*cking right to be angry. They killed my motherf*cking cousin,” shouted Mr. Khalif to a police officer.
There have been at least two more protests since Monday in Philadelphia and one can only assume, based on the year that was, that they’ll not only continue but grow stronger.
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Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™