Reflections from SisterSong's Monica Simpson on the shooting of Alton Sterling
Alton Sterling is dead. He died in a parking lot after being shot by police. He was 37 years old and a father of five. I wish I could say that this was a shocking headline, but I can't. This modern day lynching is another reminder that Black lives are not valued. It is another reminder that that when Black people exercise their human right to self determination - whether selling loose cigarettes or CDs to make ends meet or questioning the authority of those in power or playing loud music or walking from your neighborhood store - it is deemed threatening or dangerous and therefore criminal.
As a Black queer woman working and living in the South, I do not feel safe. This sobering reality makes me sad and extremely angry at the same time. Furthermore, as an advocate for Reproductive Justice, I am even more disheartened.
Alton Sterling was a father. His five children will now grow up without the love and support of their father. The mother of his children will have to support her family even though Black women only makes 64 cents on the dollar. His children will grow up knowing that their father was taken from them by a racist and broken criminal justice system that sees Black men as criminals and the lives of Black people as expendable. This is what reproductive oppression looks like. And this is what we fight to dismantle every day.
People will say he had a gun and the media will probably loop in some story of a time he did wrong. Alton Sterling deserves justice. But so did Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, and too may others to name.
Black people are not afforded due process or "innocent until proven guilty". The only trial we get happens on the grounds of a convenience store parking lot, where a couple cops get to sentence you to death by shooting you in the back.
I am so tired. Tired of seeing yet another video of Black man or woman brutalized by a system steeped in the same racism that jailed Jasmine Richards for exercising her right to protest and to speak out that Black Lives Matter, while denying any accountability for the cops who gave Freddie Gray a rough ride in the back of a police van.
I feel conflicted. Conflicted by the desire to see people who would wantonly take the lives of Black men and women behind bars knowing that the prison industrial complex is one that is inherently flawed and only serves to perpetuate a system based on racism, sexism, violence and domination.
Yet. I feel charged. Because we who believe in freedom cannot rest until it's won. I will scream "Black Lives Matter" even louder. I will keep organizing and working to achieve a vision of Reproductive Justice where Black men and women are not shot in the streets and Black boys and girls are not pushed out of school and pushed into prison, where Black women are not dying in childbirth and Black girls are not facing an epidemic of sexual violence that takes away their childhood. I will work to dismantle white supremacy, and challenge not only a criminal justice system that jails and executes Black people, but also an immigration system that tears families apart and a transphobic culture that takes the lives of transgender people of color.
I will fight not only for our safety, but also so that we can live with dignity. I will keep fighting for our liberation, and I will also keep loving and living with unapologetic joy. I will hold my friends and family closer. I will dance, and I will definitely sing.
Growing up in the Black church the elders would sing hymns. I didn't quite understand the meaning when I was younger, but I could feel the energy from the music. As I have grown into adulthood, lines like "A charge to keep I have" and "This joy that I have the world didn't give it to me" have a whole new meaning to me. This music helped to shape my worldview, and is my foundation as an Artivist.
Today a fellow movement leader reminded me of a song I wrote for my Revolutionary Love album. "Freedom Song" is a mantra for the movement, and it is one I would like to share today as we work to heal from this tragedy.