Sunday, September 07, 2014

Noted: June Jordan

In Civil Wars, her incredible book of essays published in 1981, June Jordan wrote this in the preface contextualizing her 1978 essay, "In the Valley of the Shadow of Death", otherwise offered without comment, in light of the police murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and countless other recent and ongoing police/white atrocities:
            It seems to me that my whole life has been regularized by the apparently normal events of white/police violence against the Black community. Over and over and over again a child is killed by police because he is a Black boy. Sometimes it gets to the point that, when my son is around the house and I leave on an errand by myself, when I come back the first thing I do is to call, “Christopher?” I have to know: Is he all right?
            One year after the police murder of Arthur Miller [“a highly respected, Black civic leader of Bedford-Stuyvesant”] and the Hassidic assault upon Victor Rhodes [in Crown Heights, 30 to 50 Hassidic “patrols” attacked Rhodes, who was walking his girlfriend home from a party], I got the chance, through a fellowship to Yaddo, to write a full-length drama, The Issue, about freedom, police violence, and Black life. Early on, the hero of this play, Lloyd Wilson, makes this statement:
They want to keep score! (Furious and slow and clear). Look at this garbage. All the way back to 1964. Then it was that pig, in Manhattan, Lieutenant Gilligan. Shot the kid who was fooling around with a water gun. And there was Newark: Did you ever see the cover of Life magazine: Black boy bleeding to death on the street. Cops shot him through the back of the head. The kid was running with a six-pack. Of beer. Every mothafucking year they do this, three/four times, at a minimum. All you got to do is let it be Christmas or Thanksgiving or spring or summer or Monday or Sunday and they act like killers on the loose, complete with license. But we! We getting good at funerals/funeral oratory. Good at rallies. Good at speeches and quotes for the press. It’s a ritual: They murder our children. And what do we do about it? We cry real hard real loud. Then it’s over: That’s that. If I was a pig, behind all of that crying for all of that dying, I would blow away a nigga a day. Why the hell not.
            I wrote this play in June and July, 1979. In August, Brooklyn police murdered Luis Baez, shooting him sixteen times. My friends, Alexis DeVeaux and Gwendolyn
Hardwick, and I went to a Brooklyn rally held to protest the killings. After the rally, approximately one thousand demonstrators followed Reverend Herbert Daughtry on a peaceful march through the streets, chanting a people united can never be defeated. The police rioted, driving police cars into the crowds and chasing unarmed demonstrators with drawn guns. We literally crawled across the concrete sidewalks to safety
            One year later, 1980, the courts ruled that no indictment of the Hassidic suspects was possible due to “insufficient identification.” No police were indicted in the murder of Arthur Miller.
            Two months later, Miami police beat Arthur MacDuffie to death, for a traffic violation. The media seem surprised by the violence of the response of the Black community in Miami.
            Do not be surprised.

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