Black Women’s Lives Matter in the USA and the UK: Breonna Taylor and Belly Mujinga

Why impose punishment before the facts have been fully assembled? Why have the chief and the mayor created a termination document amped up with hyperbole? Unfortunately, the answer is that this termination is a cowardly political act. — Attorney of former Louisville Metro Police Detective Brett Hankison, WDRB, June 25.

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A cowardly political act has been done indeed. Not toward Brett Hankison but toward justice for EMT Breonna Taylor, who was killed by Hankison. On the night of March 13, Hankison  and two other plainclothes officers with the Louisville Metro Police Department—Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove—burst through Taylor’s apartment door while she and her boyfriend Kenneth Walker slept. The cops had a no-knock warrant to search for drugs. Waking up from the commotion and seeing that intruders had broken in, Walker reached for his gun and shot Mattingly in the leg. The officers fired back with more than 20 rounds, eight of which pierced Taylor’s body, killing her. 

No drugs were found, because the cops had broken into the wrong apartment.

The lynching of George Floyd has sparked Black Lives Matter protests all across the nation, calling for racial justice and police accountability. They include voices calling for the media to focus its attention not only on murdered Black men, but also on “the Black and Brown women who have been attacked, assaulted, or killed by the police.” 

A long, long three months after the night of March 13, Hankison was finally fired. But protesters rightly want more. Hankison’s attorney claims, pathetically, that the firing was a “cowardly political act,” and demonstrators in the streets of America beg to differ. They are demanding that all three officers be criminally charged. 

The United States of America has never ever been the (so-called) Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. Instead, it’s the Land of the Free to Kill and the Home of the Cowardly Cops.

… I’m sorry I didn’t do more to protect you

And make sure the world know they must value and respect you

I’m sorry your life was taken in the hands of police

Who while your were asleep decided for you to rest in peace

But Breonna, I want to turn this sorrow into better tomorrows

Better tomorrows for your mother and your loved ones

Better tomorrows so you can be proud of what your life has done

Better tomorrows of the children you dreamed of

Better tomorrows for those who rarely have seen love

Better tomorrows for some who say we are blessed and some who say we are lucky

Better tomorrows for Louisville, Lexington, Frankfort and all of Kentucky

Better tomorrows for this country

I can see ’em coming

Better tomorrows begin with us lifting up the black woman

Love!

— Rapper Common on the steps of the capitol building, Frankfort, Kentucky, Courier Journal, June 25.

 

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The man asked her what she was doing, why she was there, and she said they were working. The man said he had the virus and spat on them. They reported it. — Lusamba Gode Katalay, husband of Belly Mujinga.

On the morning of March 22, nine days after the brutal cop-killing of Breonna Taylor in her bedroom in Louisville, Kentucky, 4240 miles away, Belly Mujinga, a railway ticket officer, was working at Victoria Station in London, UK when a man who said he had Covid-19 allegedly spat and coughed in the faces of her and a colleague. Within days of that incident both women fell ill with the virus. Mujinga died on April 5, leaving behind an 11-year-old daughter, Ingrid and husband, Lusamba. 

Mujinga’s cousin Agnes told The Guardian that Mujinga had begged her employers, Govia Thameslink, who were well aware of her underlying respiratory problems, not to send her outside of the protected ticket office and into the concourse area without PPE. That wasn’t all. Immediately after the spitting incident, Mujinga was ordered back onto the concourse, still unprotected, to interact with passengers.

After investigation, the British Transport Police concluded that there was “no evidence to substantiate any criminal offences having taken place,” and that her death was not a result of the spitting incident. They have since closed the case.

Mujinga has become the face of the Black Lives Matter movement in the UK, which, with 309,455 confirmed Covid-19 cases to date, is fifth in the world after the US, Brazil, Russia and India, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

Justice for Belly Mujinga!

Justice for Breonna Taylor!

Please DM me @PritiGCox if you would like the patterns for the cross stitched portraits of Breonna Taylor and Belly Mujinga.

 

 

A Walk With George Floyd in Tiffany’s Shoes

 

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What I can’t do is change my skin color for y’all… Just like when I go to work everyday, it’s a choice… no matter what happens in that day, good or bad, I chose it. When I was born I didn’t choose that. I didn’t choose to be the color I am, but I’m proud of who I am and I would not change it for the world. So, before you decide it’s just not a big deal. Before you make excuses. Before you say enough is enough and get over it. I’ll get over it when I don’t have to pray to hear from my kids every morning to know they’re okay. I don’t have to have a meltdown if they didn’t respond within the first hour or so, because I’m now worried something happened to my Good. Black. Kids. So when I can start waking up every morning and not fearing for my kids or my loved ones, then, then, and only then you ask me to stop. — Tiffany Cooper, June 15, Salina, Kansas 

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Please take this eleven minute walk with Salinan Tiffany Cooper, in which she covers the last eight minutes and 46 seconds of Floyd’s life, and his dying words.

It was Thursday afternoon, May 11th when I got the text from Larry, a fellow Salinan, saying that he “was doing a chalk installation drawing along with Tammy” on the sidewalk downtown, and they needed an artist to add some visuals to it. The drawing was a three-quarter-mile-long electrocardiogram tracing (the familiar heartbeat pattern) depicting the eight minutes and forty-six seconds during which Derek Chauvin’s knee was on George Floyd’s neck as he was murdering Floyd on May 25. Ten-second intervals were indicated along the tracing, and Floyd’s dying words were chalked in at the various times he said them.

Larry suggested that I render an image of a knee on Floyd’s neck at the beginning of the heartbeat tracing and another of Floyd with eyes closed at six minutes, three seconds—the point at which he became unresponsive. (At 6:03, the pulse on the sidewalk goes flat.)

I asked Larry to elaborate on how he came up with the heartbeat concept and what kind of reactions he had to it.

Larry:

A friend had asked me if I had done any of the 8:46 events and realized how long that was. Then walking to Ad Astra [Tammy’s coffee shop], I thought about how long the walk was. I felt that a 8:46 walk and you had to read what George said while dying could make us think. The heartbeat seemed like a dramatic thing to tie the words together while showing how long he was suffering and then flatlined/non responsive.

Tammy and I were still drawing when a husband of a friend came to us. His wife had to stop midway through because she was so moved and upset. Later she came by Ad Astra still teared up. Thanking us for such a moving and eye-opening experience.

A few people stopped me and asked what I was doing. They did not get it, as if they had not heard of George Floyd.  

One man agreed that George’s death was horrible, “BUT…” and that’s all I have to say about that. 

Larry and Tammy’s powerful installation of George Floyd’s heartbeat stretched two blocks on Santa Fe Ave. from in front of Martinelli’s, a popular local restaurant, up to Ad Astra. 

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I went to Santa Fe Ave. on Friday morning in response to Larry’s text and spent the day recreating the infamous image of Chauvin’s murderous knee on Floyd’s neck in chalk outside Martinelli’s. I did the same with a now-well-known photo of George Floyd at the 6:03 mark, but I showed his eyes closed.

The next day at 4:00 pm I got a text from Larry saying that he was sorry to have to tell me but that my art had been rubbed out.

Larry:

When I heard Saturday that your pics had been rubbed out, I was outraged. I wish we’d had cameras. But it doesn’t matter who. What matters is it shows that this heartbeat walk is so necessary for whites to open their eyes to the hate our fellow humans with darker skins than ours experience every fucking day.

The Flower Nook [a local flower shop] donated a bucket of flowers at the end of the walk. We placed a sign encouraging others to drop flowers there. The entire bucket of memorial flowers was stolen.  No respect for Floyd and no respect for those mourning his death.

IMG_6714 copyIMG_6713The photos of the defaced art were taken by Larry

It was a sad day for me to be a Salinan, when just two weeks ago I was really proud to be one. On May 31, I walked in the “No Justice No Peace” march that was prompted by the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd and organized by another friend, Miranda, along with  others. Hundreds of protestors in face masks participated in this historic event. In the twenty years I’ve been living in Salina, Kansas, I have never experienced such love and solidarity for long-overdue racial justice.

Miranda:

On May 31st I was so proud to be from Salina. 400 people came to walk for civil rights eight blocks and no problems. I expected 50 people to show up. At the most. It was overwhelming pride but heartache that we are still marching, all these years later. There were kids there among people in their 70s. It was amazing.

When Priti’s art was defaced on Santa Fe just two weeks later, I felt the exact opposite. Sad. Mad and frustrated all over again. Frankly, the defamation made me want to march again.

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Are some people that ignorant or untouched by our world’s injustices? It saddens but encourages me every day. I personally thought if any person [who disliked it] had any respect they would simply look away. It’s unfortunate we, as humans, seem to choose the wrong times to “look away”. Not anymore. I refuse to let the City of Salina “look away”. That’s why I proposed a “Know Justice Know Peace Plaza” so we can paint a mural, have a safe space for minorities and remember Dana Adams, who was killed by a mob here in 1893. Salina will no longer turn its back on any minority or one person giving our communities strength and a sense of pride. A place where we all can demonstrate civil rights and not have it be destroyed. There will be a light in the darkness here in Salina. Love always outshines hate.

DSC_0267Photos of the “No Justice No Peace” march were taken by John Epic

What will it take for white-America to change its murder-ignoring ways? To wake the fuck up. To pay heed to Tiffany’s words. To walk in her shoes. To feel her pain as her body and voice make that posthumous eight minutes 46 seconds journey with George Floyd. 

Change is here. It has been an unprecedented time, no doubt, for Americans of all hues to take to the streets and sidewalks and dissent against systemic racial injustice and continuing police atrocities. But if you click on the link at the beginning of this article and take that journey with Tiffany, then you can see that the road to change is still hard and long.

George Floyd: A Timeline in Chalk, the Salina Journal, June 17.

American While Black

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The State’s knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds on a Black man’s neck. That’s what it took BLACK LIVES MATTER America to take to the young but deadly pandemic streets like there was no tomorrow. And it’s been the same since.

Michael Cruse… killed a man before for running a stop sign… He was fired from the police department… He was tried [and] convicted of vehicular homicide. He got sentenced to one year in jail. He spent 30 days in jail… Then he was rehired. — Theresa Joyce-Wynne, mother of Dominique White, Mom’s Demand Action rally, Topeka, Kansas, June, 2018.

For the Sidewalk Museum of Congress (SMoC) it all started in September 2018 when I decided to convert my Congressman’s office sidewalk into a palette of peaceful direct-action where Kansas’ 1st District constituents could get together and plant dissent to systemic racial, climate, social and economic injustice via song, art, poetry, protest etc. And the first such seeds to be planted on the concrete of @RogerMarshalMD’s sidewalk were for racial justice and for Dominique White, a 30-year-old black man who was shot and killed by Topeka police officers Michael Cruse and Justin Mackey, a year earlier on September 28, 2017.

Scan 2Cross-stitch embroidery detail of Dominique White’s portrait, September, 2018

They say he (Dominique) was reaching for a gun. He wasn’t reaching for that gun. He was trying to get away. He didn’t know what was going to happen. They grabbed him! Trying to detain him and told him he wasn’t being arrested. A young black man in this day and age? He was scared for his life. He was scared for his life. So he tried to get away. — Theresa Joyce-Wynne.

According to Mapping Police Violence, “1,147 people were killed by police in 2017,” the year Dominique White was killed; only 1% of those officers involved were charged with a crime, and of the 569 officers who were identified, “at least 48 [like Michael Cruse] had shot and killed someone before”; about half of the 1,147 people killed by the police were reported to be armed with a gun, but “1 in 5 people with a gun were not threatening anyone when they were killed;” and if the police had simply spent their energy on de-escalating the situation Dominique White would’ve been one of 638 people who didn’t have to die that year.

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We all know that most people to be killed with impunity by the police and other racist Americans are people of color and/or LGBTQ. But what finally snapped the elastic cord of racial injustice in the beautiful and multicolored way that it did in America, at least when it comes to police violence? Was it a combination of the mismanaged Trump-presidency-style lockdown with the duration of Chauvin’s knee on George Floyd’s neck that made these rightly angry and emotional people fill the streets day after day after day to say ENOUGH!? All across America the streets have been filled with protestors invoking the names of people killed by police violence, including in Topeka Kansas where people chanted, “Say his Name! Dominique White.”

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IMG_6624Abbi says “We Are Responsible” with sainfoin and alfalfa seeds

A year and eight months have passed between the first planting of seeds at SMoC for justice for Dominique White and the planting of seed-portraits for justice of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. And it is clear that this year has been monumental in that it has seen an unprecedented momentum for racial justice and police accountability.

When I was at SMoC this June 3 working on Tony McDade’s portrait, a man walked up to me and looked at what I was doing and asked, “Is that George Floyd?” No it’s Tony McDade. He was a transgender man shot and killed by the police in Florida, two days after Floyd, I replied. Then he said, “He (George Floyd) broke the law. If he hadn’t broke the law the police wouldn’t a come after him. Now, I ain’t sayin’ the officer shoulda done what he did. And he’s gonna pay the price for it.” Saying nothing about the other three officers involved, then looking more intently at McDade’s portrait he said, “He looks like him (Floyd).” And I thought, wow! why? because he’s black? 

He was right. Not because McDade looks anything like Floyd, but yes, Tony McDade is George Floyd is Eric Garner is Philando Castile is Breonna Taylor is Michael Brown is Tamir Rice is Sandra Bland is Dominique White…

And McDade’s killer—who’s hiding behind Marsy’s Law, under which his name is kept secret—is Derek Chauvin and Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas K. Lane are Daniel Pantaleo and the multiple officers who pinned Eric Garner down before he died on the sidewalk are Jeronimo Yanez is Jonathan Mattingly and Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove are Darren Wilson is Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback are the criminal justice system.

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The death of George Floyd touched us deeply because the truth of the matter [is] we’re in a season of death… 60-70% didn’t have to die [from Covid]. 700 people are dying a day [from poverty] before we ever came to Covid… There are a lot of people already talking about healing!… you can’t heal this quick! We haven’t mourned enough yet! — Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, President and Senior Lecturer, Repairers of the Breach, June 7.

Seeds used for the portraits include watermelon, sorghum, mixed beans, soybean, okra, sunflower and wheat.