The Newark Anti-Violence Coalition, like a large sea of the human family, roundly and wholeheartedly condemns the vicious, savage, sinister, racist slaughter of the people of Mother Emmanuel AME, including a beloved daughter of Newark’s Vailsburg section, the Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton.
We applaud the coming together of the Charleston community, despite of the deep, dark baggage of racial oppression and terrorism particular to that city’s history, which was the genesis of the vicious act that took place Wednesday, June 17 as the victims sought and shared solace and comfort in the simple study of scripture in what should have been a safe and sacred space.
We therefore assert that this dastardly evil deed be treated as an act of racist terrorism. That terrorism has been one of America’s greatest hypocrisies.
But we will not stop there.
We see this act as an assassination of an endearing and emerging leader of our community in the Rev. Clemente Pinckney, something that we have not heard in the subsequent dialogue that has emerged from this vicious act. It would be an omission of monumental proportions for us not to see and demand that his death be treated as such, and not just as the consequence of a ‘lone gunman’s’ act of terror! In our eyes, Pinckney was indeed the principal target for his role in pushing for reform of that other hypocritical terrorism that stalks our people more regularly and more frequently than the racist act in question, state terrorism, or as most call it “police brutality.” This was an assassination to send Black elected officials a message: “Do not dare get serious about pushing for serious police reform! Do not dare!”
We insist, therefore, that the case necessarily be the subject of a full and thorough federal investigation that should not only examine if the shooter had other organized ties, but how, as a secondary point of investigation, racist hate group affiliations permeate the ranks of police officers and corrections officers all over this country. Officers found with ties to such groups should automatically be terminated in the interests of justice.
Bringing the issue back home, we are very proud of our mayor and founder, Ras Baraka. Just weeks ago, Baraka, with the power of the pen, by executive order, implemented the first civilian review board to have subpoena power over the Newark, N.J., police. We cannot understand why Black politicians in cities all over the country have not applauded this and followed his lead in their own cities, just as we cannot understand why Pinckney’s call for reform, the requirement for police to wear body cameras—which just passed in the state of South Carolina in the wake of the videotaped police killing of Walter Scott—despite of its racist past and present, why that united and successful effort at implementing reform has also not been emulated.
We insist that our elected officials in Newark and throughout the state seize the moment, defy its darkness and dare, in a united front, to implement those same reforms here. All state, county and local police in the state of New Jersey should be required to wear body cameras, and the bill that should make that so should be named after the slain state senator and pastor from South Carolina and called the Pinckney Act.
We insist that Black elected officials leading and representing Black majority cities follow Baraka’s lead and implement civilian review boards. By the slaughtered of the Newark Rebellion of 1967, and by the legions of Black and Brown innocents who have been wrongly killed by the police over the years, we are 48 years overdue!
Finally, we insist that the federal government do what they need to do to protect them. Come in, Mr. President. Come in, Madame Attorney General. All due respect.
That should trigger a domino of legislative action that would have historic dimensions, and that body of reform would properly honor the life of this endearing man of grace and potential greatness, the lives of so many lost to police terror and our overall struggle for justice against that age-old yet acutely sharp scourge of terror.
Deal with it, Councilman So-and-So. Deal with it, Mayor Whoever-You-Are. Deal with it, State Legislator Whatever-Your-Name-Is! Black power matters. It’s what got you to where you are.
Seize the time!
Stop police brutality!
Stop the violence! Stop the killing! Start the healing!
Zayid Muhammad is media advocate for the Newark Anti-Violence Coalition. For more information, call 908-605-NAVC.