By Terri Lee Freeman, President of National Civil Rights Museum
I posed the question just last week, “Ferguson, Missouri…What’s Next?” Little did I know, that the ‘what’s next’ would be yet another grand jury finding no probable cause for having a criminal trial in the death of Eric Garner.
Yes, I am angry! Yes, I’m hurt! Yes, my heart aches for another family being told; “sorry your loved one was murdered, but there’s no evidence that proves a crime was committed.”
No jury trial. No cross examination of the individuals involved or the evidence found.
Yet, there is talk of prosecuting the man that took the video of Eric Garner’s murder, capturing his voice saying “I can NOT breathe.” Yet, there was talk of potentially arresting the stepfather of Michael Brown for inciting a riot, which caused damage to property, after being told there was no probable cause for conducting a jury trial in the death of his son, a human being.
Apparently, our federal judicial system will have to step in. Attorney General Eric Holder said “potential federal civil rights violations” would be investigated. We’re counting on it.
It seems there is an attack on young men of color. But our concern for justice should transcend color. The lack of a public trial occurring in either of these recent tragedies is like pouring the proverbial salt in the wounds of the families of the dead.
Yes, I’m angry and I understand the anger that is being played out in cities across our nation. But we have to move beyond the anger to action and beyond rhetoric to response.
So, I will go back to my words from last week. What would Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. do in the face of these situations. First, he would call for calm. No good thing will come from violence. An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind! Second, he would call for prayer. Seeking a higher power to guide our every footstep will be important as we move forward. But third, and most importantly, he would develop a plan and a strategy to attain a goal of securing the safety of all people and justice that is equally applied under the law.
The plan, in my estimation, would be collaborative, involving multiple groups outraged by the lack of due process, yet willing to work together to move collectively in the same direction. The plan would call for a common agenda, speaking with one voice, utilizing multiple tactics to achieve the commonly defined goal. It would be a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, inclusive movement. And those involved would understand the power of social media for what it is, a mechanism not a movement. Dr. King would inform all those involved that for us to succeed, we would need to be in it for the long-haul. There would be no microwave success and it certainly wouldn’t occur without some sacrifice.
As president of the National Civil Rights Museum, I believe we, as an institution, have a responsibility to use the history housed within our walls to inform the action that needs to take place now. The African concept of sankofa tells us we must look backwards to move forward. It’s time to move!