It’s been 12 days since a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo for choking Eric Garner to death. The night after the verdict was announced, I marched across the Brooklyn bridge with Amadou Diallo’s mother and the family of Eric Garner. By the time I got home, footage from our protest in Brooklyn was on the news, and I sat on my couch in disbelief that history was repeating itself right in my own backyard.
Overwhelmed I called my Dad to ask him about his stories from the 60s, and the similarities were painful. The fear, the tension, the tear gas…it was all too familiar. But the biggest difference was, when he marched, everyone around him was Black. It was Us against Them.
Last week on the bridge, however, it wasn’t Just Us. It was a melting pot of anger, frustration, passion and grief, united in a single demand: Justice. A Hispanic guy in front of me screamed “Black Lives Matter! Hispanic Lives Matter!” with such passion (nearly in tears) that he lost his voice. It felt personal. To my right an older Asian man walked silently with his hands up in honor of Mike Brown. He had on no coat, and looked like he wandered out of his office to get coffee, ran into the crowd and was so moved that he had to join. At that moment, halfway across the bridge, with the American flag above my head and the Statue of Liberty shining on my right, I realized this movement not about race. While the actual cases were clearly the result of racial bias and insensitivities that would require a dissertation to explain to some people, the movement that has captured the world is bigger than race. It’s bigger than Black vs. White. It’s about fairness. The concept of fairness is something we all learn as children, regardless of race. And underneath our varying degrees of melanin-coated skins are hearts that ache when another human is expressing the universal language of pain. What has happened in the cases of Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Oscar Grant and countless other men is incomprehensible in a country that prides itself on liberty and justice for all. And while no protest, t-shirt or hashtag will ever bring these men back to their loved ones, hopefully this movement that has started around the world will shame the United States into living up to the proclamations on which this country was created, and eventually those unalienable rights that all men are entitled to will include life.
**** Portraits of the movement from around the world****
LOS ANGELES, CA
NEW DELHI, INDIA
STATEN ISLAND, NEW YORK