Last night I attended a vigil for the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, who has become symbolic in the struggle for human rights and especially black liberation in a country living in paradox: That we laud the Constitution of the United States as a world-class example of freedom so pure that its conveyances are inexorable, but ignore the hollow point sized holes where the equal application of those freedoms should be. In addition to honoring Dr. King we gathered to remember Stephon Clark and all victims of gun violence as organized by Justice League NYC and Citizen Action of New York.
We were encouraged to bring a photo of a loved one who has been lost to gun violence, and immediately I recalled a story I've been following closely. Dominic Jerome "DJ" Broadus II was murdered execution style on a rural property just outside of Jacksonville, Florida on February 3rd of this year. It's common knowledge in the area that Baker County's racist underpinnings are epitomized by a mural at the entrance of the local courthouse, not unlike other halls of "justice" in the deep South, which proudly displays and describes the Ku Klux Klan riding horseback. It follows as no surprise that the owner of the property on which Broadus was found unarmed with several gunshots to the head was that of recently retired Deputy Sheriff Ryan T Fraser of the Baker County Sheriff's Office, previously fired from Jacksonville Sheriff's Department for shooting an unarmed black teenager.
The heavily redacted police report revealed that Fraser's son Gardner Kent Fraser, grandson of Jim Crow era Florida state senator Edwin Fraser, was escorted from the property after police arrived on the scene. Yesterday marked 60 days in which the family has had little to no questions answered, no autopsy performed, and no charges filed as Fraser walks free and securely protected by the state. After communicating with Broadus's mother I decided to represent DJ's stolen dreams at the vigil in solidarity.
The gathering overall was innocuous compared with last week's gathering in immediate response to the shooting of Stephon Clark organized by Black Lives Matter and the People's Power Assembly. There was little marked increase in the ordinary police presence at Union Square where yesterday's event took place, drawing a much smaller and more placid crowd as an indigenous cleansing of the space was performed and various eulogies and statements were read in honor of Dr. King.
Present were various faith leaders, community leaders and youth violence intervention programs including G.M.A.C.C. (Gangstas Making Astronomical Community Changes) who spoke to the real change brought about by community mediation resulting in reduced police and state involvement in low-income areas. There was also a significant gathering of BRADO (Brazilian Resistance Against Democracy Overthrow) NYC that preceded and graciously joined the vigil, present to raise awareness of the assassination of Marielle Franco and to stand against fascism in Brazil.
As Stanley Fritz of Citizen Action of New York said "Unlike many of us, (Dr. King) understood that the systems of capitalism- the super rich people, the millionaire, the billionaires, the corporations- use racism, sexism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, homophobia, and every other tool of hate to make us fight each other while they stack dollars. And while they get richer we also become poorer. We have less food. We can't afford to live in our homes. We can't afford to even go to our own jobs, and Dr. King saw that. So in his last days as he was using non-violence to fight for justice he was putting together a poor peoples campaign, a campaign of people like you and me. And if we aim to win at anything, we have to realize that we are the people we have been waiting for."
While often it seems that little has changed since the time of Dr. King's activism, it should serve as inspiration that after decades of attempts to appease the working class with so many consumable comforts that would render us unconscious of our oppressions or dead, the advent of the internet has illuminated our interconnectedness in a kindling of one word in so many different languages: Resist.