Pages Navigation Menu

SPEECH TO PEACE VIGIL, BLACK LIVES MATTER

COLLEGE GREEN, BRISTOL, 13TH JULY 2016

 

In 2012, I was visiting the graves of Michael Sherwner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney who were killed by racists, and were victims of a police cover up in Mississippi, America in 1964, popularised by the film ‘Mississippi Burning’. I was also in Birmingham, Alabama researching the Children’s Crusade and the 16th Street Church of the Four Little Girls who were blown to smithereens by dynamite.  I also marched in Selma, Alabama. The graves and monuments I visited were of Black and White, Jewish and Gentile, students and children Freedom workers and Freedom Riders. That was in the context of the struggles of the 1960s, popularised by Dr Martin Luther King and in his own way, Malcolm X.

 

I have viewed this America under its first symbolic Black President. Sadly I have another bloody chapter to fill from Philando Castle in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, and of course the families of the Dallas Policemen, of which we continue to work and support the Black Police Association in their work to pull Avon & Somerset Police into the 21st century.

 

The black and white images back then of nightsticks, horses, water cannons, lynch,-mobs racist abuse and beatings were of a different age but sadly now reminiscent.  The images now also remind me of a time, when healthy Black men went into British Police cells in the 1970s and 1980s, and left dead,
carried out on ambulance stretchers, their deaths clouded in ‘mysterious circumstances’.

 

However, we are now in 2016, a digital age where no one seemingly can escape the eye of justice, and yet, still I see the long arm of the law killing black men. Last year I went to the scene of the Walter Scott shooting who was killed by Policemen as if he was shooting a wild fleeing animal.  This was just after paying my respects to the nine churchgoers slain by Dylan Flood at the Emmanuel AME Church, in Charleston.  

 

Of course all lives matter, but what the Black Lives Matter movement speaks, to is showing a light at the injustice of the system. Highlighting deaths in custody, wrongful arrest, disproportionate sentencing,
mass incarceration, higher unemployment rates and a range of social and economic depressing factors. These all show America and Britain, that whilst all lives matter, some lives are treated and appear valued more than others.

 

It’s a peace vigil so I’m going to quote from Dr King himself inspired by Mahatma Ghandi who said ‘I’m tired of violence. I’ve seen too much of it. I’ve seen such hate of too many sheriffs in the South. And I’m not going to let my oppressor dictate to me what method I must use. Our oppressors have used violence. Our oppressors have used hatred.  Our oppressors have used rifles and guns I’m not going to stoop down to their level I want to rise to a higher level. We have a power that can’t be found in Molotov cocktails.’

 

We at Ujima celebrating our 8th birthday offer a prayer to those grieving or a hug of comfort to those in need.  Tomorrow alongside BCFM Radio we will continue to do what we have done since Day One.
Champion the voice of the voiceless Representing young and old, religious and non-believers, LGBT and straight, male and female, disabled and able-bodied people as well as white, Asian and Black.

 

We urge you all in the your daily lives and work to do the same not just today, not just tomorrow or when the next shooting occurs. But every day until injustice is at its end, and equality, diversity and Inclusion become ways of life and business. Then and only then can we can truly believe you when
you tell us that ‘All Lives Matter’.

 

Roger Griffith is the author of My American Odyssey: From the Windrush to the White House and Chair & Broadcaster of Ujima Radio and Social Activist.

 

IMG_0179

468 ad