The following keynote was delivered by independent community journalist Thandisizwe Chimurenga at the historic CA Statewide Conference, “Justice For Our Communities! Families Organizing to Resist Police Brutality & Abuse,” held at Oxnard College on April 27, 2013
I’m not going to be longwinded. I want to give you just a few words about this struggle that you are now a part of. And I am going to start with some of Kristian Williams’ words from his book, Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America. He says,
“What are police for? Everybody thinks they know. But to assume that the police exist to enforce the law or fight crime is akin to beginning an analysis of military policy with the premise that armies exist to repel invasions. The ends an institution pursues are not always the same as those it claims to pursue. I begin, then, with a call for skepticism, especially about official slogans and publicly traded justifications. Let us focus less on what the police say they are doing and instead asses the institution based on what it actually does.”
You, family members, loved ones of those murdered by the police, as well as activists and organizers, have a charge now: your charge is not only to receive justice for your loved one, but to advocate for other families who have experienced the same pain as you, and to advocate for other families to not experience/share your pain. We have a saying in L.A.: “Get Involved by Choice, Not by Force.” That’s what we’re talking about.
You must tell your stories of your loved ones; of the way they were treated and the way you were treated. You have a responsibility, because in the final analysis, at the end of the day, the poet Khalil Gibran’s words ring true:
“Your children are not your children. They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”
In the final analysis, at the end of the day, Manuel Diaz was not murdered because he was the son of Genevieve Huizar; Kelly Thomas was not murdered because he was the son of Ron Thomas; Oscar Grant was not murdered because he was the son of Wanda Johnson; Alfonso Limon Jr. was not murdered because he was the son of Alfonso Sr. Trayvon Martin was not murdered because he was the son of Sabrina and Tracy; Kenneth Harding was not murdered because he was the son of Denika Chatman.
They were murdered because they were wearing the right uniform on that day. This – our appearance, our skin – was the right uniform; because it was not the uniform of the boys in blue, or the boys in black, what the police wear, it was the right uniform.
We live in a white supremacist society. Kelly Thomas’ white skin privilege should have shielded him. But because he had a disability, and was homeless, he was wearing the right uniform on that day.
Your families are needed in the movement, and the movement is needed in your families. You have a responsibility to have as much clarity as possible, to get it and to give it, about the nature of this struggle that you now find yourself in. That means that you have to study; you have to read and analyze and discuss with folks who have been doing this work for years; you have to travel outside of your immediate communities; and you have to travel outside of this country to see firsthand that you are not alone in having lost a loved one to police – to the violence of the state; that you are not alone in organizing to extract justice from the police and system that employs them.
This is not an easy fight. This is not a quick fight. At times this may be a bitter and ugly fight, but it must be a fight in collective fashion. In numbers we have strength, we have power, and we will have victory.
A Luta Continua – The Struggle Continues – E Vitoria e Certa – Victory is Certain – We Will Conquer Without a Doubt – The People United Will Never Be Defeated.
– Thandisizwe Chimurenga is an independent L.A.-based fighter and people’s journalist