#BlackLivesMatter All over the World: Initiative in Memory of Oury Jalloh

By Samantha Gilbert

IMG_8809Why is it that Michael Brown, an 18 year old black man who stole a few packets of cigarettes, can be shot on the spot by a white policeman, but James Holmes, a young white male, can shoot an entire movie theatre and kill 12 people, yet still be able to go to trial? This is a question that ensued after an emotional and eye-opening discussion we had today with Nadine Saeed and Mouctar Bah, extremely passionate activists part of the Initiative in Memory of Oury Jalloh.

To start off our session, Nadine shared with us the story of Oury Jalloh. 10 years ago, three women cleaning the streets called the police because they claimed that a young black man named Oury Jalloh was “harassing” them. Though he was only asking to use one of their cellphones to call his girlfriend, the police showed up immediately, eager to arrest any person of color, especially a migrant. At 8:15 am, Jalloh was aggressively arrested and thrown into a police cell. Four hours later, he was chained to a bed and burned alive. The police claim Jalloh set himself on fire, and without any further investigation of the crime scene, this became the concrete story. But there was no possible way for this to be a suicide. For one, Jalloh was tightly cuffed by each arm and leg to the mattress which made any movement of his hands impossible. Secondly, the lighter “found at the crime scene” had no traces of fibers from Jalloh’s clothing or the mattress, and was not turned in as evidence until three days after the burning took place. And finally, the extent to which Jalloh was burned was only capable through the use of a combustive agent and the absence of the anti-flammable mattress cover. However, the courts didn’t care. Even with this evidence, they ruled Jalloh’s death a homicide, and only charged a 10,800€ fine to one police officer for not saving Jalloh when the fire alarm initially went off. They also charged the police chief for turning off the fire alarm despite his excuse that the fire alarm was broken. As this case continued to be appealed, video evidence disappeared and police stories kept changing, but the verdict stayed the same.

IMG_8811Hearing this story physically made my heart hurt, and it reminded me of the contemporary Black Lives Matter (also referred to as Black Life Matters) movement in the United States. The Brown vs. Ferguson case brought needed attention to this issue, but there are dozens of cases just like Brown’s. Take for example the story of Victor White. He was a young Black man who police claimed “shot himself in the head” in the back of a police car in Louisiana after being arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. Despite being handcuffed with no ability to move his hands, his death was ruled a suicide. There are countless other Black men and women who have similar stories, so I am very aware of racism in America. However, racism in Germany is brought to a whole different, unique level.

Not only are police able to get away with killing minorities here, but the secret service in Germany actually funds and organizes the National Socialist Underground, a racist and terrorist group associated with the KKK that has been killing innocent minorities for years. Racism is not only tolerated in this country, but is deeply rooted in every system of power. I am shocked. I am appalled. I am disgusted. As Maureen Maisha Eggers made clear in her article “Knowledges of (Un-) Belonging,” it’s difficult to even achieve a discussion of racism, let alone find a way to fight it and end it. Sandrine Micossé-Aikins, who we met with earlier today, echoes this idea in the introduction of The Little Book of Big Visions, a text she co-edited with Sharon Dodua Otoo (whom we’ll meet with next week). Micossé-Aikins told us that racism is so rarely talked about in Germany that people don’t even understand it exists, even though it is happening everywhere every day. She tightly links racism with nationalism—since the normative narrative is that Germans are white, so if you are not white, then you “can’t be German.”

IMG_8812The Initiative in Memory of Oury Jalloh has been investigating this case for years, with the hope of finally exposing the truth. They have worked with investigative journalists and have interviewed dozens of people connected to Jalloh and the police officers responsible for this crime. They have also made short films and held conferences to inform people of the situation. Ten years later and Oury Jalloh’s case is still being fought, and I can only hope that this time the courts bring him the justice he deserves. The Initiative is aware that the lawyers involved in Jalloh’s case aren’t activists and that they aren’t concerned about fighting for the truth, but rather doing what is best for them and their reputation. Nadine told us today that although she no longer has any belief in the judicial system, she believes it’s crucial for everyone to try to change the things they see going wrong in the world. Similarly, Philipp Khabo Köpsell gives hope to ending racism in “A Futurist’s Manifesto,” in which he writes, “This poem tells nothing about racism…. / In the future we rap about love / over beats made from smashing laptops against walls / rhythmically in sync with the tapping of / next door’s love birds. / In the future we love too much.” I can only hope that Koepsell’s vision comes true, but until then, the fight for justice and equality will continue. Oury Jalloh may be gone, but he is most certainly not forgotten.


SamanthaSamantha Gilbert is a sophomore who hails from Northern California and loves to be outside. From hiking to snowboarding to just breathing fresh air, nature really has her heart. She also really loves being active, as she runs track and field at CC as the team’s main female sprinter. She also writes for the sports section of The Catalyst, and is extremely passionate about journalism. She hopes to create her own major in Sports Psychology and double minor in Film & New Media Studies and Feminist & Gender Studies. Other hobbies of hers include watching The Food Network (specifically Chopped), going exploring with friends, and developing strong one on one connections with unique souls. Samantha loves traveling and learning, so this course has her super excited!

#BlackLivesMatter

By Nebeu Abrah (’18)

CC BLMHe who witnesses an injustice but stands idly by and allows the injustice to continue is just as bad, if not worse, than the original aggressor. With this belief in mind, last Tuesday, we shut down Cascade Avenue.

Recently, Darren Wilson was not indicted for murdering Michael Brown. As I sat with my fellow peers in complete disbelief following the decision, it became clear to me that the verdict meant that Michael Brown’s life was declared unworthy of trial. This case is relevant because it is bigger than just Michael Brown. This case made an indirect statement on the status of Black men in America. Black Lives simply don’t matter as much. Black lives are disposable, black people are a source of danger, and our “justice” system will allow Black lives to continually be taken without any repercussion and in some case with reward.

It is imperative to recognize the main point to take away from our rally is that we are not just protesting Daren Wilson. We are not just outraged by his freedom. What we are painstakingly frustrated with is the system that makes stripping Black mothers of their teenage sons common place. This specific case is not necessarily all that matters, what mattes is the message that it sends and the legal system that the case was subject to. Although it sure would have helped ease the pain, Darren Wilson’s arrest would not have ended police brutality or bring Michael Brown back to life.

We often become much too concerned with the “facts” of the case, which are often frighteningly easy to skew, when the single truth that we need to focus on is that a life was lost when it didn’t need to be. That’s it. Michael Brown is dead. Black teens are being gunned down in the streets as if it were a national sport. This is the problem. When the verdict came out, I was not concerned with Darren Wilson. In my eyes, it was the killing of Black teens that was not indicted that day. This is the injustice that I see and the injustice that I have and will continue to combat.

Practicality is a luxury that we couldn’t afford. To catalyze the change that we wanted to see, my fellow Black Student Union officers and I had to think big. After spending much of the evening just trying to process the non-indictment of Wilson, around midnight, we began to take action. The march that shutdown streets in the second biggest city in the state of Colorado, the march that had several news stations begging for interviews, the march that had police officers scrambling to redirect traffic and regain control of the streets, was all started by 4 heartbroken students who wanted change. Once one person proposed the idea that we should shut down a street, we ran with it. We were up with the team of student leaders at Colorado College sending last minute emails and speaking to news stations after hours at 2 am. We knew that the college bound Michael Brown would have had a prolific voice if he had lived, but we wanted to ensure, that in his death, his voice would ring out ten times louder than it ever would have.

For the Michael Browns of the past, present, and future, we fight.

Statement on Ferguson

Ferguson

Black Lives Matter

After learning of the Grand Jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson for the murder of Michael Brown on August 9 this year in Ferguson, MO, I struggled with deciding how to teach the following day. I decided to write a statement to read—or at least interpolate—for fear that I may not be able to “stick to” the point. I decided to share that statement here:

This feels like one of the hardest days I’ve ever had to walk into a classroom and teach.

Over the past few months, I’ve found myself reminding my comrades—here and across the globe—that we are enough, that what we’re doing to eradicate oppression is enough. I’ve been given the same advice.

TCB

Toni Cade Bambara

I’ve always had—and always will have—a problem with politics that are entirely reactionary, especially since my comrades and I are committed to valuing life 365 days a year, not just when that decision is made by MSNBC or even NPR. Since, Monday, November 17, Aishah Shahidah Simmons, my comrade at The Feminist Wire, and I have been co-curating and co-editing a forum honoring the life, work, and legacy of Toni Cade Bambara. And one of my favorite quotes of hers is, “Not all speed is movement!” I appreciate it so much that I used it in the title of the essay I wrote to introduce the forum, which will run until we take a TFW break for the month of December. In my introduction, I also quote Steven G. Fullwood, who writes, “When Black people witness or experience an injustice so profoundly perverse, so vile and painful, before acting we need sustenance, we need perspective and we need to figure out how to change shit.”

Last night, Aishah and I published a brief response to the Grand Jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO this past August. In that essay, we write, Toni Cade Bambara “was very clear that we should resist being manipulated by the manipulation that is often disguised as news and/or entertainment.” For that reason, we remind our readers that Toni, “at least for us, has been and always will be the truth, the light, and the way. We are explicitly clear that our commitment to honoring her is just what we need now and every other heinous time when Black life is met with treachery and murder.”

Still, I’ve been wracking my brain since the decision was announced, trying to figure out what to do today, trying to think about what would be best for you and for me. Of course, the original plan was to play a fun and humorous game of Critical Media Studies Jeopardy. To be honest, that may still happen—it depends on what we all think and feel after I finish reading this statement.

But, if I’m being honest, part of me feels extremely guilty for even thinking about having fun and making jokes today. The other part of me feels extremely guilty for even thinking about not doing that which is true to me and my pedagogy, especially since state-sanctioned violence against the most marginalized communities in our country and throughout the world is always a “topic of discussion” in all of my classes, including this one, and it always has been and always will be—long after the rest of the world has forgotten about Mike Brown in the same way that we’ve forgotten about so many already.

Aiyana

Aiyana Stanley-James

Tamir Rice was 12. My son is 10. Aiyana Stanley-Jones was 7. My daughter is 8. And when we were talking about the Grand Jury verdict last night, they were distraught, confused, and angry. In my daughter’s words, they were “outraged.” She said she’s “scared of Americans.”

But you know what? My husband and I loved on them, played with them—even as I was posting rapidly on social media, reminding folks that our Civil Rights Movement “heroes” were shot, sprayed with water hoses, and bitten by police dogs because of their commitment to eradicating injustice. We laughed with them, sang with them—even as I was posting pictures of white folks vandalizing property in response to the firing of Joe Paterno at Penn State and the Pumpkin Festival this fall. Throughout all of that, we still had to maintain our responsibility as parents even as we could not and would not ignore what was happening in Ferguson or anywhere else in the world. And I feel that same sense of responsibility today, as your teacher.

Clay and Nebeu

Colorado College Students Protesting the Grand Jury Decision not to Indict Darren Wilson for Homicide

Author’s Note: As I was reading the statement, I decided—with the support of my students—to have some fun and play Jeopardy. I think they learned a lot, and so I’ve done my job. Additionally, after shedding numerous tears while listening to Tupac’s “My Block” (Russell Simmons Presents The Show: The Soundtrack, 1995), I was able to stand with my students who organized a protest of the Grand Jury decision earlier that afternoon. I was, and still am, so proud and honored to stand by their side.