I came here today because I also have a dream. More than a dream – I have a vision. I have an idea – This idea is a very simple one. It consists of freedom. It consists of equality. It consists of the idea that not only can we as Black & Brown people walk down the street without getting shot dead, but that the systems and ideology of Capitalism and White Supremacy that foster such conditions where our deaths become normalized is abolished.
To me, the question is not, “Could Ferguson Happen Here” because it already has. No, I do not know of anyone who has been recently killed by Northampton police, but I think of my brother Yeshaq who was stopped multiple times and now awaits in a jail cell. I think of my brother Ayyub who was criminalized for the dual sins of being Black and Muslim and who waits in a jail cell. I recall my brother Jonas Correia who was pepper sprayed, attacked, arrested and charged for the crime of pulling out his cell phone camera to record the police in the public performance of their duties.
I commend Northampton for recently signing onto the Trust Act and for supporting our undocumented brothers and sisters in their quest to move freely without fear of deportation and I hope that it is in this path that we can continue.
As my comrade and brother Dr. Chris Tinson is so fond of saying, “Ferguson is happening to America.”
Ferguson – which I understand to be out of your jurisdiction, and Oakland, and Brooklyn, and Detroit, and Ohio, and St. Paul, and Beverly, and Springfield and Hartford and Tokyo and Paris and Hebron are not simply marching against the state sanctioned killing of black and brown people, rather we are marching against the systematic illness that creates the conditions for this reality, a reality that allows for black and brown people to be born with a target on our backs.
It is the reality that while black and white people use drugs at the same rate, over 60% of people currently incarcerated in this country (which is currently detaining 25% of the world’s prison population, even though it only houses 5% of the world’s population) are black and brown men, and the fastest growing rate of people detained in jails and immigration centers are black and brown women. It is the reality that Black households make on average 13% less money than white households. IT is the reality that there are virtually no jobs that provide a living wage in this country and that if you are a convicted felon and have a mark on your CORI check, you will most likely be cut off from job opportunities that do exist, cut off from housing and education opportunities, and these conditions will potentially add you to the 60% recidivism rate of formerly incarcerated people. It is the reality that continually and systematically criminalizes, incarcerates, kills, starves, misrepresents and excludes black and brown bodies and the reality that if you are black and a woman, queer, or transgender, or have a disability or different ability, your humiliation and death may go unspoken and unresolved.
It is for these reasons that we demand freedom. Because in our reality, we are not free, and we know we could be.
We demand an end to white supremacy.
We demand adequate housing fit for shelter of human beings, medical care and schooling for our children.
We demand an end to the school to prison pipeline and mass incarceration, and yes, we do demand that a person be judged by the content of their character, rather than the color of their skin.
We demand policy reforms and legislation that indict racist, “Stop and Frisk” policing and profiling and the continued use of body cameras during all police encounters with civilians.
We recognize that the small town of Northampton cannot by itself change these normalized systems of oppression that allow black and brown people to be killed every 28 hours, but neither can we. If you care still about humanity then you will stand with us in dismantling the destructive system of Capitalism that has us all fighting over crumbs and fighting each other, rather than building unity.
When he shared his speech, Dr. King opened and said, “I have chosen today to speak about the war in Vietnam because I agree with Dantes. That the Hottest Places In Hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”
Do not remain neutral. Stand with us on the side of Justice.