Black Lives Matter Chicago:
On Nov. 5, 2016, Joshua Beal was in Chicago for his cousin’s funeral and, while driving back from the burial, was gunned down by an off-duty Chicago police officer. Black Lives Matter Chicago was attending a birthday celebration in honor of the late Rekia Boyd, who was killed by Chicago Police Officer Dante Servin in 2012, when we learned of this news.
We then immediately went to provide support for the family, and what resulted that night, as well as in the days to follow, was eerily reminiscent of Jim Crow America, except that it was the North and 2016.
Shouts of “Niggers go home” by white residents of Chicago’s far-south neighborhood of Mount Greenwood permeated the atmosphere. Bats and knives were confiscated by police from white residents who shouted racial epithets at the family of Beal, who had been killed just hours prior.
The following day, a white mob marched through the streets of Mount Greenwood and cheered in jubilation at the location where Beal was executed. This is Chicago 50 years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s death.
King died working on a Poor People’s Campaign and demanding that a redistribution of wealth was necessary to eradicate poverty. Black Lives Matter Chicago echoes this demand and asserts that violence in Chicago will not end but will only worsen if continued divestment, unemployment and blight occur.
The solutions to addressing poverty are well-known.
We must implement the radical measures King died fighting for right now by demanding fully funded schools, health care, jobs, access to housing, free drug-treatment programs and food.
The fact that these demands are considered radical today are a testament to how little regard our political establishment prioritizes life and how little has changed since King’s day, even since the nation has experienced its first black president.
For some time now, King’s legacy on mainstream media has been bastardized, completely removed from his actual work. This gross misrepresentation of King is all about the sanitized “dream” devoid of reality.
It would have us sleep through police shootings, a monstrous legal system that unjustly and disproportionately eats up black communities, and a lack of quality educational and employment opportunities to dream of a better day of equality and brotherhood.
We see images of a smiling or thoughtful King, likely thinking of peace and looking crisp and clean in his suits, quite unlike today’s protesters. We think of King and we hear freedom ringing on mountaintops and in valleys and ignore the cries of oppression even in the streets named after him.
We have conflated nonviolence with passivity, and we have forgotten that King’s legacy is meeting incredible violence with masses in the street.
Martin Luther King Jr.:
And one day we must ask the question, “Why are there 40 million poor people in America?” And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society.
Growing up, I slowly had this process of realizing that all the things around me that people had told me were just the natural way things were, the way things always would be, they weren’t natural at all. They were things that could be changed, and they were things that, more importantly, were wrong and should change, and once I realized that, there was really no going back.
I started reading books about the history of education and how this educational system was developed, and alternatives to it, and ways that people could actually learn things as opposed to just regurgitating facts their teachers told them, and that led me down this path of questioning things. Once I questioned the school I was in, I questioned the society that built the school. I questioned the businesses the schools were training people for. I questioned the government that set up this whole structure.
That’s what they feared the most, and that is where to begin.