On April 12, 2015, Freddie Gray was arrested by officers of the Baltimore Police Department. During transport in a police van, Mr. Gray sustained injuries. On April 19, he died. On April 25, what began as a peaceful protest against perceived police brutality turned violent, leading to personal injuries, arrests, looting, and property damage. On April 27, Mr. Gray’s funeral was held and protests continued in Baltimore and elsewhere. Today, Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore State Attorney, announcing that Mr. Gray was unlawfully taken into custody, his death ruled a homicide, and that the six officers involved in his arrest will face a variety of criminal charges, said, in part, “To the people of Baltimore and the demonstrators across America, I heard your call for ‘no justice, no peace.’ Your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of this young man.”
Of all that might be thought and felt, said and written about what for me is another historic moment in the American system of justice – when the death of a black man at the hands of law enforcement is not another data point in business-as-usual, but rather, given the evidence, propels, compels the hand of judicial government to raise and, in effect, to say, “Enough!” – guided by Ms. Mosby’s words, I focus on “the people of Baltimore and the demonstrators across America.”
I see in them an incarnation of the hope in the fulfillment of the American creed, enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, “that all…are created equal (and) endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
I say this because the protesters come from every manner of humankind and every conceivable walk of life – young and old, female and male, gay, lesbian, and straight, employed and unemployed and underemployed, religious and non-religious, “good” people and gang members, politicians and professional athletes, and on and on.
In this, it is clear to me that Freddie Gray’s death (or the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, and, sadly, historically countless others) is not solely a matter of import for the black community.
And, in this, it is clear to me that what matters to the black community will not, cannot be addressed by that one identified and accepted speaker à la Martin Luther King, Jr. or body, whether the NAACP, National Urban League, or Southern Christian Leadership Conference (as I recall a news reporter asking a group of black Baltimoreans, “Who speaks for you?”).
For, in this, it is clear to me that what matters to the black community matters to all communities. Black lives matter because all lives matter.
As this is clear to me, folk – all the folk – rock!