On June 6, 2020, Day 9 of Seattle area protests sparked by the disturbing death of George Floyd, people from all walks of life gathered for the March for Black Lives protest in West Seattle. After protests in Seattle and around the country turned to rioting, looting, and violence in recent days, this march was remarkable in its peaceful and respectful solidarity. This allowed for a steady dialogue among protestors and the platform for Black and African American voices to be heard.
Small business owners came out from their storefronts and residents in their homes along California Avenue Southwest appeared at their windows and balconies to show their support. Even cases of water bottles were left out by business owners to encourage those of us marching to stay hydrated. Being present made you proud to be human, to share the anger, love, rage, and tears.
Hardly anyone seemed to forget that we are still in the midst of a pandemic. Many protestors arrived not only with signs and messages but also donning their face masks. This is an interesting time in history in which we’re experiencing the strange juxtaposition of gathering to demand justice for racial inequality and police brutality after being sequestered to our homes in lockdowns. Despite the risk involved, Seattleites demonstrated that they will show up for what’s important as we face other adversities.
As we marched down California Avenue Southwest, “Say her name!” and “Say his name!” were cried out ahead of the names of the Black and African American men and women whose lives have been taken by police brutality. One could also hear “Whose lives matters? Black lives matter!” Before George Floyd’s death, Breonna Taylor, 26, was also killed on March 13, 2020 after being fatally shot by police officers in Louisville, Kentucky. George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were the most recent tragedies in a long list of victims who should be remembered. We #SayTheirNames:
The fact that the list of names continues to grow should shock us all. Every. Single. One. Of. Us. We should all be angry. We #SayHisName, #SayHerName, #SayTheirNames to preserve their memory and so that they do not fall into the trend of quickly dropping from headlines. It’s enough that we have to keep adding the names of Blacks and African Americans killed by police brutality, but to forget their names entirely is not serving the call for justice. They were our fellow human beings and should not be lost to silence. Those alive and breathing should not fall victim because we continue our silence.
Without the interference of rioting, looting, and violence seen in other demonstrations around the country, the March for Black Lives was exemplary in its civility and peace. That environment allowed us to truly hear, see, and understand one another. Among the messages amplified to the crowd and shared together, here are some of the highlights:
- Protesting is not about rioting, looting, and violence. It’s important to note that there are many motives at play when there is rioting, looting, and violence, and they’re never justified acts. These acts are not about protesting for change. In most cases, people committing the chaos aren’t the same people who arrived to protest peacefully. Sadly, the connotation of ‘protestors’ then becomes a label for that chaos. Sharing our experiences from peaceful protests helps change the narrative because it counters the more negative, mainstream coverage.
- Yes, we know all lives matter. However, we must acknowledge that this statement conceals the real fact of the matter: it downplays and diverts attention from the current critical crisis of crimes against the Black and African American Community. All lives cannot matter until Black lives matter. No one can get left behind, forgotten, or overlooked because we will never be a better society if we are not all enjoying equal opportunities, equal respect, and equal treatment.
- Have the uncomfortable conversations: Ongoing, open dialogue is necessary. It’s a catalyst for changing the narrative and our behaviour. To let the names of the victims disappear from headlines (and our collective memories) and the conversations stop disables the fight and movement for justice and peace. The conversations need to be held at home, with friends, with colleagues, on social media, everywhere and with anyone. We must also be brave and summon our personal convictions to call out injustices whenever we witness them, even if they are in the form of a racial slur. Hate cannot be tolerated.
- There are more problems to solve than police brutality. Police brutality is just one of the many ongoing issues the Black and African American Community is facing. To beat systemic racism, we must acknowledge and address other topics such as discrimination in the workplace, inequities for education, employment, health, and housing, and sexual harassment. Systemic racism must be dealt with holistically.
- We all have a responsibility as individuals. When we return to our separate lives after attending marches and protests, then what? The fervor of our gatherings should not stop once we’re home again, but lay resonant in our hearts to stand up individually to affect the change we wish to see for everyone. It begins with acknowledging areas for personal development like addressing our biases, educating ourselves, engaging in ongoing conversations, and reaching out to share what we’ve learned with others. Affecting change to the narrative aids change to our behaviour.
Of the men and women who used megaphones and microphones to lead the chants and share their emotions, messages, poems, and stories, Chris Porter, Representative of the 34th Legislative District in King County, stood atop Easy Street Records’ van set up as a stage. Before he would deliver his speech, “Enough is Enough”, he invited a gentleman named Chad Alex Ervin, someone who identified himself as “Black, Deaf, and queer” to share his story. While using sign language (and an interpreter assisting at the microphone), he shared the following:
Wow! Wow, ok. Hello everyone! Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am mind-blown. I do not know what to say. Wow. I do not know.
Ok. Yes, um, I am obviously Deaf but my first identity is Black and that is it. I am Black, Deaf, and queer. I am here to share a short story. I moved here from North Carolina. I love Seattle. I have met many people here. Black Deaf professionals in all of Seattle? Sadly, only five Black Deaf professionals and that is all. It is really difficult for me and I have to work hard here. I do not want to see other Black Deaf people go through this here. I do not want that. I want to share my experience.
One time I was driving on I-5N and yes, I got pulled over by police. I love feeling music, even though I do not know the words, but I do not care. So, when I got pulled over, I forgot to turn off the music. Yes, I saw a white police officer. They came to my car window and I started shaking. I informed them that I was Deaf. They started speaking and kept speaking. I told them, ‘No, I am Deaf.’ In the back of my mind, I thought, ‘Shit, music was on,’ because it conflicted with what I tried to tell the officer, but that should not matter at all. It should not matter, it should not matter. It is my Black Deaf identity, I wanted to have music on, because with music on, I could relax while driving.
We kept talking back and forth, then I had to go to the police station and take care of it with people there. Luckily, my favorite interpreter came and told them, ‘Yes, he is Deaf.’ They responded, ‘Oh, sorry.’ So, why did I have to go all the way to the police station? Why? Obviously, it was because I was Black. This is enough. Enough! Finish, finish! I do not want any other Black Deaf people go through what I went through. Thank you all. Now, I want to do the last thing before I leave…You all say ‘ILY’ sign with me. (:extends his arm and signs the ‘ILY’ sign to the crowd:) I love you all! Thank you. Interpreter, thank you!
Before Mr. Porter began his speech, he asked us all to try something that became one of the most moving moments of the protest. We were asked to collectively hold our breaths for two minutes and 15 seconds, just a fraction of the eight minutes and 46 seconds that Derek Chauvin’s knee was pressed against George Floyd’s neck, depriving him of air.
Once we inhaled and began holding our breaths, the crowd went completely silent. To look over the heads of all who gathered and not hear a single human sound was a moment of shock and wonder. Few could hold their breath for that long before cries came, isolated from various areas of the crowd at first, to shout, “I can’t breathe!”, “My neck hurts!”, “Everything hurts!”, and “Mama!”—some of the last words uttered by George Floyd.
After, Mr. Porter delivered his speech:
Enough is Enough
For as long as I can remember, complaints about police brutality and a justice system infused with bias, that, seemingly is stacked against black men, had gone unanswered. Questions like: “What did he do to provoke the police?” or “He must have had a criminal background” – to, in my view, justify the inhumanity and loss of life…and we all thought someday: Enough is enough.
But on May 25th, 2020, the day that this Veteran pays respect to all those who lost their lives in service to this country, George Floyd lie on the ground begging for air, a chance to breath, and we all heard his final words in his world: “I can’t breathe”, and we all stood up and said: Enough is enough.
Black men losing their lives while in the custody of law enforcement officers is not a new occurrence. During the 1960s, Americans insisted on denying the pervasive racism that permeated the lives of black Americans until they saw the fires hoses being turned on women, men, and children protesting. No child should have witnessed the crushing death of George Floyd. Because the message sent to young black men is clear: Your life is not worth as much. Black people are more likely to be unarmed and not threatening somebody than any other person who encounters the police in a violent situation. Enough is enough.
Many of us heard that three men in Brunswick, Georgia, who pursued, shot and killed, and filmed their carnage in the suspected Killing of Amhaud Arbery on Feb 23, while the shooter spewed racial slurs over his body, where charged with murder 3 months later. The same biased system that allowed a black man to have air denied while fellow officers watched and assisted, is the same system that allows white men to hunt black men for sport, kill him, and film the killing, but it takes the justice system three months to decide if charges are warranted. Enough is enough.
And many of us sat horrified at the acquittal of officers that have shot and killed unarmed black men and boys across this country—the mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters all yelling: Enough is enough.
I cannot prepare my son to prepare his son to have the talk. Every black male knows what the talk is: the steps necessary for when a black male has an interaction with a police officer. These steps are supposed to minimize, not eliminate, the risk of being arrested or shot—something my white peers have never had to consider. Enough is enough.
I posted this question to my white peers, allies, and friends on Facebook: Would you knowingly enroll your child in a school or school system that had the lowest expectations for your son/child, placed him at risk of entering the school-to-prison pipeline, knowing that their risk of dropping out is higher? Enough is enough.
Would you enter you son into a school or school system that needed an advisory board, and a department to address the abysmal achievement gap between white and black male students? Enough is enough.
Does anyone know about RCW 28A.600.420? This law outlines behaviors that a student can be suspended or expelled for. It also allows resource officers on campuses, and by that they mean police officers. Black males are disproportionately suspended or expelled, and more likely to be arrested, thus beginning the school-to-prison pipeline. This law has got to go because: Enough is enough.
Our healthcare system is revered around the world as one of the most technologically advanced medical systems ever and yet disparities continue. Black and brown people live shorter lives, suffer disproportionately from diabetes, HTN, heart disease, and have little or no access to quality healthcare. Every Governor in every state who turned down the Medicaid Expansion under the Affordable Care Act did so at the expense of the health and safety of black, brown, and poor people across this country, but they were not going to have to do the suffering and dying. Enough is enough.
Last year, U.S. banks made 11 billon dollars—that is 11 BILLION DOLLARS—in overdraft and late fees alone. The majority of those fees were collected from people of color and poor people—those least able to afford those fees living paycheck to paycheck. Enough is enough.
We see the unemployment rate increasing around the country—many are suffering—but the unemployment rate of black men, even in good times, has always been high and is now at 16.7%, compared to 14.2% for whites. A democracy that systematically excludes is no democracy at all. Since 1972, when labor statistics for African Americans’ unemployment rates were first collected, the unemployment gap has persisted at a level of twice the rate compared to whites. Enough is enough.
Equal pay for the same work and education: women have been vocal about this for years, hoping to close the gap; 72 cents to the dollar with black women impacted the most. The median income of black and white household differs by more than $28,000 per year. Enough is enough.
Youth detention center: many have marched and protested the youth detention center in King County. While I do not like that we have one, the real protest is the system that made it even necessary to have one to house black and brown children at a disproportionate rate. Enough is enough.
Infant Mortality Rate: the number of deaths per 1,000 live births for infants under the age of one. Here in King County, the number is 3.4 for whites., 7.1 for African Americans, with our Native American brothers and sisters at a scary 8. Low birth weight is the leading cause of the higher infant mortality rate for black infants. Without the assurance of prenatal care, jobs that pay a living wage, freedom from a policing and justice system that can interrupt lives, and relegation to living in the parts of the city that are food deserts, hoping for co-ops to fill in the gap, with 7-11s and quickie marts, this problem will persist and the black infant mortality rate will not change. Enough is enough.
Incarceration: Black males are incarcerated at five times that of whites. Nationwide, African American children represent 32% of children who are arrested, 42% of children who are detained, and 52% of children whose cases are judicially waived to criminal court.
A judge in Pennsylvania saw these kids as a source of cash and sentenced them to a detention center and was paid over two million dollars for his sentencing. Cash for kids: this is the kind of stuff where we all have to say: Enough is enough.
But what is our call to action? Michelle Obama wrote in her book: Becoming, concerning race relations at Princeton University, that it is unreasonable to ask the group that has the least amount of experience on campus and fewer resources to solve the problem (i.e., this cannot work without the work of white population.)
- If your school or school system has resource officers, and they are not social workers or counselors, you must speak up and say: Enough is enough.
- If you know that your workplace has never paid equal pay for equal work related to gender and/or race, you must speak up and say: Enough is enough.
- I you live in a city/town or municipality where the Chief-of-Police or Sheriff is either silent about bias on the force or leads in a way that you know impacts people of color, you must speak up and say: Enough is enough.
- If you have friends, allies, or peers that begin the conversation with: “You know what I don’t like about or what makes me uncomfortable about those people”, you must stop that conversation and make it clear that: Enough is enough.
- If you notice that your neighborhood seems to all look the same, you have to ask yourself how much for you: Enough is enough?
- If you see the failing schools around you, when will you say: Enough is enough?
- If you have not written to your mayor, city council member, state legislator, senator or member of congress to ask about any of the things I have mentioned, then you have to ask yourself when, for you, is enough?
I want to live in a world where we are coming together more to celebrate and less out of anger. I want a world where our son and his children will know, without a doubt, that everything they wish for in their lives is possible and not hampered because of race or gender. I want a world where, when, or if I am pulled over by a police officer, it is because we know each other and not to live in fear, hoping to escape without incident. I want a world that when our son leaves the house, I don’t have to hold my breath for his return. I want a world where police officers are checking in on a community to connect and not policing the community to arrest. I want a world where I don’t have to explain to my child why the image of a black man having the life squeezed out of him is on national TV and somehow is not a precautionary tale, but something that we all demand never, ever, ever, ever happens again. I want to see more banks in communities of color, more grocery stores, and fewer quickie marts. I want a world where everyone ends this march and begins with the work of righting all the wrongs to bring a just and equal world because, as MLK Jr. said: ‘People should be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.’ I want all of this and more because we all believe: Enough is enough.
Every utterance of “Enough is enough” was said aloud by the crowd, growing in volume every time it was repeated until the masses were screaming it by the end.
We also heard from youth in the Black and African American Community. This included a sixth-grader named Ericka Kerr who mustered the courage to ascend the top of the van to share her poem called “Monsters, Criminals & Liars”. It was remarkable to learn that she is relatively new to the English language. In her mother’s words, “Just under seven years ago, Ericka couldn’t speak a lick of English. I adopted her and her sister from Haiti, and she came here only knowing Creole. Writing seems to be therapeutic for her, and she writes some pretty profound and powerful pieces. All I ever ask is for her to always speak her truth and to always stand up for what is right. She hopes that she can inspire other children to learn to speak their truth.”
Ericka began quietly at first, but when the crowd asked her to speak louder, she proudly roared her words. The crowd cheered her on—loudest when she broke into tears—before she fought through her tears to shout, “We have had it, and we will FIGHT until that KNEE is off our NECK!”
Monsters, Criminals & Liars
You say we’re MONSTERS, but I do not believe you.
You say we’re CRIMINALS, but I have no PROOF.
You put us in jail THINKING you got it all right, but you’re WRONG.
You BEAT us up with LIES telling us we did it, but we DO NOT, we DID NOT, and we WILL NOT!
Once you see who it is, you are already too late. Once you see what a fool you have made of yourself, you are already too late because you put us in that death penalty you made.
We’re like that monster under your bed, except you keep SHOOTING until we’re DEAD.
We are not scared of your weapons, we fear for our children who will grow up FIGHTING like we do, but then, shot for just walking down the street.
Who’s the CRIMINAL now?
Who’s the MONSTER now?
Who’s the LIAR now?
Because we certainly AREN’T.
We certainly WEREN’T.
And we certainly WON’T EVER BE.
We have had it, and we will FIGHT until that KNEE is off our NECK!
We are seeing more and more youth of colour step up to share their fear, frustration, and rage in the struggle for equality. It’s our country’s shame that inaction for change puts our Black and African American youth in the position where they have to follow their parents, grandparents, and ancestors in the fight for equality and justice. No one has ever fought longer and harder. We must all honour that strength and remember that we can’t all matter as a human race until Black lives matter.
This was not the first march for Black lives and protest against injustice and it will not be the last. We can march, demand change, but what do we do when the protests come to an end and we all return to our lives? Our protests do not stop after we’ve finished assembling. We must do the work as individuals to help put an end to systemic racism, once and for all.
It’s time that we must evolve to love and value as many as we can and do it as fast as we can because there is no more time to spare for change. Lives are at stake.
Citations & Credits:
- “A Decade of Watching Black People Die”, Code Switch, NPR.
- Personal story shared by Chad Alex Ervin.
- “Enough is Enough” by Chris Porter, Representative of the 34th Legislative District in King County.
- “Monsters, Criminals & Liars” by Ericka Kerr. Thank you to Ruth Kerr, Ericka’s mother, for sharing Ericka’s poem, story, and video footage.
- Protestor Rights, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
- “’Say their names’: The list of people injured or killed in officer-involved incidents is still growing”, Caitlin O’Kane, CBS News.
- “Anti-Racism Resources”: Distributed by Qudus Olaniran; compiled by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein.
Here are some organisations that are advancing social justice, helping community organisers address racial inequality, and offering solidarity to the Black and African American Community:
Be sure to check with your employer to find out if they will match your contributions to these and other charitable organisations.
Donations to Chad Alex Ervin can also be made to the following. Mr. Ervin had to pay for interpreter services out of his own pocket in order to share his story at the March for Black Lives protest.
- Cash App: $chadervin
- Venmo: @caervin
Protestors: Know Your Rights
- The right to protest is a fundamental human right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment.
- If you get stopped, ask if you are free to go. If the police say yes, calmly walk away.
- You have the right to record. The right to protest includes the right to record, including recording police doing their jobs.
- The police can order people to stop interfering with legitimate police operations, but video recording from a safe distance is not interfering.
- If you get stopped, police cannot take or confiscate any videos or photos without a warrant.
- If you are videotaping, keep in mind that, in some states, the audio is treated differently than the images. But images and video images are always fully protected by the First Amendment.
- The police’s main job in a protest is to protect your right to protest and to de-escalate any threat of violence.
- If you get arrested, don’t say anything. Ask for a lawyer immediately. Do not sign anything and do not agree to anything without an attorney present.
- If you get arrested, demand your right to a local phone call. If you call a lawyer for legal advice, law enforcement is not allowed to listen.
- Police cannot delete data from your device under any circumstances.
Resources for white parents to raise anti-racist children:
- The Conscious Kid: follow them on Instagram and consider signing up for their Patreon
Articles to read:
Videos to watch:
Podcasts to subscribe to:
Books to read:
Films and TV series to watch:
- 13th (Ava DuVernay) — Netflix
- American Son (Kenny Leon) — Netflix
- Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975 — Available to rent
- Clemency (Chinonye Chukwu) — Available to rent
- Dear White People (Justin Simien) — Netflix
- Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler) — Available to rent
- I Am Not Your Negro (James Baldwin doc) — Available to rent or on Kanopy
- If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins) — Hulu
- Just Mercy (Destin Daniel Cretton) — Available to rent
- King In The Wilderness — HBO
- See You Yesterday (Stefon Bristol) — Netflix
- Selma (Ava DuVernay) — Available to rent
- The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution — Available to rent
- The Hate U Give (George Tillman Jr.) — Hulu with Cinemax
- When They See Us (Ava DuVernay) — Netflix
Organizations to follow on social media:
More anti-racism resources to check out: