Letetra Widham declared, “I don’t want your pity. I want change!” The sister of Jacob Blake gave an impassioned talk at an Aug. 25 press conference in Kenosha, Wis., the city where police shot her brother two days earlier. This horrific act set off protests there demanding “Justice for Jacob Blake!”
Blake, a 29-year-old African American, lies paralyzed in a hospital bed after being shot in the back seven times by a white police officer. Three of his six children watched this brutal attack. Outrageously, Blake was shackled to the bed until a public outcry stopped that cruel act.
Widham’s eloquent speech, which went viral, touched millions of people who are angered by endless racist police violence, including those who have taken to the streets to demand an end to this terror against the Black community and to systemic racism, while calling for justice for its victims.
“I am my brother’s keeper,” stressed Widham. “When you say the name Jacob Blake, make sure you say father; make sure you say cousin; make sure you say son; make sure you say uncle; but most importantly, make sure you say human. Let it marinate in your mind — a human life. We’re human, and his life matters.
“So many people have reached out to me, telling me they’re sorry this happened to my family. Don’t be sorry, because this has been happening to my family for a long time, longer than I can account for. It happened to Emmett Till. Emmett Till is my family,” she said, referring to the 14-year-old African American murdered by Klansmen in 1955 in Mississippi. “It happened to Philando, Mike Brown and Sandra,” naming three of the many African Americans killed by police bullets or while in police custody — Philando Castile, Michael Brown and Sandra Bland.
“This is not new,” said Widham. “I’m not sad. I’m not sorry. I’m angry. And I’m tired. I stopped crying years ago. I am numb. I have been watching police murder people that look like me for years. I’m also a Black history minor, so not only have I been watching this the 30 years I’ve been on this planet, but I’ve ‘been watching this’ for years before we were even alive.”
Jacob Blake Sr., told reporters, “They shot my son seven times like he didn’t matter. But my son matters. He’s a human being, and he matters.”
D.C. theme: ‘Get your knee off our necks!’
On Aug. 28, the 57th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, thousands rallied at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The day’s theme refers to the police killing by choke hold of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which sparked the countrywide Black Lives Matter-led multinational movement of millions of people.
Key to the day’s program was the inclusion of family members of Black and Latinx victims of racist police or vigilante violence. Speakers stressed the need to struggle together and vowed to keep up the fight for “the justice we deserve.”
Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, marched for “George, Breonna, Ahmaud, Jacob, Pamela Turner, Michael Brown and Trayvon.” Jacob Blake Sr. spoke of “two systems of justice in the United States — a white system and a Black system.” Letetra Widham spoke powerfully against “genocide.”
Alyssa Findley, Botham Jean’s sister, who came in solidarity with families of police victims, emphasized police brutality is the largest killer of Black people.
Ahmaud Arbery’s parents, Wanda Cooper-Jones and Marcus Arbery, addressed the crowd. Everyone chanted “Say her name, Breonna Taylor,” while her mother, Tamika Palmer, spoke.
Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother, called for constant reaffirmation of “Black Lives Matter.” Maria Hamilton and Wanda Johnson, mothers of Dontre Hamilton and Oscar Grant, encouraged more mobilizing.
Jose Acevedo honored his son, Joel Acevado, choke hold victim. Eric Garner Jr., Leslie McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown, and relatives of other victims of police terror, attended. Civil rights and faith-based leaders and politicians also came and spoke.
Sources: The Guardian, Aug. 25, New York Times, Aug. 29, people.com, Aug. 26, WJLA, Aug. 28 and WUSA, Aug. 28